Facets of Knowledge and Experience: Donated Documentary Collections at the CAMeNA

The third post in the series on The Aliveness of Memory at the CAMeNA in Mexico City introduces the three documentary collections assembled in Fund D, ‘Donations’. Donated by Carlos Fazio, Raquel Gutiérrez and Hector Salinas, the collections cover topics such as state terrorism, armed resistance movements, political imprisonment, and the 1988 elections in Mexico.

Each documentary fund held by the CAMeNA tells stories, preserves memories, bears witness. Some of these funds – like the personal papers of Gregorio Selser – are of a personal nature and tell an individual’s story as they take on, and as their lives are sometimes taken over by, their historical moment. Others – like Selser’s research papers collected in Fondo A – make publicly available the documentation collected by individuals on a particular theme, or a thematic area, thus communizing research material.

Selser and Ventura’s documentary collections, purchased by the UACM, set the ethical, political and epistemological agenda for the production of knowledge and the practice of critical thinking at the CAMeNA. Once Selser’s collections had been acquired and had been consolidated within the structure that became the CAMeNA, other individuals and groups contributed archival collections to the Centre. They all gave their little grain of sand towards the wider project of the pursuit of knowledge and the preservation of an alive memory. The first fund to hold collections that came to the CAMeNA by donation is Fondo D, with ‘D’ standing for ‘donations.’

Fund D holds three collections which cover the time period from 1952-2012. The first is the journalist and publicist Carlos Fazio’s collection of research papers. Fazio was born in Uruguay, militated with the armed Movement for National Liberation -Tupamaros, and left the country for exile in Mexico in 1974 after the 1974 coup d’état. In Mexico he worked as a journalist for many papers, among them the weekly Proceso. Carlos Fazio is the author of numerous books and is considered one of the most important analysts of contemporary state violence and state terrorism, especially from the perspective of media analysis . The second donated collection was a gift from Raquel Gutiérrez, a Mexican mathematician and sociologist who became involved in the guerrilla group Ejército Guerrillero Túpac Katari in Bolivia in the 1990s. In 1992 she was arrested, tortured, and held without trial for five years. After that, she had to remain in La Paz for another four years. She then returned to Mexico, where she now lives and teaches. She is the author of several books. Hector Salinas donated the third collection in that Fund, on the student strike at the UNAM in 1987 and the electoral process in Mexico in 1988.What do these three – seemingly disparate – collections contribute to the repertoire of memories and knowledges of the CAMeNA? All three donors, like Selser and Ventura, lived their historical moment intensely and did what they could to understand,  to intervene, and to ensure that such struggles were not forgotten. All three collections document the efforts of individuals and groups to achieve social and political transformation, to fight back against repression and oppression  – and the response of those reactionary forces that wanted to keep things as they were. Because the reactionary power was mostly in the hands of the state, the three collections include material on state violence, state terrorism, and electoral fraud.

In the system of the CAMeNA the three collections are joined. They are made accessible through a search that combines a theme – with keywords such as Human Rights, the Church and religious communities, or state violence – with the relevant country. For those interested in the history of religions the documents contributed by  Carlos Fazio on the Catholic Church and religious communities, an area he covered for years for Proceso, are of great interests. The documents give an insight into the debates within the Catholic Church during a time period that was marked by the opposing forces of Liberation Theology and the Church Establishment. Those interested in Media and Communications Studies will find documents on communitarian radio stations and on the repression against media outlets and journalists.  The documents given by Raquel Gutiérrez give an insight into the motivations for armed struggle, into the activities and activism of the family members of political prisoners in Bolivia, and into her own prison activism and legal case. The press clippings, communiques and flyers on the 1987 strike at the UNAM can potentially open up an area on which little research has been published.  The  material on the 1988 elections in Mexico document what turned into a watershed moment in contemporary Mexican history: despite persistent allegations of election fraud, Carlos Salinas de Gortari was declared the winner of these elections. The public protest gained momentum and set the stage for persistent social and political organization in the years after 1988. To give only one example, it was in the context of the protest against fraud that the alternative media outlet Canal Seis de Julio was founded. Under Salinas’ government  a wave of repression was unleashed against oppositional forces, and it was his government that implemented the North America Free Trade Agreement.

Brought together by the CAMeNA, the three collections – each on its own significant – open up a panorama of the many interlinked facets of struggle, of organizing, of the pursuit of knowledge as an exposure of reactionary alliances and complicities, and of the multi-faceted repression against movements for social and political transformation .

N.B.: Many of the documents available in Fund D are not yet available in digital format and therefore need to be consulted at the CAMeNA itself.

