Asking, We Walk

In 2019, I met many incredible artists, curators and scholars at an artist residency in Chiapas, five of whom I went on to create with in a variety of ways. One ongoing conversation resulted in this experimental essay that reflects on the residency we attended:

“Written collectively by six femme and queer scholars and artists, this piece is both a critical reflection and creative intervention into art residencies and Zapaturismo (political tourism) in Chiapas, Mexico. Drawing upon our embodied experiences of moving through the Lacandon jungle as part of a well-intentioned yet colonial-minded arts residency, we ruminate on the ethics, practices, and failures of solidarity between North American feminists, people of color, and queer people with Indigenous communities in Mexico under siege. We ask: what are we really searching for when we seek out the Zapatistas, and why participate in “activist art” residencies staged in the Global South? Each section of the article is a collaboratively written vignette that offers multiple vantage points to analyze our individual and collective experiences at the residency that occurred within and between three places in Chiapas: the city of San Cristobal de las Casas, a rural Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional or EZLN) caracol, and at a cooperative on the Tonalá shore. Utilizing personal and poetic reflections along with scholarly and political frames, we summon lessons gleaned that will continue to impact our ongoing work with our respective places and communities. To truly listen to the Zapatistas, we conclude, we must take very seriously their messages to our group given in a moment of crisis, to work from our own locations and to transform our own understanding and ethics of care and collectivity.”

“Asking, We Walk: Challenging Zapaturismo in International ‘Activist Art’ Residencies toward a Praxis of Radical Hope” was published in the Ethnic Studies Review through UC Press this month, linked here.

A special shout out to Thea Quiray Tagle for envisioning and coordinating this effort between us so gracefully. <3