Tour Guide: Meet the artists behind the mics
From KPBS and PRX, this is “Port of Entry”…
Where we tell cross-border stories…
That connect us...
I’m Alan Lilienthal.
And I’m Natalie Gonzalez.
That’s right. We have a new cohost!
Woohoo! Hellz yeah!
Soy Natalie Gonzalez. Your new cohost for Port of Entry…
And I am really, really excited to be here and tell stories about my home..the border
And I am so excited for you to be here...as much as I love and feel at home in Tijuana, it’s really nice to have someone who has lived and breathed the city your whole life.
BEAT/PAUSE So..today in “Port of Entry”…
We’ve got a “Tour Guide” bonus episode for you.
That’s where we ask people who live on both sides of the border to take us on a tour of an actual place in the borderlands that means a lot to them.
And...this Tour Guide episode is extra special because Natalie is going to be our guide and take us somewhere very important to her.
Meet Natalie Clip 16 So this is, this is, I love this place. And even the smell, even the smells, you can see the appearance. Alan: You can, you can tell that magic has been made, right?
we thought that while Alan was using an episode to introduce ME….
we would go ahead and re-introduce you to Alan, too...
Meet Alan Clip 7 Setup sound Natalie: Oh wow, this place is amazing…
Alan: Yeah, it’s cool right?
So we’re gonna give you a chance to finally learn a lot more about the voice guiding you through these border stories for the past few years…
We’ll dive into both of our stories….right after a quick break...
Quedate con nosotros.
Natalie: Ha. Beautiful voice…
Alan: Ha. Very nice.
Natalie: My precious.
Alan: What a nice way to start my day
BEAT bump to fade
Estamos de regreso en el podcast.
Meet Natalie Clip 1 Saying Hello Natalie: Hey,
Alan: Que onda?
Natalie: how are you?
Natalie: It's okay. It's okay. Life it's part of life.
So...I recently met up with Natalie at a small performance venue in downtown Tijuana.
Meet Natalie Clip 3 Natalie explains where we are Alan: Cool. Donde...Where are we in Tijuana?
Estamos enfrente la cacho…...so this is one of the most famous boulevards in Tijuana. And if we cross the Boulevard, that’s La Cacho. So we could say that we're in downtown Tijuana. Cause downtown is just here, like two blocks away….
The theater is called Teatro Las Tablas…
And it’s run by a local company called Tijuana Hace Teatro.
Meet Natalie Clip 17
Alan: It's dark in here it is.
Natalie: It is dark in here
Alan: Moody, moody
Natalie: You're going to love it. You're gonna love it. It's definitely your style place. The kind of plays that you will love here in Tijuana.
OK, so Alan..this place is really important for me, it means a lot, alot, it’s really deep in my heart.
Becasue I think in this place is where I realized that theater is the one thing that I want to do for the rest of my life.
Meet Natalie Clip 0 Explains Why She Picked This PlaceLike...for the rest of my life I want to say something to someone with art,and I want to make people laugh. And I just want to talk about what I care with art. And I could, I could have chosen like a lot of places in Tijuana, porque I grew up here. But I think that this is the one that is closer to who I am right now and closer to what I believe right now, you know? So that's why I chose this place.
So...the theater Natalie wanted to show me is really very small..
Yeah...it fits just 40 people…
But its smallness is a big part of what I really love about it.
Meet Natalie Clip 5 Very Intimate Alan: Wow,
This is great, right?
Alan: This is super cool. So here's where the actors are and like the audience would be up there?
Yeah. The audience up there and also here.
Alan: This is so intimate.
It is. That's the thing I love about this place that is really intimate. And actually either whether you're sitting over there as the member of the audience, or you're standing here as an actor, it's really intimate, the experience.
So...Natalie..you actually have a vivid memory that illustrates that intimacy really well…you were in the audience once night acting in it instead of watching it right?
Yeah, that’s right.
And I was so close to the actors on the stage that the scene really hit me hard, justo en el corazon.
Meet Natalie Clip 6 Crying In Audience The actress was looking, looking at me in the eye while she was saying the words and I was crying while she was looking at me in the eyes. And it was super intimate and I have the image in my mind.
Alan: She must have thought that was cool, seeing you reacting in the audience.
So I'm sure she was like, I made someone cry and I was just crying while she was saying her lines. Alan: Oh wow.
So that was beautiful.
OK So...that was a little bit about who you are now….
