1. How do you define the Tijuana-San Diego region?
Personally, I have always thought that the relationship between the two cities is congenial. The two cities are sisters that have fed one another significantly over the course of their histories, despite their differing cultural backgrounds.
2. ¿Cómo defines tu trabajo?
My style of design has changed a lot over the course of my life. As a native of Tijuana, being surrounded by so much U.S. influence was unavoidable. I was born in Tijuana, actually in one of the oldest neighborhoods: Colonia Libertad. This neighborhood is just a few steps away from the famous borderline. A line that I crossed every day as a girl, since I attended school there from kindergarten through eighth grade; on a daily basis, my mom would wake me and my sisters up at dawn for us to cross over, an experience that has been repeated a billion times by different kids at different ages and grade levels.
Our parents made that decision to be able to achieve a higher quality of life. Therefore, my relationship with the other side was not just as neighbor. Since I crossed so often, I was immersed in U.S. culture. I think that growing up so close to the border was a double-edged sword for me, because, unintentionally, U.S. culture consumed a big part of me and in that same way it also put a dark cloud over my city.
I was fortunate that my parents—who were from Michoacán—were able to instill enough culture in me, so I wouldn’t ever forget my roots. I grew up listening to and singing piruekas from Michoacán, eating pozole; I learned how to dance zapateados, and I would stuff myself with our delicious pan dulce. I’d go see the lucha libre and spend new year’s eve dancing to norteñas with my cousins until the early hours of the morning. Nonetheless, “el otro lado”—as we call the other side—always shined a little brighter.
It wasn’t really until after I’d met my husband, Jorge, that I immersed myself in the richness of our cultural heritage. It’s colors and traditional designs that at first glance might appear simple, but which contain an immense complexity. Over time, Jorge and I moved to Los Angeles, and that’s where this nostalgia began for me. It grew little by little, but in the end it became quite intense. I began to integrate these memories into my work: playing la vibora de la mar; the ice cream vendor with his little bell ringing in the distance; the baked goods from Panadería la Mejor; the thousands of colors that surrounded me on Avenida Revolución when we would eat at the Taquería la Especial with my parents on Sundays; the red taxis that took me to high school, chock full of total characters. All of these memories are now reflected in my most personal work.
I still visit my city when I can. Even though it is really close, it is not so easy to reach that I end up there as often as I might like. In the end, with all of these things in the background and if I had to sum up the definition of my work, I’d have to say that my depictions are bittersweet and nostalgic.
3. How is the geographical context of the Tijuana-San Diego region reflected in your work?
Despite the fact that my work falls under the category of illustration for kids and at first glance it might be interpreted in this way, I try to express a subtext that might create a romantic nostalgia for the viewer.
Born in Tijuana B.C., Sandra Equihua graduated from IBERO university with a bachelors in Graphic Design. She has had the opportunity to work as a graphic designer, illustrator and a character designer next to her husband, Jorge Gutierrez, in companies such as WB, Disney, Nick JR, and Nickelodeon. Both created the animated series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera”. It was thanks to this series that Equihua was awarded. Equihua continues her career working as a character designer for the animated movie ”The Book of Life”. She is currently working for NETFLIX on the animated series” Maya and the Three”;. She lives in Burbank, Los Angeles CA alongside her husband and her son, Luka.