Mexican-American but Tijuana born and raised, Arturo Vázquez (29 years old) has been in the business of screen-printing since 2007. His store is one of the first to open in Pasaje Rodriguez (off Second Street, between Revolucion and Constitucion) and it started as his workshop. Recently, he moved his workshop to a different area and had a party in his new expanded store to celebrate. Mexican Fashion supports local art and music, especially hip-hop — thus when he throws a party, he invites all new artists.
Browsing through the Mexican Fashion store in Pasaje Rodriguez, I hear another patron exclaim, “La playera de La Cinco y Diez, esta rifada, aunque allá me asaltaron un par de veces. (A shirt with the 5 & 10, it's cool, though they mugged me twice over there already.” The patron recognized Arturo's latest design of Tijuana's neighborhood, La Cinco y Diez (5 & 10).
“We added this design last week,” Arturo tells me, “La Cinco y Diez is where Tijuana starts looking like other cities in Mexico, like DF [Mexico City]. It's a very important part of the city, almost as a second downtown since most traffic goes through there. This area of the city is named 5 and 10 because they used to sell products that cost only 5 and 10 pesos. Now it is a major commercial area with a lot of activity, but it got stuck with the silly name.”
Arturo's designs touches the roots of Tijuana culture. He began with a simple design with a classic Californian sunset with palm trees and the name of the city in the middle in cursive, Tijuana. But then started printing out and designing hats with what the cholos call the city, Tijuas. “I grew up in Colonia Libertad, the deported people and all the cholos over there didn't call it Tijuana, they call it Tijuas and it felt more real.” Other iconic designs include the yellow sign warning people to watch out for illegal immigrants crossing the border.
There's also a shirt with a golden snake that seems to be melting with the word “Murmuren” on top. It represents a silent fight between bus drivers (that has extended to other public transit as well). It means to murmur or to talk bad about someone behind their backs. Bus drivers started placing stickers or writing it on their bus windows to tell others that they don't care about what they say about them. In a sense, they are saying “go ahead, talk trash about me, I dare you to do it.”
“I first noticed it a couple years back, busses had a decal with the word murmuren. It was intriguing and I took it and made it to my own design. Some people think I made up that trend, but it was there before I started using it for my shirts and hats.” Arturo clears up the confusion that he started the murmuren trend.
Most of his designs represent something special about Tijuana. It gives the locals shirts and hats that they can wear proudly and it gives tourists something better than simple (and many times stupid) souvenir shirts. One of his most popular shirts is the Tijuas Rifa! Its closest translation would be Tijuana rocks! or Tijuana kicks-ass! Other designs include the numbers 664 (Tijuana's area code), two zonkeys split by the city's name, the word Baja, a day of the dead papel picado banner that reads mas baicas menos smog (more bikes and less smog), a colorful Frida Kahlo.
Mexican Fashion is located in Pasaje Rodriguez, a couple of stores down from Mamut brewery. It is one of the clothing stores and fashion designers that have sprung in TJ this past couple of years. Everything in the store is between $12 to $28, open Monday through Saturday.