Cornelia Gräbner is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow and would like to acknowledge The Leverhulme Trust’s support. She would also like to thank the CAMeNA staff for their support.

Re-posted from https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/languages-and-cultures/blogs/staff-blogs/cornelia-grabner/


Gregorio Selser’s Obstinate Pursuit of Curiosity: His Research and Personal Archive and Documents at the CAMeNA

The collections A, B and C at the CAMeNA consist of Gregorio Selser’s research archive, compiled between 1938 and 2008, and his personal documents. Both show his obstinate pursuit of a curiosity and a sense of social responsibility that placed him in the middle of the struggles and upheavals of his times.

The documentary evidence of Gregorio’s Selser’s lifelong quest for knowledge and understanding lay the foundation for the work of the CAMeNA. But Selser’s hunger for knowledge and understanding, his apparently inexhaustible curiosity  were not of the kind that, as Foucault put it in The History of Sexuality, ‘seeks to assimilate what is proper for one to know’. Selser’s curiosity was of ‘the only kind … that is worth acting upon with a degree of obstinacy’: … that which enables one to get free of oneself.’  In Selser’s case, this would have initially referred to the conditions under which he grew up as the orphaned child of poor Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants. Later on, the curiosity he came to pursue so obstinately placed him outside the life of the obedient, submissive subject who does not ask any questions, who would rather not know what those in power do not want him to know, and who, to speak with the Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti, saves himself and reserves for himself a ‘quiet corner.’

Collection A compiles the sources Selser used for his own research between 1938 and 2008, organized into 23 thematic sub-sections. In keeping with his wide range of interests and his relational approach to his subject matter, these themes include natural resources, cultural expressions, and intelligence services. Many of the documents are newspaper clippings, reports, and independent publications.  They trace commitments and complicities, resistances and solidarities, suppressions and repressions across the Americas and, in some cases, across the Americas and Europe. Among them is a typescript of Gabriel García Márquez’ lecture on Fantasy and Creativity and Latin America and the Caribbean, in which he defines the distinction between Fantasy and the Imagination, a collection of information on different aspects of the criminal economy (for example, on child trafficking) and, under the sub-section ‘Secret Services’, information on the collaboration between intelligence services in the Americas to repress and suppress dissent and opposition.  Many of these documents refer to Operation Condor and complement those in Collection G . Among them is a collection of early press clippings, cables and independent reports  on the detention, and eventual enforced disappearance and assassination, of three Argentine Montonero activists by Argentine and Peruvian armed forces in Peru, where Selser himself had taken refuge for a while. Among the three victims was Noemí Esther Gianotti de Molfino, whose body was found one month after her enforced disappearance in an apartment in Madrid, Spain, thus hinting at connections not only among the Latin American dictatorships but also, the implication of European governments.

Collection B comprises of documents from 1930 until 2009 referring to Selser’s person. Some of these – outlines of classes and workshops he taught, overviews of his journalistic activities, public debates with other intellectuals on subjects such as the assassination of Sandino or elections in Nicaragua – are interesting insights into his pedagogy, into the history of journalism, into the political debates of the time, and into the cultures of political debate and disagreement. Others document the bureaucracy that the Argentinian exiles had to go through in Mexico, and others yet the wide network of acquaintances and friends of which Selser and Marta Ventura were part, and the intellectual and affective culture of these transnational, politically and ethically committed networks. Selser’s final letters, including those written in the late stages of his terminal illness and one accepting responsibility for taking his own life, speak of his dealing with physical pain, with death, and of his desire to live and die with dignity.

Selser’s academic and journalistic articles from 1945 until 1991 make up Collection C, together with the digitalization of the typed originals of his published and unpublished books, and his extensive notes and drafts.

Throughout the documents runs the spirit of Selser’s obstinacy and his integrity. The CAMeNA now perseveres in his creation of ethical, committed, obstinate ‘knowledges’ and ‘understandings’.

The research on which this post is based was funded by The Leverhulme Trust Fellowship on ‘Acquiescent Imaginaries: Snapshots from the Cultures of Low-Intensity Democracy ’.

Re-posted from http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/languages-and-cultures/blogs/staff-blogs/cornelia-grabner/gregorio-selsers-obstinate-pursuit-of-curiosity-his-research-and-personal-arch/





The Aliveness of Memory: The Academic Centre for the Memory of Nuestra América (CAMeNA)

More than one path leads to the Academic Centre for the Memory of Nuestra América(CAMeNA), based on the Del Valle campus of the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM). One has to cross a quad, usually busy with students, and can then walk past the building, make one’s way past what seems to be constant, never finished construction work, and enter the current premises of the CAMeNA.

