CIDECI-Universidad de la Tierra
This past Saturday morning I met Marina Pages of SIPAZ early at their offices and together we went to CIDECI (which stands for Centro Indigena De Capacitación Integral, and a.k.a. Universidad de la Tierra, Chiapas), for their monthly seminar, named for Imanuel Wallerstein. You can read all about CIDECI/UniTierra in this online article: http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/global/rsb_int_eng.html (there is also a link to el articulo en español), which gives a good explanation of the history and mission of this impressive place. The radiant campus nestled in the lush green of the mountain was lovingly built and is maintained by those who live and learn there (see what Dr. Raymundo says about reciprocity), using mainly natural and recycled materials: raw and cooked earth (adobe, tiles, brick), wood, stone, metals, etc.
Everything is a work of art: walls are colorfully painted with murals depicting Zapatista history and famous dictums, the curtains are all gorgeously woven in the textile studio, the heavy wooden furniture carved with Mesoamerican motifs is made by resident woodcarvers and even the doorstops made of woodchips are painted and decorated. Even the building that houses all the electrical generators showcases murals with powerful messages and identity symbols (see photo & detail at left). Yellow sign over door reads “Resistance and Autonomy.” Red banner carried by the people in the mural reads “Free Light and Power (Luz y Fuerza is often how the electric company is referred to); Autonomy to illuminate Hope.”The bottom white strip depicts several traditional huipiles (indigenous blouses) amidst flowers and butterflies.
Classical music is heard from invisible speakers. The place emanates beauty, hard work, commitment, hospitality, great spirit and generosity. The campus includes many meeting rooms, wood and metal shops, bakeries, sewing and weaving workshops, greenhouses, terrace fields, bicycle-powered pumps for wells & water cisterns, compost bins, beehives, basketball courts, auto-mechanic shops, rabbits and turkeys, dormitories, huge multi-purpose hall, a common kitchen and colorful dining hall. I forgot to take my camera this time, so these photos are from when I first visited a year ago. Updated ones will follow, as I plan to be there weekly for the Thursday Sexta meetings.
The book we discussed this last Saturday was Dialogo y Diferencia: retos feministas a la globalización, (Dialogue and Difference: Feminisms challenge Globalization) edited by Sylvia Marcos and Marguerite Waller. I was only able to skim through the various excellent essays written by Shu-mei Shih, Yenna Wu, Obioma Nnaemeka, Corinne Kumar, Amalia Lucía Cabezas, Joy Ngozi Ezelio, as well as the editors. Together they present different feminist perspectives from around the globe: understanding feminism in China, indigenous feminisms in Mexico, the problematics of “First World” Imperialist Feminism and politics of difference, the fortuituous crossroads of tourism, sex work and women’s rights in the Dominican Republic, the problem of Human Rights in Africa: reconciling Universalism and Cultural Relativsm.
We spent about 4 hours (with a break for pan y café, claro), presenting and discussing the ideas presented in the book, as well as with two essays by systems expert and philosopher Imanuel Wallerstein. The people in the room included anyone who wanted to be there: from well-known intellectuals and academics, to community workers, members of international peace NGO’s, pre-school teachers, a franciscan nun, young boy (maybe 9 years old), several high school and college students, a visitor from Kurdistan, mestizos, indigenas…basically whoever showed up. It was a very invigorating sharing of radically different perspectives on the ideas presented in the texts, without the typical easy dichotomization that usually happens in most western academic forums (described aptly in one of the essays as operating “within a régime that privileges the search of ability over the facilitating of exchange,” i.e. like in conferences and colloqiums where interlocutors compete.” This really helped me understand why I’ve never enjoyed those kinds of environments. The article on Feminist Imperialism spoke of how intellectual tools do not permit us to speak of change processes, but rather attempt to make them static categories in order to be able to point to them.