AURELIANO & NAFTA | Mia Eve Rollow & Caleb Duarte

Somos Fragmentos de la luz que impide que todo sea noche exhibition – Open / Abierto 15 – 30 September 2021, Mo-Fr / L-D 10:00 – 22:00 Sa 10:00-14:00 Location / Lugar Centro Cultural La Corrala, Museo de Artes y Tradiciones Populares Calle de Carlos Arniches, 3, Madrid

An important aspect of creating “other worlds” through Zapatismo is the belief that each culture, each language and each individual creates its own understanding of beauty, normality, happiness and autonomy. The cultures of capitalism and consumerism introduced by NAFTA persuade large populations that there is only one way toward progress and prosperity. Here, Aureliano Martinez shapes his own image of beauty outside of the commercialization of the body.


Caleb Duarte and Mia Eve Rollow from EDELO (En Donde Era La UNO/Where the United Nations Used to Be) explore the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state and the site of the Zapatista revolution sparked by the agreement.

Mexico was said to be one step away from entering the “First World.” It was December 1992, and Mexico’s then-president, Carlos Salinas, signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The global treaty came with major promises of economic development, driven by increased farm production and foreign investment, that would end emigration and eliminate poverty. But, as the environmentalist Gustavo Castro attests in our video, the results have been the complete opposite—increased emigration, hunger and poverty.

While the world was entertaining the idea of the end of times supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar, on December 21, 2012, over 40,000 Mayan Zapatistas took to the streets to make their presence known in a March of Silence. The indigenous communities of Chiapas—Tzeltales, Tzotziles, Tojolobales, Choles, Zoques and Mames—began their mobilization from their five centers of government, which are called Caracoles. In silence they entered the fog of a December winter and occupied the same squares, in the same cities, that they had descended upon as ill-equipped rebels on January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA came into effect.

In light of the 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s implementation and the Zapatista uprising, we set out to explore both the positive and negative effects of the international treaty. The poverty caused by NAFTA, and the waves of violence, forced migration and environmental disasters it has precipitated, should not be understated. The republic of Mexico is under threat from multinational corporations like the Canadian mining company Blackfire Explorations, which is threatening to sue the state of Chiapas for $800 million under NAFTA Chapter 11 because its government closed a Blackfire barite mine after pressure from local environmental activists like Mariano Abarca Roblero, who was murdered in 2009.

Still, one result of the corporate extraction of Mexico’s natural resources and displacement of its people that has followed the treaty has been the organization and strengthening of initiatives by indigenous communities to construct autonomy from the bottom up. Seeing that their own governments cannot respond to popular demands without retribution from corporations, the people of Mexico are asking about alternatives: “What is it that we do want?” The Zapatista revolution reminds us that not only another world, but many other worlds, are possible.

Original Title / Título Original Aureliano, 2012 Director / Dirección Mia Rollow y Caleb Duarte Running time / Duración 5:50′
Original Title / Título Original Nafta, 2012 Director / Dirección Mia Rollow y Caleb Duarte Running time / Duración 12′

Mia Rollow and Caleb Duarte are two American artists who traveled to San Cristóbal de las Casas from California in 2008 to settle there. In this context, they invited Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture of the Black Panthers of the United States, to carry out projects with the indigenous communities of Chiapas. From this encounter, ZAPANTERA NEGRA was born, an integration of the imaginaries of the Afro-American and Zapatista peoples in resistance and in organizing a new life in autonomy and freedom. In murals, embroidery, performances and videos, the images of the creative struggle of both communities on the north and south side of the Rio Grande border are intermingled. This interaction of imaginaries certainly has a political background that unites both struggles. But also, the reception of the indigenous communities towards this Afro-American proposal could be given by the “nahual” with which the Black Panthers present themselves to the Zapatistas. The nahual is a spiritual entity that corresponds to each person, town and territory and that takes the form of an animal. For the Zapatistas, the cultural identification with the jaguar and the bat is ancient and is revived as collective empowerment through the use of clothing elements that invoke these nahuales: the red scarf to the jaguar and the black balaclava to the bat. A black panther is then the nahual of another sister people, which communicates and empowers through the union of forces through images. In this sense, to understand the configuration of ZAPANTERA NEGRA, it is not only necessary to understand the political struggles but also the spiritual forces that are mobilized in the territories.

