Taste of Tijuana: Institute brings south-of-the-border art, food, wine, music and dance to La Jolla

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

If you’ve heard about the new culinary, art and music scene that’s sprung up in Tijuana but haven’t felt like battling the border-crossing traffic to see it for yourself, here’s a chance, locally.

The Institute of the Americas, an independent nonprofit based on the UC San Diego campus that has been encouraging investment and information- sharing between the United States and Latin America for the past 30 years, is hosting a grand event Saturday, Aug. 24, which will give folks on this side of the border a taste of the other side’s art, music, dance, wine and cuisine.

Called “Flavors of the Americas: Tijuana, Baja & Beyond,” the event is a collaboration with IMAC (Tijuana’s Institute of Arts and Culture), which is dedicated to positioning the city as a cultural center. Last August, the two institutes partnered to present “The Roots of Art,” a touring exhibit of artworks from across Latin America. This year, they decided to focus on the many facets of the new Tijuana, and turn the event into more of a happening.

“We want to create an experience, where one thing flows into another, so guests can have a feel for the kind of rebirth that’s now going on just across the border,” said Institute of the Americas Development Director Sherry White.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. at the Institute’s outdoor plaza, with brief introductory remarks by Tijuana notables.

Then guests will move into the gallery, where paintings and photographs by a dozen Baja artists will be on display. These pieces, and others, will be available for purchase, with a percentage of the sales going to the Institute as a donation.

Starting at 7 p.m., there will be tastings of “Mexi-terranean” tidbits from Romesco, one of the popular Plascencia group of restaurants that includes the original, now fully remodeled, Caesar’s.

There will also be a half-dozen wines from Guadalupe Valley and some Baja brews, accompanied by impromptu dance performances (think flash-mob, minus the mob). Dancers will include Aire Flamenco, with the dynamic Norma Michel and her guitarist, Hiram Gutierrez, and a tango duo, Miguel Angel Reynaga and Sandra Martinez.

The highlight of the evening will be the 8 p.m. appearance of Madame Ur and Her Men, a nuevo cabaret/ indie jazz group that is surely like nothing you’ve seen or heard lately. Fronted by Azzul Monraz, a mild-mannered Tijuana art teacher and mom by day who transforms herself into a soulful and glamorous roots-and-art-rock-influenced diva onstage, the band — which wowed the crowds at their Del Mar Fair concert in June — brings a flavor all their own to La Jolla from south of the border.

If you go

■ What: Flavors of the Americas: Tijuana, Baja & Beyond

■ When: 6-9 p.m. Aug. 24

■ Where: Institute of the Americas, 10111 North Torrey Pines Road, UC San Diego campus

■ Tickets: $20. Advance reservations recommended at

■ Contact: Sherry White (858) 453-5560 ext. 114 or