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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tijuana Transa: Transa as Metaphor and Theory on the US–Mexico Border


This essay explores the varied potential of “transa” as a new metaphor to describe the US–Mexico borderlands in the twenty-first century and the formal transactions used in the photo-textual essay Here Is Tijuana! (2006). Reimer identifies certain “transa techniques” in the book that connect reader-viewers to a practice of reading-viewing (both text and city) that contests North American and Mexican stereotypes depicting Tijuana (and the borderlands writ large) as a city of vice, illegality, poverty, or a cultural wasteland. What makes Here Is Tijuana! different from the many other texts produced about Tijuana (a large number of which are cited in the book itself) is the concept of transa. Reimer expands the authors’ usage of the term to offer a theoretical-aesthetic intervention into the existing discourse, not only on Tijuana itself, but also on the US–Mexico border and cultural studies in general. Transa offers an alternative approach to encountering experimental cultural productions.  Through transa techniques that include textual-visual collage, pastiche, juxtaposition, and sampling, Here Is Tijuana! documents and visualizes a series of geopolitical and cultural phenomena encountered in Tijuana, such as free trade, uneven urban development, border crossings and migration, labor struggles, and urban and traditional art practices. The book forces readers into its transas to offer new ways of “reading” or “seeing” the US–Mexico border (through Tijuana) that testify to its contradictory power to transgress—and even to render obsolete—national boundaries, while also heightening the perceived power and presence of states and cohesive national identities.

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