I first met Veronica Hernandez, the energetic and easy-going owner of Object, at a Christmas bazaar this past holiday season. Initially drawn to her booth for smokey mezcal and its accoutrement - spicy sal de gusano, I ended up spending quite a bit of time there chatting and admiring the unique, yet sophisticated pieces for sale. "We have more [at the shop], I only brought a little bit today," Veronica said as I lingered, asking more questions about the high-end, uniquely Mexican products, "you should come sometime!" she continued, simultaneously handing me a business card.
Shortly after the start of the new year I made the trek downtown and visited Object for the first time. Just north of the iconic arch that marks the infamous Avenida Revolucion, the showroom is located in a building that is home to a craft beer brewery, private architecture school, and the office of a well-known architectural firm in the region. The aesthetic of the space immediately captivates visitors because it effortlessly teeters between being industrial yet inviting, traditional but edgy, and simple with understated elegance. I spent hours at the showroom with Veronica, trying on jewelry, admiring modern housewares, and flipping through El Show del Niño Burro - a colorful set of prints by local artist Charles Glaubitz. After much internal debate, I decided to purchase a beautiful leather handbag that was on display. "You're going to love it, and just let me know whenever you want to come back" she said as I pranced out the door with my newest piece of Baja.
A few weeks later, I returned to Object because I needed to know the story behind a showroom in Tijuana that could easily fit in with similar spaces in San Francisco and New York. Over the course of the afternoon, I learned more about Mexico, the unique products offered at Object, and what drives Veronica to improve the city that she calls home, at the grassroots level.
Born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana, Veronica admits that she has always been a bit different. While many Tijuaneses look north for inspiration and opportunities, Hernandez looked south opting to study, work, and travel primarily in Mexico. "Mexico City is great," she reminisced while polishing jewelry, "I knew I had to get there, I wanted to travel.” Her parents however were less than thrilled about this magnetic pull, instead hoping that Veronica would utilize her dual citizenship to study in California. After a series of negotiations with her parents, which included a brief stint of schooling in San Diego, Veronica finally earned their blessing and moved to el Distrito Federal as a young adult. Time spent in Mexico City was invaluable to Hernandez’s personal and professional growth as she worked a variety of jobs in a number of industries. The frenetic pace of the city combined with ever present competition from peers, taught Veronica how to market herself, take calculated risks, and exhibit resiliency in order to get what she wanted - fun jobs with great people at places doing meaningful work, not to mention a fair amount of passport stamps.
After a few years of globetrotting and a couple of growing pains, Hernandez found herself back in Tijuana. She admits that the adjustment was somewhat difficult after living in cosmopolitan Mexico City and traveling throughout Europe and Asia. Although Veronica was excited to be back home, she could not ignore the reality that Tijuana lacked things that she grew to know as commonplace in other parts of the world. Not one to focus on the negative, Veronica was determined to make a contribution to the city, "instead of complaining about what Tijuana didn't have, I started thinking of ways to bring them here."
Her desire to help others and make her hometown a better place led to the birth of Be Love, a multifaceted project that supports environmental education in Tijuana through the sale of locally produced, urban-chic totes and handbags. While promoting Be Love and the necessity of its mission at pop-up stores and cultural events around the city, Veronica began connecting with local artists and designers who shared her passion for community-led change in Baja. As her network expanded and buzz surrounding Be Love grew louder, Hernandez became inspired to move things to the next level, “I knew I needed a space,” she said when explaining her idea to put designer local products on display in a more permanent way. With the support of family members who own La Metropolitana in Mexico City, Veronica opened Object - a beautiful space that is equal parts high-end boutique, contemporary art gallery, and modern furniture store.
Both Hernandez and Object serve are great examples of the amazing things that happen when individuals actively seek avenues to act as change agents in their communities. Veronica holds true to her promise to bring new, positive things to Tijuana - Be Love continues to partner with local organizations that work to teach children the importance of conservation and recycling; numerous jobs have been created throughout the country as Object fills its shelves with winsome handcrafted items; and downtown has gained yet another tenant determined to breathe life into an area recovering from the effects of reduced tourism. I foresee many more visits to the showroom in my future as I look for excuses to hear Veronica tell stories as I build my collection of local art and unique pieces of jewelry. More important than that however, is my impression that Object will be a fixture in Tijuana for years to come, thanks to an owner willing to creatively push for change in the place she calls home rather than turn a blind eye to the challenges it faces.