But I wanted to understand how exactly you got to this place in your life where theater is your thing…
So... after the tour of the theater, we sat down to talk…
We did. And we had a great time, actually.
Clip 1 Session
Alan: Can you tell me about some of your early memories growing up at like some of the, some memories that stick out of running around and your, your, some of your grandpa's markets in downtown.
NATALIE: I have a really big family. My dad, he has a bunch of siblings and they all share this business. So I would be just running around with all of my cousins all around this market. So it's two markets, Mercado Hildago and Mercado Abostos. So we would get a lot of free food, a lot of free cheese, a lot of candy, a lot of just watermelon. We were always eating oranges, just walking around, playing hide and seek while eating fruits and vegetables.
I think that is something really Mexican, like a really Mexican way to grow up; just to be, you know, walking around the mercados. They're also called street markets or los abraderas. And I, I had a really beautiful childhood with all of my cousins who are like my siblings and with all of my siblings.
There's this place called Brenda's where you can just buy candy or oatmeal and a lot of things. And I would always... not steal because it's my family's business. But I would just walk around. And just like open these little, these little box and grab a bunch of candies and then just run.
Alan: Sounds like a dream when you're a kid, just to go around picking whatever fruit and candy you want from the market. Sounds incredible.
It was a dream. It was really beautiful.
And it was really colorful, super colorful. I remember. Because there were a lot of piñatas all around the place. So whenever I think about those memories, it's always colorful. I am always thinking about colors, fruits, vegetables, candy, pinatas. So it's, it's beautiful to remember all of that. I don't go there anymore and it hurts sometimes because whenever I'm there, it feels like home.
Clip 2 Session
Alan: Do you remember some of the first times you crossed the border?
Natalie: Of the memories that had a lot of impact. I remember we crossed the border because we wanted to buy some toys. Because one of my cousins, he was gonna have a birthday party. And I remember coming back, my dad received a phone call from my uncle and he was like, you know what? Someone broke into your house and everything is destroyed.
And my dad didn't say anything. I just remember he was super, super scared. And w when we were driving, Via Rapida, the Mexican freeway. You could say it's a freeway. I saw, we saw our dogs, they were standing in the freeway. And I remember thinking, what the heck? Why, what are they doing? They're like my dogs, why are they standing in the freeway? I remember thinking like, maybe they were waiting for us. Like, I was like, what, what were they doing? Like, why aren't they home? And so what happened is that my dogs, they try to follow the rubbish. So they ended up in the freeway. And I remember, I remember so clearly we were coming back from San Diego from, from target, just to buy toys. And then I found my dogs in the street and then my house was completely, completely, everything was, I never saw my house because my, my dad, he wouldn't allow, allow us to go inside because apparently todo destrosado.... Just I never saw that. I never saw that because my dad didn’t want us to see. But I remember that scene, like coming from San Diego that and then and everything was completely destroyed. And thankfully my dogs were okay. They were fine. And I always remember them, because obviously they passed away. Cause this was like more than 15 years ago. But, uh, I remember like, damn my dogs, they were true Mexican dogs, like trying to get the robbers.
BEAT bump to fade
So...there’s this other story you told me about..
It’s about the moment your family got green cards….
Clip 3 Session Start
Natalie: This is a moment that lives in my memory. We were all opening our envelopes with our cards and she was like, I didn't get one. And, and my mom was like, what do you mean you didn't get one? We all got ours. She was like, no, I didn't get mine.
And I just remember she started crying and my uncle was like, it's okay. This can be your home until you get your green card. It's okay. Don't worry. You're going to be fine. And she was like, but I need to go back to my school and I need to finish high school and graduate. And she was like, my family's going back and I'm going to stay here by myself. And that, that moment is like, in my mind, I can remember the color of the walls around me. I can remember my sister standing in the hallway crying and hugging my uncle. And it's just me thinking. So does that mean that I'm going to go back to my room and sleep by myself because I sleep with my sister and does that mean now I'm going to sleep by myself. That was really, that's a really hard memory, but it's also, I don't know. I think it's really important because I think that was the first time that I. That I realized I was living in Tijuana in a border town. And that had a lot of weight. Alan: Yeah. It was like, before you didn't, you didn't realize the implications of like crossing. Because it was, it was just easy Mmmhmm. Until, until that precise moment.
But it was hard because I was so used….my sister; she's my best friend. So I was so used to do everything with her. Cause it's my two brothers and then me and my sister. So it was always me and her and then she was not there anymore. So it was, it was really, it was pretty tough at first, but I mean, you get used to that. You get used to the tough life.
