The play on the Zapatista court

The Red Queen of Palenque (Chiapas) in Mexico City’s Templo Mayor. Photo: INAH

By: Daliri Oropeza*

A group of young women with ski masks collectively recite poems mixed with dance, slogans that make petals fly, fans raising corn, all in different circular formations, then linear, which encompass the space of the basketball court. The word of the rebel communities is also in performance art. With these representations they received María de Jesús Patricio in the five Caracoles of the Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Municipalities (Municipios Autónomos Rebeldes Zapatistas, Marez). They also receive indigenous communities of the country and of the world with art.

It’s no coincidence that the Zapatista communities represent the autonomy that they experience occupying the space of a court, not a theater. After the armed uprising, the Dialogues for Peace in San Andrés Sacam’chen began on a basketball court. To the government, a basketball court seemed like a strange place to dialogue, but no; according to the cross reference that the writer Juan Villoro proposes, the Zapatista communities, of Maya descent, carry in them the meaning of the ball game as the moment in which the wheel of the cosmos bounces on the courtyard of the world, a court that they called taste. There are even records of the importance of taste because of its direct association with the sacred landscape, with the spaces of daily life and collective activities, to the degree of symbolizing the community.

But now there is art on the Zapatista basketball courts and in this performance art there are very clear messages. In their works they recreate the exercise of political participation, their vision of autonomy, the strength of women, autonomous justice or about their history before and after the uprising. Everything that was dialogued on the San Andrés basketball court is first at practice and later in the representations. The Trans-disciplinary Collective of Critical Investigations (Cotric, its Spanish acronym) describes that in Zapatista art there is a system of “stable” signs and symbols and five recurring themes: The history of the past, from the colonial to the caciques; the revolutionary past up to the 1994 Uprising; the present in resistance and autonomy; the future with this distinct form of governing; and the trans-temporal that connects the different times.

What happens on the basketball courts of the Marez leaves in ridicule the idea that the team of the winning candidate of the presidential election offers: “fulfilling the San Andrés Accords,” because it would be not recognizing that entire indigenous nations already carry them out: “a catchy political discourse,” affirms the Ñuú Savi lawyer Francisco López Bárcenas, but as a government proposal it’s late. On the court, the Zapatista bases demonstrate the exercise of their cultural rights, signed in the Accords.

But now on the basketball courts they represent through art their political participation and the women in charge, but also the differences between the dynamics between neoliberal capitalism and Zapatista autonomy that they live day by day. Not only the Zapatista communities, hundreds of communities, from the north to the south of Mexico exercise one or all the points of the San Andrés Accords, with or without the laws approved in 2001, dozens never left their own organization. It is no coincidence that within the same communiqué where the EZLN criticizes the recently completed electoral political dynamics is the same one that invites us to the celebration of the 15 years from the start of the five Zapatista Caracols and to the third edition of the CompArte Festival.

The relationship between the country’s indigenous peoples, society and the State is not the same since the Zapatista Uprising or the activation of the five Caracols that function autonomously. They start from a different exercise of their identity in front of this new government. What’s going to happen if there’s no counterweight? That evidence that Marichuy’s campaign achieved by baring the dysfunctional electoral system, demonstrating that it’s the “left drunk with victory” that attacked the proposal of the CNI and the EZLN, with the argument that it was a “strategy to divide the left.”

With this performance art, the Zapatista support bases put the cultural rights of the original nations on a court. These rights are the most unprotected because of not being covered by international treaties. They are so broad that they encompass rituals, language, identity, current artistic creations of the communities and also the intangible cultural heritage, the meaning of ancestral practices and even the bio-cultural relationship, which give meaning to the autonomy that the peoples exercise. More than advisers, as Father Solalinde says, I see a court in the middle of the forest, women, children and grandparents struggling, in rebellions re-creating and exalting their own history with art. There are teams that play in dignity until the last minute.



Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



One Comment on “The play on the Zapatista court

  1. Pingback: Zapatista News & Analysis | Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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