The CAMeNA was built up around the personal archive and the ethics of the journalist and writer Gregorio Selser, who was born in 1922 in Buenos Aires to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant parents, and passed away in 1991 in Mexico City. Selser had left Argentina in 1974 and came to Mexico in 1976, where he, his partner Marta Ventura and their children reunited in 1976. As a person and as a journalist and writer Selser took on the political challenges of his historical moment, and control of his own knowledge and education: at age 12 the voracious young reader decided to not continue to secondary education because he felt that school interfered with his reading. By the age of 15, he had read the complete works of Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann, Emil Ludwig and Leonhard Frank, plus many other classics like Germinal and Les Misérables, his best friend he said later, was a dictionary. Six years later, now with the experience of an adolescent working life and the knowledge and discipline gained through his continued self-education, he returned to adult education. He became a journalist. His active support for the exiles who had struggled against fascism in Spain eventually made him a potential target of repression, and he went into exile to Uruguay in 1944. After his return to Argentina he continued his work on the past and present of the struggles for life and dignity in Latin America. In 1955 he published his first book, on the Nicaraguan freedom fighter Augusto Sandino. Many more were to follow, among them the monumental Chronology of Foreign Interventions in Latin America, which covers the time period from 1776 until 1992 in four volumes. In 2005, the UACM had the foresight and good judgement to acquire the general archive kept and cherished by himself and Marta Ventura. In 2007, the university added their personal archive. Both archives were to be made publicly accessible, without charges to the users. This was the seed of the CAMeNA.

How does one care for and grow the seed of committed knowledge and lucid analysis that people like Selser had grown and planted? Those who eventually became members of the Advisory Board and staff at the CAMeNA answered this question by creating around Selser’s legacy an academic centre where archival material is cared for and made accessible, where people come together in events organized around a project of committed, autonomous knowledge and analysis, and from where radio programmes (eventually available online as podcasts), the digitalization of the archives and a lively social media presence reach out to people beyond the physical premises of the CAMeNA. ‘Academic’ stands for a personally disinterested, analytically rigorous, ethically committed, politically autonomous (as distinct to, not neutral), solidary (read: non-competitive, non-protagonistic) approach to analytical, academic and politically experiential knowledges. It also stands for an unrelenting commitment to the public, expressed through the refusal to privatize these knowledges or access to them in any way. The implication is that without these conditions and commitments, knowledge and analysis would lose their intellectual rigor and their ethical integrity. The term ‘Nuestra América’, ‘Our América’, indicates that ‘América’ is conceived of in the tradition of the Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí: as intellectually and culturally autonomous, and as striving towards independence and decolonization. Keeping the archives collected by the CAMeNA in Latin America (often, Latin American archives are bought by North American or European universities) is part of that strive towards autonomy and independence.

The staff see themselves as the caretakers of a project which preserves and brings to life the memory of those who never acquiesced to the status quo and instead, found, imagined and built a multitude of alternatives. Thus, the CAMeNA honours them by practicing analytical sharpness, political commitment, intellectual autonomy, personal helpfulness and affective warmth. Those attitudes and the emerging atmosphere set a counterpoint to the harrowing content of some of the collections, and are part of the everyday practice of an affective resistance to repression and terror by not letting those take possession of the behavior and the dispositions of those who deal on a day-to-day basis with the memory of what most hurts.

Since 2004, individuals and collectives who – like Gregorio Selser – have taken on their historical moment with integrity, commitment and lucidity, have entrusted the CAMeNA with their own archival collections. Many of those materials document dedicated anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles for a continent where people live in dignity and peace, and they also document the cruel, terrorist, violent responses by states, governments and élites in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. Among them are – to give just a few examples – collections on state crimes in Latin America from 1962-2012, on Mexican grassroots movements in solidarity with Argentine resistance against the 1976-1983 dictatorship, on the struggle for LGBT rights in Mexico, the complete documentation collected by writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II for his biography on Ernesto ‘el Che’ Guevara, selected material on Operation Condor from the Archive of Terror in Paraguay (1960-1989), and the documentation of the court martial and civil proceedings against General José Francisco Gallardo Rodríguez, who blew the whistle on Human Rights violations in the Mexican armed forces. Over the next few months, this blog will introduce these different archival collections and the activities of the CAMeNA in a series of blog posts. In the next post we will introduce the life and the work of Gregorio Selser, and the general and personal archival collections by himself and Marta Ventura.


Centro Académico de la Memoria de Nuestra América, <https://selser.uacm.edu.mx/> [accessed 05/09/2018]

Rodríguez Mora, Tania, ‘La universidad y la memoria: El Archivo Gregorio y Marta Selser en la UACM’, in Selser, Gregorio, Me hubiera gustado ser poeta o director de orquesta (Mexico City: UACM, 2014), pp. 9-14.
Selser, Gregorio, Me hubiera gustado ser poeta o director de orquesta (Mexico City: UACM, 2014)

Cornelia Gräbner is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow and would like to acknowledge The Leverhulme Trust’s support.


Re-posted from Lancaster University, DeLC Staff Blogs <http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/languages-and-cultures/blogs/staff-blogs/cornelia-grabner/the-aliveness-of-memory-the-academic-centre-for-the-memory-of-nuestra-america-/&gt;

The Ethics of Contemporary Documentary Filmmaking: Interview with Ludovic Bonleux on Mediática

Filmmaker Ludovic Bonleux, director of The Crime of Zacarías Barrientos, Remember Acapulco, and Guerrero was interviewed by Niamh Thornton on the blog Mediática. The interview is available in English and in Spanish.

Documentalista Ludovic Bonleux, director de El crímen de Zacarías Barrientos, Remember Acapulco, and Guerrero was interviewed by Niamh Thornton on the blog Mediática. La entrevista está disponible en castellano y en inglés.


¡Berta vive, COPINH sigue! : The Struggle for the Protection of Land and Water One Year after the Assassination of Bertha Cáceres

On 2nd March 2016, Berta Cáceres was assassinated in her home in La Esperanza, Honduras. Berta Cáceres was one of the outstanding figures in the organisation against the Agua Zarca Dam in Honduras, a leading figure in the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras COPINH, and a leader of the indigenous Lenca community. The Agua Zarca Dam is one of the many projects that deplete and destroy the planet, and in the context of which so many people are killed and dispossessed to ensure the profit and the comfort of others.

Her struggle for life, for water, and for land continues, and must continue. We call readers of this blog to organize for life and dignity, against the violent expansion of ‘dead land, dead water’ (as Saskia Sassen put it so aptly in her book Expulsions), in the spirit of Berta Cáceres and in your calendars and geographies.

Berta is one of many Honduran defenders of the environment and of social, cultural and political Human Rights who has been killed – since 2010, more than 120 have been killed according to a recent report by Global Witness. Only two weeks ago José Santos Sevilla was assassinated in his home in Montaña de la Flor. He was a member of the indigenous Tolupan community, who fought to protect their ancestral lands against international mining and logging companies. As for those responsible for the assassination of Berta, a satisfactory investigation is still outstanding. Eight individuals have been arrested and accused of having carried out the assassination; out of those eight men, two were retired and one was a serving military officer. Two of them are reported to have received military training from the U.S. COPINH has launched a petitition to demand justice in the holistic sense of the word.

Spanish-speakers are invited to follow the news released on the website of COPINH. They have called for a day of action and solidarity to nurture the seeds that Berta has planted. There will also be a live radio broadcast on today’s events. This collection of voices speaking (in Spanish) about Berta and about the seeds of dignity, courage and determination she has sown is available as a recording for those who’d like to listen later. You can also follow on Twitter at #JusticiaparaBerta.

For background, we recommend the excellent documentary Unrelenting Rebellion, available in Spanish with English subtitles, on the projects and struggles of COPINH. Please make a point of sharing it, especially today, 2nd March 2017.

Jornada A 1 Año de su Siembra

Source of image: COPINH, https://copinh.org/inicio

Comunicado sobre reportajes del Primer Aniversario y traducción del video documental

Communique in Spanish from the ejido Tila, celebrating the first anniversary of its declaration of autonomy.


Ejido Tila Chiapas a 19 de enero del 2017

A la Opinion publica

Al Congreso Nacional Indigena (CNI)

A las Juntas de Buen Gobierno

A la Sexta nacional e internacional

A los medios de comunicación independientes

A los derechos humanos no gubernamentales

A las organizaciones sociales que luchan por justicia y dignidad

Reciban un cordial saludo de parte de los compañeros y compañeras del Ejido Tila que seguimos en pie de lucha hasta llegar al final y continuaremos luchando construyendo nuestra autonomia ejidal y autogobierno aunque en medio de tantas amenazas pero nuestro pueblo esta firme y dispuesto a seguir para adelante asi como estamos trabajando con nuestro derecho como pueblo indígena y como territorio ejidal.