Beat bump to fade
So, not long after that moment when your sister had to stay in the U.S. to finish school…
The rest of your family had their green cards, so they started to live more of a cross-border life right?
Yeah...exaclty...so my parents both got jobs in San Diego...…
And one of my brothers started studying in San Diego, too…
How did that change, from being mostly in Tijuana to being cross-border, how did that change you?
Clip 5 session start
I think that hit me a lot. Like, out of nowhere, my family was in another country. And it was just…. my oldest brother and me at home that hit me a lot because I grew up super close with my siblings. We were always together. We would always do everything together. So that was that's. I think that's, that's a really relevant part of, of being transfronterizo, of being fronterizo to me that; well, your family, sometimes you get separated from them.
How did you cope with that separation,
TV...lots of it....tv was my babysitter pretty much…
Wos...is that how you learned to speak English?
Yeah, totally...and it’s also how I first got interested in acting...
Mm. So TV can be good for you sometimes.
Clip 4 session start
When I was eight years old or nine years old, I somehow, because of all of these shows from Disney channel and Nickelodeon, I did. Like an obsession with, with becoming an actress and play a character on TV.
Alan: And how long did it take you to start really pursuing it? I mean, I know in elementary school you started, you joined the drama club, right? Does that, that, that really, the first time you were like, you, you took those dreams and gave them some, some reality.
Yeah. So, so I, I mean, it's been a ride, of course now I don't, I don't want to be on TV. I don’t want to make movies or anything. And it's because….I think it's because I fell in love with theater. And I realized that theater is way more real than anything in the world.
I'm not doing this for fun anymore. I mean, I am. But I think this is what I want forever. Like I always want to share with people forever. It's beautiful.
ALAN: So, can I go back a little bit, like, I know at the time, you, at the time that you started spending a lot of time alone and started falling asleep with TV and acting and playing characters. You said that you also started is when you started becoming aware of your anxiety and insecurity and stuff like that, where the, can you talk a little bit about maybe where those fears came from? Was it just being alone and, and was playing characters, like the way to kind of escape that?
I think I was never aware of my anxiety, of course, because I didn't even...I had never heard the word “anxiety” when I was a kid or when I was a teenager. So I think for me, I was a really insecure kid. I would always be scared of something. There was always something going on in my head that I was scared of whether going to sleep by myself or, or even just going to sleep because I would have nightmares. Or just learning how to swim. There was always a fear that I would have, and I think that was obviously anxiety. And so something that I wasn't aware of back then, like I was so insecure and so fearful. But somehow I wasn't scared to do theater. And it was…. honestly, it was like a therapy session for me. It's not anymore. Of course. Now I go to real therapy. Ha.
So...Natalie, just like your relationship to theater has changed over the years….
your relationship with the city of Tijuana has also evolved, too…
Yes, it has evolved a lot actually.
So...when you were growing up…
Tijuana was suffering from a huge spike in drug cartel violence….
People were being shot out in the open on city streets…
Others were getting kidnapped…
Yes...I actually knew lots of people who were impacted...and during the worst of it….I basically became a homebody and missed a lot of my friends' parties and quinceaneras because it just seemed to dangerous and risky to go out during that time….
Yeah..I bet….I can’t imagine.
Anad actually...my best friend’s dad got kidnapped…
Yeah, I mean...eventually got home safely, but….that was still really, really scary….
Yeah, that sounds terrifying, so I imagine it was experiences like that that made you start not liking Tijuana for awhile...
Clip 6 session start
If I remember how I pictured Tijuana back then... I would use the word grey..
Like I would say like a a grey color or something like brown.
That's how I remember it. Like...just everything gray because there was, for me, there was nothing going on. And also because I would always stay home.
And I didn't even know my city. But for me, it was a place where there were no opportunities. That's why I wanted to move to the states. There were no opportunities to grow here. There was no, no point in staying here to study because I was going to graduate and do what? And so I. I dunno, I think, I think, and I, and I don't feel bad about this cause I think it was a process, but I really thought Tijuana was a horrible place, it was my home. It really felt like my home because I knew the place and I was used to the place. But I hated it. It was just gray. It had no color for me.
Hmm. That’s really interesting how...when were telling me about your youth from Tijuana
You remember all these colors from the mercados...the pinatas and the fruit…
But then as you got older, that color kinda changed for you…
But...nowadays...some of that color has returned for you..
