Re-existing by Listening
(Listen here) 

1994 was the year of NAFTA, the world was witnessing the rapid process of globalization. The  North American Free Trade Agreement meant to dismantle the borders of global markets, while fortifying the borders of territorial delimitation, of human mobility.

From now on, (they said) things would be better for the poor people of Mexico.


(The free market has arrived)

When growing up in Tijuana, I understood that the city was meant to grow faster than any-other Mexican city. The border city is and always has been a point of departure for many, a new beginning, a transitioning zone. People have adapted to this condition since the very beginning of territorial delimitation.

Settlers versus Nomads, Nomads versus Settlers

Can I see your passport please?

American Citizen…

Because of NAFTA there was an increasing population of migrant workers. I understood why people abandoned their homes in the south, their lands, their customs. They would now move on to different paths, In order to provide food and shelter for their loved ones.

As Arturo Escobar teaches us, “Globalization came at the expense of relational worlds”, and many people lost their connection to their land in order to work the industrial facilities “maquiladoras”. The free market configured the relationship with land / body, with remembering  / forgetting, embodied migration.

What happens to the resistance our body carries in modes of togetherness?

I understood that half of the ‘official’ territory of the city was informal / improvised, and paracaidistas (squatters) occupied big parts of the land in order to resist the effects of globalization. Since the 1970s private and public entities have promoted the borderlands to host global corporations and install cheap labor, NAFTA accelerated this process.

In most of these squatted lands, architecture came by way of survival, meaning ‘Informality’ is a basic understanding of how to live in hostile lands. Informality brings other ways of inhabiting land, other ways of citizenship.

This an intent to highlight the knowledge production that comes along when improvising outside the discipline of architecture. 

Resistance - Re-existence

In the informal settlements of Tijuana, architecture is built by non-architects. A community of migrant workers decide to stay in the city after years of labor. They become local scale entrepreneurs, I've witnessed communities of residue collectors piling up used components from industrial facilities. Some people make art with the residues, some make tools, some make homes. They separate broken televisions, car parts, used iron, metal and pvc tubes in order to install the walls and sealings to a soon to be family house. They build entire houses with used materials, they pass on the knowledge and they manage to live in the exterior of a formal economy that places them in cheap labor conditions.

Informality is improvisation, and when people live long enough in this condition, they move from resisting a brutal machinery of exclusion towards what Catherin Walsh calls ‘Re-existing’, living within the gaps of globalization and navigating within the cracks of nation state borders. This is border sensing, knowing and doing. When people in the borderlands move from the dichotomy of oppression - resistance, towards a space of ‘Re-existing’.

Echoes of the Listening Academy

Group Improvisation session

In our 1 hour improvisation, we were banging / sounding / on pieces of metal, oxidized iron and found objects. Just like the collectors of the informal settlements of Tijuana, we took the time and care to collect materials that were once consumed and transformed in the name of the free market. The metal pipes, antennas and pieces of wood that we collected contained memories, scars, smells and substances that made them sound outside their industrial use.

When we listen to these objects, they reveal to us the absurd world of consumption we live in. A world of ecological devastation, where we consume to create and destroy landscapes.

When listening / sensing ourselves during the exercise, a plural temporality preceded normative perceptions of linear time.

When thinking / feeling about our group Improvisation, a feeling of ‘remembering back’ emerged in ourselves from the exterior of consumption.

We were able to redefine objects as listening mediators.

Improvisation is embodied knowledge, it contains a plural way of inhabiting the world outside the reductiveness of nation state belonging. We now understand that globalization brought along new forms of waste landscapes. In parallel it brought us along a world of soundscapes that re-exist in time, these are ways of re-existence by listening together.