Nuestro pueblo como muchos otros pueblos está echandole ganas a seguir explicando y profundizando nuestro acuerdo de constituir el Concejo Indigena de Gobierno y lanzar la candidata para que lleve su palabra frente a todo Mexico e internacional y frente a esos que nos quieren arrebatar las tierras y nos estan masacrando por todas las partes de Mexico. Porque llegó el momento de los pueblos.

Y en esta ocasión les enviamos este sencillo escrito para presentarles los trabajos de los compañeros y compañeras de medios independientes y agradeserles por sus trabajos que realisaron tanto para mostrar nuestro Primer Aniversario de Autonomia Ejidal para Tila y libre determinación; pero también les presentamos las traducciones al idioma ingles y francés de nuestro video documental Juntos defendemos nuestra Madre Tierra, Mi Lak tyeñ kotyañ lak ña’ lum y que será de gran ayuda para difundirlo entre compañeros y compañeras que hablan estos idiomas y que conozcan sobre la historia de nuestra lucha por la defensa de nuestra tierra y territorio. Por esto;

  1. Les agradecemos su trabajo solidario como compañeros y compañeras de los colectivos que hicieron las traducciones a los idiomas ingles y francés de nuestro video documental Mi lak tyeñ kotyañ lak ña’ lum Juntos la defendemos nuestra madre tierra. Aquí les presentamos las traducciones de los videos que se pueden descargar en buena resolución para reproducirse y difundirse. También les enviamos este escrito que presenta el documental para los diferentes idiomas.

‘Juntxs defendemos nuestra Madre Tierra’, ‘Mi Lak Tyeñ Kotyañ Lak Ña’Lum’: Documental sobre la inseparabilidad de la tierra, la cultura, la gobernanza y la sociabilidad


Muchos pueblos originarios del estado de Chiapas, en el sureste mexicano, han estado al frente de la lucha por la tierra y la cultura, que para ellos son inseparables. Durante siglos han sufrido el despojo cultural y territorial –donde el despojo territorial casi siempre conlleva el despojo cultural–. Los gobiernos federal, estatal e internacionales así como corporaciones y negocios encuadran dicho despojo en un discurso de “desarrollo” y “progreso”. Al contrario, organizaciones de Derechos Humanos y las poblaciones afectadas explican que el despojo debe ser entendido en su contexto y como parte de una guerra de baja intensidad y de contrainsurgencia, que se ha intensificado como respuesta al levantamiento zapatista de 1994 y el establecimiento de las Juntas de Buen Gobierno en 2003. Uno de los ejes en disputa en esas luchas contra el despojo es la figura legal del ejido. Los ejidos son propiedad social de los ejidatarios, y todos los asuntos relativos a ellos se resuelven en asamblea y por comisionados electos. La figura del ejido quedó establecida en la Constitución Mexicana después de la Revolución. Los Tratados de Libre Comercio y las políticas derivadas de dichos tratados intentan abolir o debilitar esa importante figura legal.

La comunidad indígena ch’ol de Tila ha luchado durante décadas por defender 130 hectáreas de su ejido. Esa tierra se encuentra en el pequeño poblado de Tila y sus alrededores, e incluye tierra agrícola y urbana. En la comunidad de Tila viven ejidatarios (indígenas ch’oles) y habitantes urbanos (mestizos). Los primeros se gobiernan por asamblea; hasta diciembre del 2015, el gobierno municipal gobernaba a los segundos. La figura legal del ejido protege la comunalidad y la propiedad colectiva de la tierra; el poblado, al contrario, se gobernaba y se legislaba según las leyes de la propiedad privada.

Las 130 hectáreas en disputa fueron ocupadas ilegalmente en la década de 1960 por el gobierno municipal mestizo. Años después, los ejidatarios ganaron un amparo contra el despojo de sus tierras; sin embargo, lo que el ayuntamiento ofrece al ejido es una indemnización por sus tierras, mientras que los ejidatarios exigen la restitución de la tierra, pues ésta es la base de su vida social y cultural. Los ejidatarios llevaron el caso hasta la Suprema Corte de Justicia. Mientras se prolongaba la decisión de la Corte, el ayuntamiento intentó destruir la cohesión comunitaria de los ejidatarios y desgastarlos para aceptar la indemnización por sus tierras, por medio de una campaña de hostigamiento constante, como la introducción de medidores de agua y el cobro de dicho recurso, a pesar de que los manantiales se encuentran en tierras ejidales.