So....how did that transformation happen?
Clip 7 session start
So my, my university it's a Jesuit university. So they would, they would teach us a lot about human rights a lot. So all of my classes, they were always focused on human rights, film, radio, everything was always about human rights. So I, I started researching because my major was really focused on research. So I started researching about social issues in Tijuana and I. Really it's going to sound weird if I use these words, but this is what happened. I fell in love with the humans trafficking and sex trafficking topic, because I thought he was like super, super big and super intense. And I was like, man, this is going on a lot in Tijuana. And what are we doing about it? Is there like a shelter or what happens to these people that get rescued? Like do they get rehab, like they need to get some sort of rehab. Right?
So I just started researching. And then I ended up at this place called and it's a shelter for kids who were victims of sex trafficking, more just human trafficking in general. They get rehab, they get, uh, art, art classes, music, dance, everything that they need. They go to swimming lessons, they do everything that they need to get better for when they go back to society. And I met a lot of people who were doing art with a social cause. And I realized damn, Tijuana is pretty cool. Cause I mean, there are a lot of issues with, there's also a lot of people, a lot of artists doing a bunch of cool things to improve the city. So I think it was, that was, well, I can't remember the year, but I was probably like 21, 22 years old. When I realized that there were a lot of creative spaces in this city. With, with a lot of social causes, with a lot of impact in our society. And there were, there were a bunch of coffee shops doing every Sunday, uh, just things to raise money for some cause and just a bunch of theater, small theater places doing stuff. And people dancing to talk about social issues. And I just started to fall in love with Tijuana.
BEAT bump to fade
TJ STREET AMBI
Meet Natalie Clip 18 back to the space
I've done. Three shows. All of them comedy, you know, I love comedy.
Back inside that theater you love in downtown Tijuana….
Meet Natalie Clip 18 back to the space And the last one was a month before the pandemic started. So we did like a parody of Chicago, cellblock, tango. Have you heard that before?
you told me about how proud you are of the city now…
especially when it comes to its tight-knit theater community...
Meet Natalie Clip 12 Theater never stopped in TijuanaI think it's been pretty strong because they haven't stopped. Like they, they haven't stopped doing. And when I say day, I mean, all the companies, a, I mean, all the companies here in Tijuana, they never stopped. Like as soon as the pandemic hit, they started, um, giving like soon workshops. As soon as the pandemic hit, everything moved to zoom in a week, we were already in SU they were giving a lot of classes. They were offering a lot of workshops and everything. Like they never stopped doing theater and that's something that I'm really. Uh, for the companies here in Tijuana.
But...like most theater actors, you have dreams of maybe leaving Tijuana and going to New York..doing the whole Broadway thing at some point…
Right...but you know what Alan….even if that happens and I run off to New York for a while….eventually, I will come home.
Meet Natalie Clip 15 Will Always Come Back to Tijuana I always want to come back because there's a lot of talent here in Tijuana and there's a big opportunity to make it grow. Like all the theater scene in Tijuana, we need to make it grow. And if I just leave to become like a bigger actress, well, this is the place of maybe an actress. So I, I need to always come back here. And I mean, I wouldn't mind just staying here forever and do theater here because I think it's a perfect place to make theater here. I would love to try Broadway cause I love musicals. I'm obsessed with musicals...you have no idea. Obsessed. but I always want to come back here. I always want to do everything here and sure. Why not tour a little bit. But like, my goal is to make it grow here.
Natalie: So yeah! ..You just heard about my nerdy obsession for Arts and Theater...
But now...it’s Alan’s turn….
God Finally! I’m used to it only being about me.
Meet Alan Clip 8 beautiful border You can't see right now, but, and at night the border is like right there and it's really bright and lit up. And if you didn't know, it was a militarized border, you'd be like, oh, that's really pretty. There's some nice slides. Beautiful.
We’ll get to that...soon
But...first….a quick break.
Don’t move your little butt.
Y estamos de regreso
Entonces..before we get to your special place at the border…
I want to go back in time…
way back to even before you were born…
Because your family has a super interesting origin story.
Alan Session Clip 1
Well, my great grandparents. It was actually my great, some of my great-grandparents and, or my great great grandparents were from Eastern Europe. And it was not a nice situation for Jewish people to say the least in that area of the world in those days.
