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The projects at EDELO involved issues facing Indigenous groups in Chiapas, related to what M. Bianet Castellanos, Lourdes Gutie´rrez Na´jera, and Arturo J. Aldama describe as the context for Indigenous peoples in Mexico, Central America, and Latin America, which includes fighting for their “autonomy, including the right to self governance and self-determination, independent from their national governments.” One of the groups that Duarte and Rollow worked with was an autonomous Maya community in Elambo Bajo, a village one hour north of San Cristo´bal de las Casas. Elambo Bajo is part of La Otro Campan˜a, which as Duarte noted in an interview was established by the Zapatistas “to build Indigenous solidarity throughout Mexico and develop a system that separates itself from the political process through selfrun collective organizing.” Duarte further explained, “it’s a way of becoming socially and politically independent from the state and to encourage different people in the struggle to organize.”

EDELO’s first engagement with Elambo Bajo was Entierro, a performance during which children from the community buried the artists in the ground. Afterwards, the artists created a game where they buried community members “using the metaphor of planting a seed that would burst from the earth and emerge as a fruit-bearing tree.” This game also narrated the history of genocide against the Maya population in Guatemala, including children, who government forces viewed as “bad seeds” due to their relation to “internal enemies” of the state. As Rachel McIntire and Duarte describe, the game “hinged on the concept of breaking away from a colonial mind-set, shifting to one focused on the earth and a cosmology centered on acknowledgement of the violent histories carried by our bodies.”

-Excerpt from The Work of Arte Urgente - Performative Acts of Political and Artistic Imagination by Rebecca M Schreiber

The personal backstory to the burial piece was in 2009 when I moved from the US to Mexico, two years after becoming paraplegic, I went directly to live with the matriarch healer off the coast of Oaxaca.  She had me buried every sunrise for the duration of a month in order to extract the cold air that had entered and was trapped in my body from the western medical system.  As the sun rose the heat would enter my body through the sand, a makeshift temascal or sauna along with the plant medicines I was consuming would help to cure my pain.  During this transition time my body was reacting in extreme ways, however this potent form of healing and ridding of colonialism from my body was integral to my physical and spiritual growth.  The theme of burial began to emerge in the work I was involved in.

-Mia Eve



Since Elambo Bajo claimed autonomy from the state, community members lost access to “institutional structures,” including access to water on their land, which they had to buy for themselves. The Zapatistas’ emphasis on autonomy relates to what Deborah Cowen has - suggested about its relationship with infrastructure: According to Duarte, as part of Rain Catchers artists and community members “pretended to catch rainwater with large sheets of fabric as we paraded around the village with the children holding the fabric with sticks tied with yarn in order to promote self-determination and ‘living off the grid.’” As an artwork and performance, Rain Catchers imagined elements of an autonomous infrastructure that would provide community members of Elambo Bajo with a sustainable water system. The artists and members of the community also collaborated on other infrastructure projects, including bathrooms, and electric grids for lights in the town.

-Excerpt from The Work of Arte Urgente - Performative Acts of Political and Artistic Imagination by Rebecca M Schreiber

When you are driving through the highlands of Chiapas you will notice large cement pools of shallow water that take over parts of the mountain side on the land. These concrete structures rarely have water - the empty pools symbolize the lie that Coca-Cola uses to rebuttal claims of taking water from the people.


In Chiapas, Coca-Cola is the largest polluter to the natural water scapes and is the place where the beverage is most consumed in the world.  Coca-Cola’s bottling plant uses 110million gallons per year, even as the rainfall has declined and a growing number of populations are forced to migrate to protected wetlands.  As coca-cola depletes the natural water source, with no running water people have no choice but to drink coke instead that is fully stocked in every store.  One study says that 3% of babies and 16% of toddlers drink Coca-Cola, causing wide range health problems to the community, with diabetes at an all-time high.  Due to manipulative marketing, it has even replaced a drink found on most religious alters, one that was black like the midnight sky, and bubbly like the stars and explosions found in space, Coca-Cola is now revered as a intergalactic drink that merits worship.


In contrast, the Zapatista territories remain resilient to the imperial powers no matter how hard the struggle. As a symbol of this water based resilience we created with the community the piece rain catchers.  The children of the community paraded around town celebrating their autonomous heritage.  Zapatista territories have built systems that collect rainwater and become filtered through the sun in order for consumption. It is becoming more difficult with the global climate crisis, but they stay empowered through the wisdom of natural free rainwater

Techo de Lluvia was created at a three-day Festival with Elambo Bajo where EDELO brought five Artist Residents to the community with activities such as a Soccer Tournament, puppet shows, poetry and murals. 

Chiapas Mexico 2011

EDELO Collaborative lead by Mia

& Caleb Duarte

Elambo Bajo, Autonomous Zapatista Territory

Ongoing Community Workshops and Performances

Mia Eve Rollow


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