Juntxs defendemos nuestra madre tierra, dirigida y producida en colectivo por la comunidad ch’ol de Tila y la productora independiente Terra Nostra Films, usa el género documental como una suerte de carta pública: originalmente estaba destinada a los jueces de la Suprema Corte. En el documental, lxs ejidatarixs explican en palabras e imágenes por qué esta tierra es inherente y esencialmente invaluable, y por qué la figura legal del ejido no se refiere sólo a la tierra comunal, sino también a la vida social y cultural y a la posibilidad de autogobernarse. El documental se terminó antes de que el ejido, que es adherente a la Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona del EZLN, declarara su autonomía el 16 de diciembre de 2015, como respuesta a las décadas de despojo y a la ola de violencia y represión.

El trabajo de cámara nos insta a mirar la tierra, los paisajes, la gente, los espacios y las prácticas comunales de tal forma que la cámara no los capture ni la mirada se apropie de ellos. Como en otras producciones de Terra Nostra, no hay la voz de un narrador exterior: los miembros de la comunidad hablan por sí mismos, y el espectador/oyente se ve desafiado a aprender a escuchar las inflexiones y las formas de hablar de las personas involucradas en la lucha por su tierra. Es así que surge una poética visual y verbal de la resistencia como parte de una forma ética, política, filosófica y práctica de vivir y relacionarse entre la gente, con el entorno social y con los ambientes construidos y sociales… no como una manera de “apropiarse” o de “obtener acceso”, sino como una forma de compromiso que busca una plenitud esencialmente invaluable.

Más información en el sitio gestionado por el ejido Tila:

El documental está disponible aquí:

vimeo link:

youtube link:

‘Ensemble nous défendons notre terre-mère’, ‘Mi Lak Tyeñ Kotyañ Lak Ña’Lum’: Documentaire sur l’inséparabilité de la terre, de la culture, de la gouvernance et de la sociabilité.


De nombreuses populations autochtones de l’état du Chiapas, dans le sud-est du Mexique, ont été à l’avant-garde de la lutte pour la terre et la culture, conçues par elles comme inséparables. Durant des siècles elles ont souffert la dépossession culturelle et territoriale – quand la spoliation territoriale implique presque toujours la spoliation culturelle. Les gouvernements local, fédéral et internationaux, ainsi que les grandes entreprises et le monde des affaires ont l’habitude de travestir cette dépossession sous un discours de “développement” et de “progrès”. A l’inverse, les organisations de défense des droits humains et les populations concernées expliquent que la dépossession doit être comprise dans son contexte et comme faisant partie d’une guerre de basse intensité et de contre-insurrection, qui s’est intensifiée en réponse au soulèvement zapatiste de 1994 et à la mise en place des Conseils zapatistes de Bon Gouvernement en 2003. L’un des éléments en dispute dans ces luttes contre la dépossession c’est la figure légale de l’ejido. Les ejidos sont la propriété sociale des membres de l’ejido, et tous les éléments relatifs à lui sont abordés en assemblée et par les représentants élus par elle. La figure de l’ejido a été établie dans la Constitution nationale après la Révolution mexicaine de 1910. Les Traités de Libre Échange et les politiques dérivées de ces traités ont tenté d’abolir ou d’affaiblir cette importante figure légale.

La commune autochtone ch’ol de Tila a lutté durant plusieurs décennies pour défendre 130 hectares de son ejido. Ce terrain se trouve dans le petit village de Tila et ses alentours, et comprend des terres agricoles et urbaines. Dans la commune de Tila, vivent des membres de l’ejido (indigènes ch’ol) et des habitants urbains (métis). Les premiers se gouvernent par assemblée; jusqu’en décembre 2015, le gouvernement municipal gouvernait les seconds. La figure légale de l’ejido protège l’esprit de la vie en commun et la propriété collective de la terre; le centre de peuplement urbain étant lui, au contraire, soumis aux lois de la propriété privée.

Les 130 hectares en litige furent occupées illégalement durant la décennie des années 60 par le gouvernement municipal métis. Des années plus tard, les membres de l’ejido gagnèrent un jugement censé leur donner une protection juridique contre la spoliation de leurs terres; cependant, ce que les autorités municipales et l’état du Chiapas offrent à l’ejido est une indemnisation en échange de leurs terres, alors que les membres de l’ejido exigent la restitution de la terre car ils estiment qu’elle est cruciale pour leur vie sociale et culturelle. Les membres de l’ ejido ont été jusqu’à présenter leur cas à la Cour Suprême de Justice. Alors que la décision de la Cour tardait, les autorités municipales ont tenté de détruire la cohésion des membres de l’ejido et de les convaincre à l’usure d’accepter une indemnité de compensation pour leurs terres, par le biais d’une campagne de harcèlement constant ou encore par l’introduction de compteurs d’eau courante impliquant de transformer cette ressource en un service payant, alors que les sources d’eau se trouvent sur les terres de l’ejido.

