Tucked away on a quiet residential street next to the Parque Nacional is the newest cultural space that the capital has to offer. Tonala mixes music, film, food, theatre, stand-up, art, design and much more in a huge, spacious two-storey building.
The concept was first put into place by three friends in Mexico City in June 2012. In the trendy neighbourhood of Roma, Juan Pablo Bastarrachea, Marcela Lugo and Arturo Dib decided to renovate an old and dilapidated cultural centre. Marcela and Arturo are restaurant designers by trade, but they wanted to create something that was more than just a restaurant. With Juan Pablo’s background in film promoting at festivals as well as production, they decided to combine their talents to give a space to Mexico City’s burgeoning cultural scene.
|What makes this project unique is that it aims to link existing cultural movements in Mexico City and Bogotá, through joint events and cultural projects.
As Juan Pablo explains: “It is very difficult for independent Mexican films to make it into mainstream cinemas, just like here in Colombia. Many of them make it into film festivals and might be shown in commercial cinemas for a weekend or maybe a week at most.”
The trio also decided to ensure that any investors in their project were involved in the cultural scene, the money coming from actors, musicians, art collectors and cinematographers.
In Mexico, the three businessmen befriended a Colombian, Salomon Simhon, who suggested they open up in Bogota as well. However, it wasn’t until he began to send them pictures of potential venues in the city that they started to take the idea seriously.
|In Mexico, the three businessmen befriended a Colombian, Salomon Simhon, who suggested they open up in Bogota as well.
When they visited Bogota — it was the first trip to Colombia for the three Mexicans — they immediately fell in love with the space. Juan Pablo already had a good understanding of the Colombian film industry and they had been exposed previously to the warmth and friendliness of Colombians, through the large expat community in Mexico.
What makes this project unique is that it aims to link existing cultural movements in Mexico City and Bogota, through joint events and cultural projects. There is to be a showcase of Colombian creativity in Mexico shortly, including music, art, fashion and cinema, with a Mexican showcase to follow here in Bogota. Mexican artists, DJs and bands will visit the capital over the coming months to give Rolos a flavour of what the modern Mexican cultural movement
has to offer.
However, while Mexico City, perhaps due to its size, boasts an intense cultural scene with a plethora of cultural spaces, Bogota has been slower in embracing this movement. Nevertheless, Juan Pablo affirms that “in Bogota they are beginning to create these spaces, and that’s great. While Tonala will cater to certain cultural necessities, the city has numerous different cultural and social necessities that need to be met.”
As well as the numerous cultural offerings at Tonala, there is also a restaurant serving up Mexican street-food-inspired fare as well as a variety of sandwiches. The Mexican chef, Lalo Garcia, from Maximo Bistro in Mexico City, has stamped his own style on the food, while Colombian chef Gonzalo Hernández is a dab hand at creating simple, delicious dishes.
On top of the numerous daily screenings in the two cinema rooms, there is a monthly Vice documentary, a regular Midnight Cinema showing (horror or violent films only apt for late night viewing), intimate concerts, raunchy music nights, regular short films and an art gallery showcasing the best in local and international talent. This month’s offerings include documentary film festivals, contemporary independent film premieres, creative workshops, an underground music festival and much more.
Tonala offers membership for COP$60,000 which permits entry to 10 functions and gives holders a 10% discount in the shop.
Keep an eye on our listings to stay in touch with all the excellent events at Tonala, including an after party for Bogota’s first Bicycle Film Festival (previewed here) on Saturday September 6.