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
Thea Quiray Tagle, PhD, is a queer Filipinx writer, scholar, curator, and teacher, and Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Critical Ethnic & Community Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Thea has curated visual art exhibitions and performances for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Seattle University’s Vachon Gallery, The Alice (Seattle), and Feast Arts Center (Tacoma, WA), and has written for exhibition catalogs and publications including Hyperallergic, ASAP/J, and ACME: An International Journal of Critical Geographies. For more info visit: www.theaquiraytagle.com.
Lorraine Affourtit is an artist, activist, scholar, and an Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Appalachian State University. Her research has been supported by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Abroad Fellowship, a Visiting Fellowship at the Center for US–Mexican Studies at UC San Diego, and Graduate Research Fellowship from the UC Santa Barbara Blum Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy. More info: http://www.lorraineaffourtit.com.
Mirna Boyadjian is completing a PhD in Aesthetics at the University of Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis. She has written in exhibition catalogs and art journals including esse arts opinions, Spirale, Espace art contemporain, Magazine du Jeu de Paume, in addition to organizing several events in Montreal and Paris.
Margaretha Haughwout is an Assistant Professor of Digital Studio at Colgate University (situated on Oneida territory in the so-called US). Her collaborative projects include Coven Intelligence Program, the Food Forest Network, the Multi-Species InterStellar Workers’ Union, and the Guerrilla Grafters. More info: http://beforebefore.net/.
Beverly Naidus shaped an interdisciplinary studio arts curriculum in art for social change for the University of Washington, Tacoma, where she was on the faculty for 17 years. Her book, Arts for Change: Teaching Outside the Frame, other writings, workshops have influenced radical art pedagogy around the world. More info: www.beverlynaidus.net.
Laurencia Strauss is a queer mixed Latinx artist and landscape designer based in Miami (Miccosukee, Seminole, and Tequesta territory). Their participatory projects, installations, and community-based designs have been shared nationally and internationally as experiences of mutual vulnerability and care that challenge us to adapt toward a greater sense of interdependence. More info: http://laurenciastrauss.com/.
Thea Quiray Tagle, Lorraine Affourtit, Mirna Boyadjian, Margaretha Haughwout, Beverly Naidus, Laurencia Strauss; Asking, We Walk: Challenging Zapaturismo in International “Activist Art” Residencies toward a Praxis of Radical Hope. Ethnic Studies Review 1 October 2021; 44 (3): 31–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/esr.2021.44.3.31
Download citation file: