“It was a spark,” says Andrew Sheiner, business partner at Tijuana gallery La Tentación with photographer Josué Castro.
“I gave them the necessity, I didn’t give them the idea,” elaborates Castro. “I gave them my need: I need a loft downtown.”
It was this need, this spark, that became an important ingredient in the design, construction, and subsequent transformation of a former Avon cosmetics warehouse into a 12-loft building in downtown Tijuana — located at, and named, 7th & Constitución — that now houses Castro’s new 1000-square-foot creative space, the Kitchen.
Castro, young and energetic for a man of 58 years, was born in Mexico City, lived in Tijuana for 20 years and in San Diego full time for 12. Now, with the opening of the Kitchen, he splits his time between San Diego and Tijuana. But because he’s an American citizen, he says, “I don’t count as a Mexican, I’m considered an American.” This identity crisis obviously hasn’t deterred him from honing his projects in Tijuana — a city that often questions which country it has more in common with.
The Kitchen was created out of a need for a larger space than La Tentación, located in Pasaje Gomez — the funky, previously abandoned, covered alleyway off Revolución Avenue.
“We had the necessity to expand,” explains Castro. “We had a very good response at La Tentación with our workshops, our lectures, projections, things like that. There wasn’t enough room for all of our projects. It was working faster than we thought.”
Now La Tentación serves only as an experimental gallery and brew space for Castro and Sheiner’s boutique beer, Los Marranos. The photography studio, classes, and special events were moved in November 2013 to the live-work loft that is appropriately named the Kitchen.
“We cook up crazy ideas here,” Castro laughs, “that’s why we call it ‘the Kitchen.’”
“We have a concert one night, a class another night,” adds Sheiner, “but whenever you come, it’s going to be good.”
Castro then goes on to describe the industrial space’s simple furniture as “easy to move, easy to change” — an important feature when taking on so many different projects in one open area.
“One of our first goals,” Castro explains, “is to attract the attention of Americans to TJ, to stop thinking that it’s a dangerous place, stop all the crazy stereotypes. We also wanted to bring the upper middle class from TJ to the space. They didn’t have spaces to go out here in Tijuana, so they went to San Diego.”
The Kitchen, gastropubs, and galleries offer up new options for tijuanenses — more places to be social in their own city.
“It’s funny, because Mexicans were not as adventurous as Americans,” explains Castro. “People at the beginning were kind of reluctant, but now they see it’s fun and they want to go. In the five months that we have been open, we have all these upper-middle-class locals that come to our concerts, our workshops, anything that we do.”
Cristina Cream, Proyecto Kasandra, and Madame Ur have all held intimate, sold-out shows to a crowd of about 25–30 people at the Kitchen. Madame Ur is coming back around for a second performance May 16.
Also in May, starting every Friday, there are plans for a Lucha Libre culinary movie night. Films starring El Santo, a masked Mexican wrestler who appeared in 52 flicks from the ’50s through ’80s, will be accompanied by craft beer and food pairings. Other labels besides their own Los Marranos will be featured, and they’ve already had a positive response from brewers and chefs who are interested in participating.
The Kitchen hosted one event that coincided with galleries in Japan, Berlin, Guadalajara, and Mexico City. Attendees shot photos from their cell phones in real-time, with the resulting images being projected live in the other cities.
“This concept we have [of the live-work space] is the first down here,” says Castro. “Someone needs to be the first one, the pioneer, the crazy one, which is what the Kitchen is.”