By Geneva Vallejo
As of this week, Tijuana is the international spotlight for an array of industries varying from technology to the culinary arts, fashion, philanthropy and education to health care. All the attention is due to Tijuana Innovadora 2012, which will be presenting itself in a ten-day conference that explores the unique opportunities in cross-border business, art-forums, bi-cultural and bi-national efforts.
In its second edition, Tijuana Innovadora had a successful year its first time around with guests like Al Gore, CNN’s Larry King, Co-Founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales and Biz Stone, Twitter’s Co-Founder and Creative Director, along with business magnate and the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim. This year, Tijuana Innovadora has expanded and reached deeper into certain areas that have brought well-deserved attention upon themselves like culinary arts and fashion, by creating specific categories for them under Creativity.
One of the speakers and top fashion designers participating in Tijuana’s “InnovaModa” this year is Louis Verdad, a Guanajuato native designing out of his Los Angeles based studio to Hollywood stars like Cate Blanchet, Lucy Liu, Halle Berry and most recently beauties like Cindy Crawford. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and has been featured in Phaidon’s 100 designers edition. His participation in the event came from a close relationship he has with Mexican fashion designer Ximena Valero who made a name for herself in Tijuana in the early nineties.
Verdad’s fashion show during Tijuana Innovadora will take place on Sunday, October 14. “I will be paying homage to Madonna. In this show, people can expect to see fifteen different looks on models that were casted in Mexico City but come from all over the world.” His inspiration for the show is plain and simple “Madonna was one of the first celebrities to frame me within the fashion world, she gave me light. You never forget something like that,” he said. Just as no one forgets Madonna’s kiss to Britney Spears during the MTV Music Awards a few years back, as she wore a striking cashmere two-piece by Louis Verdad. Immediately, the New York Times named him the “style world’s man to watch” and “the man to call” for celebrities looking for something to wear to red carpet engagements.
It is with great honor that Tijuana Innovadora reels him in to its brand new category of fashion “InnovaModa.” Verdad expressed pride and humbleness about his participation, amidst a cough he is battling due to the change in weather.
“This is the first time the event takes on the category of fashion, and it is a project that is very important to me because it involves amazing people who are willingly volunteering their time to this event, all in an effort to create a better image for the city and to clean out the negative elements that keep non-residents from visiting Tijuana. I am proud to be part of that,” he said.
“Mexico is filled with hard-working people. Latinos are very creative, and this creativity comes from need; because there is so much need in the country, people create ways of survival and I feel that when it comes to fashion, design and cuisine, Mexico will always offer great leaders to the world. Events like these open the door for people to see Mexico’s beauty as well as it’s progression and production capacity, people just have no idea” in a deep sigh, Verdad added “I want to help change the current notion to say that, not all that is made in Mexico is done poorly.”
That notion is quickly evolving into more positive perceptions. Tijuana Innovadora translates to Tijuana Innovative, and although there is an endless list of innovators in Tijuana, Chef Marcela Valladolid is clearly one of the most successful. She’s another big shot celebrity making her way to Tijuana Innovadora all geared up and ready to cause some serious kitchen damage in “Batalla Culinaria,” the culinary battle scheduled to take place Saturday, October 13 against Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien.
She, like many, started her career out of her house at a young age and has since cooked her way to places like the White House, launched her own show, appeared on The View –among many others- and has written two recipe books. She is an example of what Tijuana Innovadora is all about. “My whole career, and the premise of my books and show, has been based on my cross-cultural upbringing. It took a while for me to realize but it’s such a unique situation to grow up with one foot in each of two very different worlds simultaneously. We’re all special but here on the border, our stories are all very similar.”
Although, Tijuana has always stood out as a prosperous food industry to those who live within the region, it hasn’t been until most recently that the city’s culinary department grew momentum and is now the restaurant hotbed for foodies all around the world. In fact, nowadays, it’s no surprise to see local chefs featured in magazines along with their creative inventions that have covered our very own pallets in bliss for years, pointed out as new discoveries. Certainly, Valladolid’s exposure on national shows like “The Apprentice” and her own “Mexican Made Easy” show on the Food Network have somewhat contributed to the hype. “I don’t know exactly what impact I’ve had directly on this but I can tell you that, from day one, 13 years ago that I landed my first cooking segment on the Food Network, I’ve been telling everyone that will listen that I’m from Tijuana.”
Sure enough they must’ve listened, and why wouldn’t they? Like Valladolid explained, “the whole farm to table thing has been popular for a while but in Baja it’s not just the farm! It’s also the ocean and the ranch and centuries-old traditions and recipes that are getting some new life breathed into them. The chefs are young, creative and courageous but, most importantly, incredibly talented. The attention is well deserved and, more than a trend it’s an introduction to a cuisine and a region that will only learn and grow.” Those are some of the region’s qualities that keep attracting press.
A main goal for the event’s organizers this year was to bring back the feeling of safety to Tijuana’s neighbor city, San Diego. In the past three years, residents have taken on a contemplating attitude on whether to cross or not. Mayor Jerry Sanders fairly stated that “a positive image of Tijuana helps San Diego in many ways” and furthermore, he said “visitors to Tijuana would like outings in San Diego’s tourist destinations and visitors to San Diego would like to travel to another country and experience its cuisine and fine wines. Working together, both cities can lure lucrative conventions this way.”
This is precisely what Tijuana Innovadora’s bi-national committee made sure to do. “It has been a participation effort and a bi-national collaboration, but mainly a goodwill from San Diego organizations to promote the event with an overall regional vision,” said Esperanza Guevara, member of the committee “we’ve made a commitment to make sure there is at least one San Diegan participating in each of our events per day and we’ve listened closely to all concerns and suggestions brought forward by San Diego committee members.” Members of the committee include the SANDAG, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Office of the Mayor of San Diego.
“The organizers hired a bus company that will shuttle residents twice a day from downtown San Diego to the Centro Cultural Tijuana and return them for a modest price” said Sanders. So there really is no excuse to miss this international event happening right next door.
In 2010, the conference drew 700,000 participants. This year there will be 65 keynote addresses, 41 panel discussions and more than 70 free workshops.