‘Ensemble nous défendons notre terre-mère’, réalisé et produit en collectif par la communauté ch’ol de Tila et la maison de production indépendante Terra Nostra Films, utilise le genre documentaire à la manière d’une lettre publique: le film était initialement destiné aux juges de la Cour Suprême. Dans le documentaire, les membres de l’ejido expliquent en paroles et en images pourquoi cette terre a une valeur inhérente et inestimable, et pourquoi la figure légale de l’ejido ne se réfère pas seulement à la terre communale, mais aussi à la vie sociale et culturelle et à la possibilité de s’auto-gouverner. Le documentaire a été réalisé juste avant que l’ejido, qui est adhérent à la Sixième Déclaration de la Forêt Lacandone de l’EZLN, ne déclare son autonomie le 16 décembre 2015, en réponse à des décennies de spoliation et en résistance à une vague de violence et de répression.

La caméra nous invite à regarder la terre, les paysages, les personnes, les espaces et les pratiques communales d’une façon telle qu’elle ne les enferme pas et que le regard n’en prenne pas possession. Comme dans d’autres productions de Terra Nostra, il n’y a pas la voix d’un narrateur extérieur: ce sont les membres de la communauté eux-mêmes qui parlent, et le spectateur/auditeur est mis au défi d’apprendre à écouter les inflexions et les façons de parler des personnes impliquées dans la lutte pour leur terre. C’est ainsi qu’une poétique visuelle et verbale de la résistance émerge comme faisant partie d’une approche éthique, politique, philosophique et pratique de vivre et de s’engager les uns avec les autres, avec l’environnement social, l’environnement construit et l’environnement naturel… non pas comme une façon de “nous approprier” ou “d’accéder”, mais comme un engagement à la recherche d’une plénitude essentiellement inestimable.

Plus d’informations sur les sites gérés par l’ejido Tila:

Le documentaire est disponible ici en version originale sous-titrée français:

Lien vimeo:

Lien youtube:

Together We Defend Our Mother Earth: Documentary on the Ejido Tila, Chiapas, Mexico

‘Together We Defend our Mother Earth’,‘Mi Lak Tyeñ Kotyañ Lak Ña’Lum’: Documentary on the Inseparability of Land, Culture, Governance and Sociality


Many indigenous populations in the Southern Mexican State of Chiapas have been at the forefront of the struggle for land and culture, understood by them as inseparable. For centuries they have been subjected to cultural and territorial dispossession – with territorial dispossession almost always leading to cultural dispossession. Federal, state and international governments, corporations and business couch this in a discourse of ‘development’ and ‘progress.’ Human Rights Organizations and the affected populations, in contrast, explain that dispossession has to be understood in the context, and as part, of low-intensity warfare and counterinsurgency, which has intensified in response to the Zapatista Uprising in 1994 and the establishment of the Zapatista Good Government Councils in 2003. One of the bones of contention in these struggles against dispossession is the legal figure of the ejido. The ejido is social property of the ejidatarios, and its affairs are conducted by an assembly and by elected commissioners. It was enshrined in the Mexican Constitution after the Revolution. Free Trade Agreements and policies seek to abolish or undermine this important legal figure.

The indigenous ch’ol community of Tila has been dragged into a decade-long struggle for 130 hectares of their ejido. This land is located in and alongside the small town of Tila, and it comprises agricultural as well as urban land. In the community of Tila live the (indigenous Ch’ol) ejidatarios, and the (mestizx) villagers. The former govern themselves through an assembly; until December 2015, the latter were governed by the municipal government. The legal figure of the ejido protects commonality and communal landownership; the town, in contrast, was governed and legislated according to the laws of private property.

The 130 hectares in question were unlawfully occupied in the 1960s by the non-Ch’ol municipal government. Years later, the ejidatarios won a legal case against the dispossession of their lands; however, the municipal government offered them a financial compensation, whereas the ejidatarios want the land itself because it is the basis of their social and cultural life. They have taken their case to the Supreme Court of Justice. With the decision pending, the municipal council attempted to destroy the community cohesion of the ejidatarios, and to wear out their insistence on not taking money for their land, through a campaign of everyday harassment, for example by introducing water meters and charging for water even though the springs are located on the communal land.

