Through original videography, community events, street art and urban site-specific projections, Barrio Dulce celebrates pan dulce and the Mexican bakeries that support neighborhoods, community and culture. Pan dulce is hand-crafted artisanal bread made by proud bakers, and consumed daily by many people in the Tucson, Arizona and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua where the Barrio Dulce project has been produced and presented. During the project, artists Gabriela Duran and Heather Gray worked with La Estrella Bakery (http://laestrellabakeryincaz.com/) in Tucson and Panadería Aurora in Juárez and recorded interviews and video of the baking process, gathering stories from the owners and workers, gathering stories from the owners and workers. Barrio Dulce hosted screening events at the bakeries or nearby, rather than screening the videos to an outside audience at a theater or film festival. At the events, the videos are remixed and projected large-scale on the buildings. The images and sounds light up the neighborhoods, and the bakeries publically perform their stories, which are normally hidden behind walls. Neighbors gather in the streets or parking lots, eating pan dulce, and watching the projections animate a space they might visit everyday.
How does this project exist bi-nationally?
Tucson and Juarez are cities with strong traditions of pan dulce. They are of similar size and latitude with distinct “border identities”, and social and political issues that are tied to border dynamics. The project has also been presented live in Guadalajara, and exhibited in Valparaiso, Chile --cities with their own incredible traditions of bread and baking. The project was created by Gabriela Durán, a new media artist and professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, in collaboration with Tucson-based artist and videographer Heather Gray. Gabriela is connected directly and emotionally to the project because of memories of growing up in her father’s bakery in her neighborhood in Juárez. About halfway through the project Jellyfish Colectivo (http://jellyfishcolectivo.com), a street art collective in Juárez, joined us and created a mural celebrating negocios del barrio leaving a more permanent mark in the neighborhoods.
What does it mean to be artists living and working in Arizona today?
It is an enormous privilege and responsibility to live in a desert and a border region. A lifetime of questioning and learning is required to try to understand how to live in a place that is both fragile and resilient with a complex history of migration, and colonization. Heather has lived in Arizona her whole life. Gabriela has lived in Juárez her whole life. They are committed to staying, inspired by the way artists and communities respond to the political climate, assert themselves and their stories, survive, and seek justice and social change.
What can we expect to see from Barrio Dulce in 2016?
We are focusing on bringing Jellyfish Colectivo for their first street art engagement in Tucson, to continue the cross-border exchange and conversation. There is still a lot of information we have the needs to be presented. For example, when we were doing interviews in Juárez, we learned that bakers used to have a union that helped create fair paid jobs for bakers. We also found unique stories about each bakery. For instance, there was one bakery in Juárez that, in its golden years, would be open 24 hours. People would go at 4am to get a sweet bread and free coffee. We would like to present this part of the project either online at barriodulce.com or at a conference.
How do you feel that Barrio Dulce creates or supports social change?
Today, many Mexican bakeries and other small businesses on both sides of the border are disappearing, downsizing or automating their process under pressure from supermarkets, low-wage jobs, downturned economies, urban revitalization schemes, marginalization of migrants and violence. As a result, decades of memories, skills, meaningful well-paid jobs, and culture with connections to place are at risk. The two cities face different threats, though it is the same source --the globalization of corporate neoliberalism-- which has different consequences on each side of the border. Barrio Dulce poses the idea that something as humble as a bakery holds a margin against these threats. The projections at the bakeries help rethink a relationship to the city and neighborhood itself. Our project reflects upon the importance of Mexican bakeries, not only in terms of community but also seeing how they form and affect our identities, activate the local economy, and create safer environments. Without overstating the impact of one art project, we see the need for creative responses to our situation, because we know art has the power to shape the collective imagination over time.