Um, they were, I guess, some of the smart ones who had the foresight to see what was happening.This was way before Nazi Germany. So the. I guess they were hip to what was happening. And they were like, we got to get the F outta here. Um, in the early 19 hundreds, uh, there was at the pogroms, the pilgrims were happening in like Russia and the Ukrainian area. Um, and Jewish people had to either flee or have a very, very, very difficult life. So my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents left. Some of them were trying to actually come to America, but again, Ellis island was pretty packed with long lines. Um, so the next best thing was Mexico. Some of them had like some kind of connection, like an uncle or something who had passed through Mexico. And yeah, they ended up, they ended up in Mexico, um, which I'm super grateful for, to be honest. Not only to Mexico, for welcoming them with open arms, but being Mexican is one of my favorite things in the whole world.
Natalie: Obviously, because it’s wonderful.
Yeah, it's an amazing, it's an amazing culture to be a part of.
Natalie: So fast forward to your mom and dad meeting and falling in love and having three beautiful boys. And you're the first one. You're the oldest one. So what do you remember about your childhood in Mexico City?
I only have a few memories, but I, the ones that I do, I remember a lot of Mexico.
It's a very, it's very big on family as I'm sure. You know, Mexico is family, such a just bed stone of everything we do. So I, I, I remember most of my memories from Mexico are, are really spent with family.
Like every Saturday I would go to Sanborns, which there's one in Tijuana.
Natalie: Oh my god.
Yeah...with my grandpa. I was the first one. It started, I was the first one. So it was only me and my grandpa in the beginning. But. Eventually like every, every time there was a new grandchild on the block, they would join the party. So, so by the, by the, by the time I left Mexico city, I think it was three of us, me, my brother Ita and my cousin Ariella. Um, and I just remember, I just, I have very beautiful memories to be honest with Mexico.
Um, I remember. Really loving. This is not Mexican at all, but I remember like there was this, I've never seen this in America, but in the Mexico Kentucky fried chicken, KFC, they had this like gravy mashed potato thing.
Natalie: Ah, yesss.
Oh my God. It was the best. My mom would take me when I was like, that was like a treat every once in a while.Um, so most of my memories in Mexico around just food and being around family a lot.
Natalie: So, what was it like as an eight year old walking into a classroom in the U S for the first time. You didn't speak any English, right?
Yeah, no, I spoke, I spoke, I didn't speak any English when I moved here. I, I spoke, I knew maybe how to say my name and how do you know, like where's the bathroom. Um, but no, I didn't speak any English. I think it was similar to your experience of being aware of the border. I think it was. The think the thing that strikes me most about moving to the U S…
It was the first time where I felt conscious of being separate from my environment where I was like, oh, I’m Alan. And this thing that this place I'm in is different from what I am. Whereas maybe before that, I don't know. You're just a kid and you kind of all just blends together. You don't even, you're not really even really conscious of like, You know what life is or who you are. But I think walking into that classroom in the first few weeks, I was so aware of how diff of like me being separate from my environment and not speaking the language. And it was. You know, maybe it's because I'm super sensitive. Like, I guess some kids like adjust better, but it really like created some kind of schism. Like, I really see that as like the birth of me being anxious or getting like overthinking what people around me are saying, or like looking at me in weird ways. I think it stems from, from those days. Cause, cause it felt very alienating. And it doesn't seem like that big of a deal now. It’s like, oh dude, you were eight years old. You just moved from Mexico to the U S it's not a big deal. You were safe. You were in a good school. It's fine. But no, it was, it, it was very, it was very disorienting.
Natalie: It was a big deal.
It was very disorienting for years. I'm like, it's still to this day, I'm still kind of unraveling that the anxiety that, that created.
Natalie: So...Here's here's where we have some similarities. Actually. I think we have a lot of similarities. Uh, you too, have battled weight and society, uh, until 80, that started with that experience of feeling like an alien, like you said, an outsider or feeling like you didn't fit in, fit in when you came to the U S so how did you deal with that anxiety when you were young?
Mmmm. Honestly music saved my life really. Um. I don't think; I know.
A few weeks after we moved to San Diego from Mexico, um, a music teacher, I remember came into our classroom and she started singing the songs that were exactly the same ones that we sang in Mexico. They were Hebrew songs because I went to a Jewish school and, and like something subconsciously clicked where, where I just….music felt like the way…. the tool to feel belonging and to feel like it was the first time where like….me and my classmates were all singing the same songs and it was like, oh, oh, we’re not that different. Oh, we actually can, can relate to each other where it felt like I felt a connection with them that I hadn't felt before. Um, so music became the thing. I started. I remember in those days, like I started having, like, when you were watching TV, you know, like I started fantasies and visions of like being on stage and playing music for people for my classmates in Mexico city, like, like going back to my friends and playing music for them.