Mia Rollow y Caleb Duarte son dos artistas estadounidenses que desde California viajaron a San Cristóbal de las Casas en 2008 para establecerse allí. En ese contexto, invitaron a Emory Douglas, Ministro de Cultura de los Black Panthers de los Estados Unidos, a realizar proyectos con las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas. De este encuentro nace ZAPANTERA NEGRA, una integración de los imaginarios de los pueblos afroamericanos y zapatistas en resistencia y en organización de una nueva vida en autonomía y libertad. En murales, bordados, performances y videos, las imágenes de la lucha creativa de ambas comunidades al lado norte y sur de la frontera del Rio Grande, se entremezclan. Esta interacción de imaginarios  tiene por cierto un trasfondo político que aúna ambas luchas. Pero también, la recepción de las comunidades indígenas hacia esta propuesta afroamericana podría estar dada por el “nahual” con el que se presentan los Panteras Negras ante los Zapatistas.  El nahual es una entidad espiritual que corresponde a cada persona, pueblo y territorio y que toma forma de animal. Para los zapatistas, la identificación con el jaguar y el murciélago culturalmente es de antigua data y revive como empoderamiento colectivo a través del uso de elementos de vestuario que invocan a estos nahuales: el pañuelo rojo al jaguar y el pasamontañas negro al murciélago.  Una pantera negra es entonces el nahual de otro pueblo hermano, que se comunica y potencia a través de la unión de fuerzas a través de las imágenes.  En este sentido, para entender la configuración de ZAPANTERA NEGRA no solo hay que entender las luchas políticas sino también las fuerzas espirituales que se movilizan por los territorios.

Mia Eve Rollow was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1984. She received the Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship to attend the University of Maryland where she received her BFA in 2006. Rollow completed her graduate studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago earning a master’s degree in 2009. Her artworks are often performative in nature, and due to her fascination with alchemy and shamanistic traditions, her work usually revolves the physical and spiritual world. A college classmate, Caleb Duarte, invited her to Mexico to work on an experimental project based around the Zapatista movement. She later moved to Chiapas, Mexico where she co-founded the EDELO arts collective along with Duarte. Mia Eve Rollow works in a variety of media including video, painting, installation, and performance art. In 2017, Rollow had a solo exhibition titled, Eve: A Series, which featured large-scale video projections of natural phenomena. She primarily produces art through EDELO in collaboration with its community members.

Caleb Duarte is best known for creating temporary installations using construction type frameworks such as beds of dirt, cement, and objects suggesting basic shelter. His installations within institutional settings become sights for performance as interpretations of his community collaborations. Duarte has created public works and community performances at the World Social Forum in Mumbai India, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, El Pital, Honduras, and throughout Mexico and the United States. He has collaborated with autonomous indigenous Zapatista collectives, communities in movement, and working children and refugees. Duarte is co-founder, along with artist MIa Eve Rollow, of EDELO, a Spanish acronym for (Where the United Nations Used To BE). EDELO was a house of art in movement and an inter-comunal artist residency of diverse practices in Chiapas Mexico. The project challenged the traditional artist residency and art spaces in that it placed residents alongside rural autonomous communities that have been using performance, theater, poetry, and a rich visual culture to demand drastic social, political, and economic change. The space invited collaborators to live and create within a period of time. Residents were from PHDs to jugglers, contemporary artist, activist, educators, rural farmers, and autonomous community members. Through EDELO, he is lead facilitator of ZAPANTERA NEGRA, in collaboration with Rigo 23, Emory Douglas and Mia Eve Rollow. Zapantera Negra united Zapatistas (EZLN) with Black Panther Party esthetics to investigate the use of the body and visual culture in both distinct political and artistic movements. Caleb Duarte is profesor of scupture at Fresno City College in Fresno California where he has his studio. He continues to work with Central American unaccompanied minors currently seeking asylum working in community performance, sculpture, film, and painting.