I’ve been busy with lots of wonderful things since I last wrote, and each deserves its own full reflection. But since I’m trying to balance writing with living in the moment and soaking up as many experiences as I can in my remaining time here, for now you’re going to get the highlight reel.
In early March, my dear friend Emily came to visit, and we went to the First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in the Struggle.
Hosted by the Zapatista women, in one of the five caracoles (Zapatista autonomous municipalities), the event drew around 7,000 women from around the world, including 2,000 Zapatista women from around Chiapas.
It was simultaneously inspiring, energizing, weird, beautiful, and problematic. We went to panels on lesbo-feminism in Mexico, gentrification in Chicago, and sex work in Argentina. We learned from critiques and conversations about racism, barriers to black women attending, and dynamics between indigenous and white women.
One particularly moving moment was on the first night, during a speech by our Zapatista hosts. The lights turned off, and when everyone turned around to look, we saw that the Zapatista women had formed a line of lit candles and were slowly moving them up and down in an undulating river of light, a vigil for fallen sisters, and a small flame of inspiration to take back with us into our communities.
Another hauntingly beautiful moment was after the closing ceremony, when a dozen or so women from indigenous communities across the Americas came on stage. They had met each other throughout the weekend and realized that many of them had brought native seeds and other gifts from their tribes or communities, for the zapatistas. They came on stage singing (a song from some indigenous group in North America, I don’t know which) and a woman near me in the crowd started singing along, her voice full of emotion and recognition of her people’s song.
A few weeks later, I went to a pair of events in the north of Chiapas, in the Zoque region.
Getting there involved several modes of transportation, including the trunk of a taxi.
The first was an event about water in the region – a particularly hot topic because of a proposed reform to a national water law that would give increased water access and control to private companies.
The second was a rally and meeting of thousands of people from the Zoque villages, marking the 36th anniversary of the volcanic eruption that killed and displaced thousands of people. The Zoque (one of many indigenous groups/languages in Chiapas) were not previously so unified between their diverse villages, but starting a couple years ago they organized to fight fossil fuel extraction on their lands. Now, they are continuing that fight, against new potential projects.
A mural from the recent fight against fossil fuel extraction.
At one point in the meeting, people divided up into small groups from their villages. They brainstormed and shared out answers to what the problems are in their communities, and what the solutions could be. It was inspiring to see grassroots organizing in such a different context from what I’m used to, with identification of both the problems and the strategies coming directly from those affected.
In between events, we went swimming in a beautiful swimming hole in a nearby river.
When I wrote this I was on a beautiful beach on the west coast of Chiapas for a few days – it was Semana Santa (leading up to Easter) so everyone goes on vacation. Along with a group of my housemates, I watched dolphins at sunset, swam a lot, and ate local fish.
The site we were at was on a spit of land – the waves of the Pacific were on one side and a “dead water” calm inlet was on the other.
We collected caco, a sweet and strange tasting fruit with white flesh and pink-purple skin.
Not pictured is the Passover “seder” I had with the only other United Statesean I know here, who is also Jewish. We said the traditional blessing over the vegan oatmeal cookies and mango jam.
On the final night, we made a bonfire!