Um, it just is the only thing that felt like home. To me, it felt like, like without, like, because I was so young and I didn't know how to use. And music came down and made me feel belonging. I think my, I just, my subconscious latched onto that and felt like music was the only way to, to feel that.
That was both like medicine to me and also became kind of a crutch, um, where I started using music almost as an escape. Because when that, whenever I would feel anxious instead of facing the anxiety or dealing with it, I was just retreating into music and be like, oh, Nope, this is what I'm going to do. I'm just going to become really good at music and not, I mean, I wasn't thinking, like, I'm not gonna deal with this, but, but that's what I was doing. So yeah, it took me awhile to, to heal that so that I could come to music from a healthy place.
BEAT swell to fade
Alan Sesh Clip 2 Natalie: You ended up taking a Greyhound bus from San Diego to New York. And you went to college there, but music was still your main thing. Can you tell me about the label you started and what sort of things you did in the music scene in ? That's pretty cool.
Uh, so I, so I moved to New York because I always music, my, my intentions and my, my dream of music was always very pure and it always has been because music helped me so much early on feel belonging and. I feel like I had a place in this world that I always felt like I wanted to pass that on to other people and help other people, other artists, not only myself, but I wanted to help other artists, have a platform in order to share that sense of belonging with people. So that was always, that was always my dream. And my vision for my life. So, so moving to New York was, was kind of a way to start watering that. So when I moved to New York, my brother was living here and we started this kind of record label, art collective experiment, social experiment, where we were, we wanted to start a label where it wasn't about just the individual artist’s ego, you know, it was more about this, this community affaur, where we would like different artists would play on each other's records. And then like, it would also be visual artists and filmmakers, and it wasn't just about music. And we would all collaborate with one another. It'd be like a big commune type thing, but within the, the model of a record label. It was an amazing time. I learned a ton about how to do that. Um, we were throwing shows every weekend. That was. For a year or two packed and sold out every week.
Uh, I started part of that was I was spray painting. Funny, like almost like tweets before Twitter, like on the street announced like announcing these events. That's actually why I don't have my Sentri; because the reason I don't have my Sentri is because in those days, I was spray painting a lot too to promote these shows. And I got arrested a couple times.
Natalie: Oh my God.
Yeah. So I'm still a, still don't have my century. That was almost almost 10 years ago, but I learned a lot about how, how to, how to create community and the importance of community.
Because I think in, in music, it can be very easy again, to to think that it's about your ego and like people thinking you're awesome. And, and, and I've thankfully remembered and realize that music is about. The connection between us, like music has been at the, at the core of human communication since the beginning of time, you know; around the fire in religions, in religious services and everything. Music has this glue-ness to it that brings people together. And I think that those times in New York in those early times really reminded me, reminded me of that, that it was, it was about this community enrichment and it wasn't just about the individual artists.
BEAT bump to fade
And that brings us to your tour guide portion of the show…. Alan….
Meet Alan: Clip 0 Setup sound 1|alan and natalie speak in spanish and say hi to animals (fade under vo)
So...I took us to a little house on a hillside in Tijuana that overlooks downtown…
Mmm. Yeah you did….
And it’s an epic view that stretches all the way to San Diego….
Meet Alan Clip 0 Setup sound 2….. Every morning I would come here to this ledge to meditate and think about Tijuana. Tijuana... I never get tired of thinking about Tijuana.
Meet Alan Clip 3 Tijuana was a calling
Natalie: What I think it's really curious is that you never lived here and out of nowhere, you were just. I'm going to move to Tijuana. What happened there? How did that happen in your head? Like, oh, I'm just going to move to Tijuana. Like I've never been there, but I'll just do it. Well, I had been here,
Natalie: Oh yes, when you were a kid.
Yeah. But I, but you're right. Like, I can't even say that, like I knew the Quanta, cause it was like pretty much straight to the airport to go to Mexico, to visit my grandparents. It wasn't like a new Tiguan in any way I had, you know, like I can remember maybe once or twice as a kid going to tepas nuevas or mudno divertido. But that’s all I knew of Tijuana. . So yeah, that, it w it was a weird, like, it, I mean, it shocked my parents when I decided to move to the corner, because it's like classic, like immigrant story. Like, you know, my dad had worked so hard to leave Mexico, to bring his kids to the states. They'll give him a better opportunity. And like, and then his kids, like I'm going to de Quanah and he's like, what the fuck are you doing?