Together We Defend, co-directed and co-produced by the indigenous Ch’ol community of Tila and the independent producer Terra Nostra Films, uses the genre of the documentary as a type of public letter: initially it was meant to be sent to the judges of the Supreme Court. In the documentary the ejidatarixs explain in word and image what makes this land inherently and essentially priceless, and why the legal figure of the ejido, similar to the old English ‘Commons,’ is never only about communal land, but just as much about social and cultural life and about the possibility of self-governance. The documentary was completed before the ejido, which is an adherent of the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, declared its autonomy on 16th December 2015, as a response to the decades of dispossession and in resistance to a wave of violence and repression.

The camerawork invites a way of looking at the land, landscapes, the people, the communal spaces and practices, without using the camera to capture, or the gaze to take possession. As in other previous Terra Nostra productions, there is no external narrator: the community members speak for themselves, and the viewer/listener is challenged to learn to listen to inflections and speech patterns of the people involved in the struggle for their land. This is how a visual and verbal poetics of resistance emerges as part of an ethical, political, philosophical and practice-inspired approach to living and engaging with each other, social surroundings, built and natural environments – not as a way of ‘making them our own’ or ‘accessing,’ but as an engagement with a plenitude that is inherently and essentially priceless.

The documentary is available here in original version with English subtitles:

‘Together We Defend our Mother Earth’,‘Mi Lak Tyeñ Kotyañ Lak Ña’Lum’

‘Together We Defend our Mother Earth’,‘Mi Lak Tyeñ Kotyañ Lak Ña’Lum’

For information from the community itself see

Call for Participation (edited volume) Poetic Words in the 21 st Century Neoliberal City

Which alternatives to the capitalist and neoliberal status quo is the poetic word involved in constructing, by participating in expression, response, spatial occupation or collective organisation? Conversely, in what ways has poetry in public spaces become a tool for readying urban spaces for gentrification? Which strategies do poets and cultural organizers employ to resist such a re-signification of poetry by those in power, and to defend and recuperate poetic words as processes that practice radical democracy and are committed to social, political and spatial justice?

We invite essay proposals that explore the ways in which poetic words engage with the material and the immaterial in the contemporary urban world, marked by spatial injustice (in lines with Edward Soja’s “thirdspace”), racism, sexism and the related phenomena of segregation, marginalization, gentrification, or deliberate decay. This specifically includes essays that pick apart neoliberal and authoritarian mystifications and instrumentalizations of ‘Poetry’ in the contemporary urban context. We welcome investigations of the relationship between poetry and the city’s role in producing categories, such as “illegal” immigrant, that criminalize and exclude, as well as considerations of poetry generated in response to the production and policing of “internal borders” within the cityscape. We are looking for research on poetry and the city’s complicity in neoliberal legal, carceral and penal systems that have targeted migrants, the poor, and racialized populations. How has poetry participated in discourses, or been instrumentalized by forces, that have remade the city as a zone of privilege, homogeneity, and wealth?

Our planned edited volume seeks essays that explore the role of the poetic word as a critical response to, as an engaged critique of and intervention into, the social, affective and political realities of today’s cities that are marked by post-industrial, neo-colonial and neoliberal structures. We are looking for analyses and experiential engagements of a variety of poetic expressions from diverse urban zones, and particularly invite research on cities and towns that are not capitals, a relatively less studied topic in the broader area of investigation.

Many examples of contemporary urban poetry speak about, and from within, spaces marked by the watershed of neoliberal policies and beliefs, and the financial crises of the beginning of our century. The short form, read, performed, exchanged, written on the urban surface, or hidden within the palimpsestic layers of the city, can challenge notions of possession or productivity. This world-making poetic expression, which is sometimes the fruit of cooperative or communal endeavors, and sometimes the cherished hidden gem in a hostile environment, furthermore problematizes traditional ideas of the public and the private and reexamines conventional notions of enunciation and authorship. In the best of cases, it is an exercise in democratic, urban imagination that allows for an active, sense-imparting relationship with the environment.

Studies may include, but are not limited to, strategies of writing against monumentalization, poetry in relation to the city as tourist attraction and object of consumption, street art’s sensory responses to urban rhythms (in line with and beyond the historical vanguards), poetry and touch in an urban context, poetry of resistance to the language of advertisement, art in relation to an economy of sharing, and lyrics of dispossession and discarded objects. Other possible topics include: poetic resistance to, and defense against, neoliberal violence, and poetries of occupation and solidarity, what Kristin Ross (along with the Communards) calls “communal luxury.”

Please send your 3-4 page proposal (max. 1100 words, MLA style) to ashea@cca.edu, ikressner@albany.edu, c.grabner@lancaster.ac.uk by October 31, 2016. The deadline for submission of complete essays (max. 8,000 words) is Jan 31, 2017.