Violence plunged after he brought the arts to a Tijuana neighborhood
TIJUANA, MEXICO — At the top of a hill in Camino Verde, a neighborhood long known for its gang turf wars and struggling families, sits a drab concrete-slab building.
It’s a substantive structure, which stands out in this community of informally built homes in Tijuana, Mexico. And that’s the whole idea.
“We built a bunker, and it changed everything,” says Raúl Cárdenas Osuna, an architect and artist who uses his hands – and cellphone photos – as he animatedly describes his work.
Mr. Cárdenas is the founder and director of Torolab, an art and urban planning collective founded in Tijuana in 1995. He’s dedicated his life to creating social change through community-driven art initiatives, and his unique outlook played an important role in transforming Camino Verde from a grim environment into a neighborhood of hope and promise.
The “bunker” houses the Torolab project known as La Granja Transfronteriza, or La Granja (The Farm) for short – a place brimming with the arts and more that draws community members of all ages.
Between 2007 and 2010, at the height of drug cartel violence, citizens fled abroad or holed up indoors, businesses shuttered, and tourism, crucial to the economy, plummeted to historic lows. As Tijuana garnered a reputation as one of the most violent places in the world, Camino Verde held the inglorious title of the most dangerous neighborhood in the city.
But today, Camino Verde’s story is changing. And La Granja, founded in 2010, has been no small factor.
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