Um, yeah. Yeah. It's kind of, I love this story and it's also a strange one to tell for people who don't, who believe in God or, or, or like the, this, the forces of the universe. I can eat really. I really say this with my whole heart. I can't even say that I decided to move to Tijuana. I kind of just like listened. And they said, okay. Yes, because I was, yeah, yeah. I was, I was, um, I was in a very dark place in my life and very lost it when I was like 25, 26. Before that I always kind of could see where I wanted my future to go. It kind of made sense, but in that moment, everything was like, I didn't no idea where I was. I had just broken up with an ex-girlfriend of very long time that we had been dating for a very long time. Um, I, music had lost its like juice for me.
Like it just, I mean, I still love music, but it was like, it felt like a traumatic relationship where like I needed it to feel I needed it to feel a value, you know, like I needed it. I needed a music to, to like, to feel like I had anything to offer and that wasn't healthy. Yeah. Uh, because then when I didn't have a guitar in my hand, like who the fuck was? I didn't know.
Natalie: Oh, wow.
Yeah, it got dark, but,
Natalie: And it was all about you. Like it wasn't about music.
Oh yeah. One hundred percent. A hundred percent. Yeah. Yeah. It's like a codependent relationship with any, like with a human, like you it's, you have to find that stability and love within yourself to then enjoy the relationship. That's how it wasn't music. I was like using it to feel good, but so, so I had to, I had to. Uh, I had to figure some shit out. So I, so I, the only thing that made sense to me since I couldn't see the future was to go into my roots.
So I've always felt a deep sense of gratitude and wanting to give back to Mexico because without like, I feel super Mexicano…
Natalie: You are super Mexican..
Yeah, super Mexicano, but like, I also am aware of the history of how, how I even got to be Mexican and it's like, wow, okay. I feel a sense of responsibility, but that's not the point. So I, so I, so I was lost and I left to Europe to Eastern Europe. My only idea was to start in London and hitchhike all the way to Eastern Europe. To see if maybe that process would teach me something about who I was and like what I wanted to do. I had no idea where I was. I didn't know if I was gonna come back to America. I didn't know if I was going to move to, I didn't know where, what was next. And during that time, the Syrian refugee crisis happened. So I was in Europe like hitchhiking and like sleeping in train stations while there was like thousands and thousands of Syrian refugees coming to Europe. And there was this fucking weird cosmic thing, because it was like, I was there to get to know the lens of my great grandparents who left Europe to, to Mexico, like, because they were being persecuted. And now there was, uh, thousands of Muslims coming or, uh, they were both religious Christians and Muslims coming to Europe, not being accepted, like being turned away as refugees. And I was there. Like I, the only thing that felt right to do was to volunteer at refugee camp. Help these people just like my family was helped at some point in Mexico. So it was this strange thing of like, maybe it really connected me to who belongs in what land, like what belongs to whoever you're fleeing persecution. We're all just humans, right? And it reminded me why I even made music in the first place, which is like….music helped me find a sense of belonging and harmonizing with the people around me. So, so it was this wild thing. And during those times, I don't remember if it was one moment or. Exactly happened. But during this time of like being deep with the Syrian refugees and contemplating how I got to Mexico and like what my role was in the world, this is like the light bulb was in my head, like you gotta go to Tijuana.
And you told me something really interesting about how you felt when you moved here….
You said the minute you moved here…
You just knew Tijuana was exactly where you belonged.
Meet Alan Clip 1 Tijuana made him feel home I mean in general, Tijuana is the first time in my life where I've really felt at home where I didn't question; is this where I'm supposed to live? You know, we have so many options now that are just like, I think the internet opened us up to the, before you had to stay where you live. Like that was the only thing you knew your parents knew. Now, now we, you see everything on Instagram. Yeah. I think as someone who I was born in Mexico city grew up in San Diego kind of, you know, like in, in Mexico, no one believes me that I'm Mexican in American no one believes me that a Mexican. Natalie: Yes. You feel like you don't belong.
So yeah. To a degree.
Natalie: Like you’re not from here and you're not from there.
Exactly. Like the classic ni de aqui, ni de alla…..like, that was me to my core. Uh, and Tijuana feels like home….
Everyone feels that here. It’s like ni de aqui, ni de alla, but it's like, okay. But here, it makes you at home here. It's like this weird place where the border creates this kind of borderless culture, you know, where people from all, all over the world come here, either seeking a better life in America or just get, stay in Tijuana because there's a lot of opportunity here.
Uh, and it seems just. The, the energy here, the spirit of the people here is very welcoming to people who feel like they don't belong anywhere else. Um, so yeah, I have a lot of love for the and this place that we're in right now, like I said, is the first place I moved to when I decided to move to the Kuala. So it's, it'll always hold a special place in my heart. And like, like right here, what we're looking at right now, this, this. You know, it's not like a glamorous view. It's not typically pretty, but I think that's what makes it so intriguing to me. Like you at night, that's the board right there. You see in a, not yet, like all those lights are lit up, so it's this, there's a lot to think about here. It's like, especially if you have any kind of privilege and you can cross the border and you're looking down on this sero. You know, there's like trash on the Hills and there's like, these houses built out of like, it seems whatever you can, like, you know, what pallets or whatever it is next to nice houses. It's like this crazy contrast. And San Diego is right over there. And it's like a completely different looking. The same land looks totally different than the way it's developed. So there's like, you know, like sitting up here gives me a lot to think about, of how I want to contribute. How I want to, you know, contribute my creativity and my energy to this city and to the world, you know, like all the forces of all the forces that, that we, it seems that we're, we're like trying to figure out as humans like immigration and climate change, it seems like they come to a head here.
So this is why I know we’ll get along…
Because...I love doing theater to talk about some of these difficult issues…and build community….
And I love making music for pretty much the exact same reasons….
Which brings us to your binational band…
Metele funk baby...
Alan sesh clip 3
I formed Tulengua because again, I think me, I think music is. Dissolves the barriers between us when you're at a show with a thousand people or 10 people singing, singing a song, there's this feeling of communion that's unlike anything that I've ever felt. I think that's why music is used in spiritual ceremonies of all kinds. So, so music to me is the best tool in dissolving the borders between us. You could say so to langua was born out of this. I think around the time Trump was elected and there was all this shit being talked about, you know, the division at the border and more, more wanting to build a stronger wall and a bigger wall and militarization. And, and it was all these people talking about the border in like Washington DC or like people that had no idea what it was actually like to live here and not only to live here, but didn't even know that fluidity that already exists here. Like the vast amount of collaboration and cooperation and things that happen in the border region, people that cross to work for, for everything like that. Wasn't it was so the conversation was so removed from the actual lived experience of, of the border region and people who live crossing this border every single day that it felt to me.
I don't know. It just happened very naturally. Like I wanted to, to. Create a band that could represent that, that unity that I already knew existed in both sides of the border.
There was like, I have so many friends doing amazing cross border work, creative projects, all sorts of things, and that wasn't being spoken about.
So I, so I, I being a musician and I having so much love for music. I wanted to create some kind of band that, that, that could represent the. The beauty that happens when people from that are different from different races, from different nationals, from different everything, like come together and make music or make art or make any kind of creativity.
There's something that happens that reminds us of, of that. We're at the end of the day, we're all just humans, regardless of well, you know what your passport says, uh, and it seems. What am, what a great way to do that by having people from both sides of this, the most cross border, the most militarized border in the world, you know, actually, I don't know if it's the most militarized, but it's, uh, it's, it's a very, very important border region.
And having people from both sides coming together and showing like, oh, it doesn't matter what they're saying on the TV. It doesn't really matter what our governments are saying. We can do. Come together and make something beautiful.
That’s it. That’s us.
Thanks so much for taking time to get to know us.
And by the way...this dope song you’re hearing right now...is a song by Alan called “Julio vente dos.”
BEAT bump to fade
Port of Entry is written and produced by Kinsee Morlan.
Emily Jankowski is the co-producer and director of sound design.
Alisa Barba is our editor.
Lisa Morissette is operations manager…
and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content.
This program is made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people."
I’m, Alan Lilienthal.
And I’m Natalie Gonzalez.
In our recurring “Tour Guide” bonus episodes, we ask transborder people to take us on a tour of a special place in the borderlands: a place that means a lot to them.
Today, our new fronteriza cohost Natalie Gonzalez, along with our longtime fronterizo host Alan Lilienthal, take us on a tour of two of their favorite places in Tijuana and tell us more about their life on la línea.
Today’s episode continues our new season of "Port of Entry" focused on crossborder artists and musicians who’ve turned pain into superpowers.