Urban conversations from the DF

maspormasThe CLACS’ grant is supporting my field research in Mexico to explore the acts of writing and publishing as aesthetic and political statements. I am interested in seeing intersections between social movements, politics and artistic responses in a specific urban context that has been particularly violent since 2006, when the war against the narco began. I started this research last year focusing on poets that used performance as a way to create an indigenous or mestizo identity or as a way to create a political or aesthetic statement. My focus was on how Zapatismo had shaped and influenced the work of artists born in the seventies.

After the events of Ayotzinapa in September 26, 2014, my perspectives changed, and I decided to include not only artists, but journalists, editors and cultural agents that had been involved and affected by the recent tragic events in Guerrero.

My goal through this research has been to understand how writers, publishers and institutions situated in Mexico City responded to challenges such as defending their ethical and artistic values in a system that reacts to all dissidence with systematic violence and repression.

Through observation, conversations and participating closely in cultural events I discovered the different approaches and ways to survive in situ to tragedies and social movements that are part of the everyday life. Interviewing editors and journalist gave me a more real sense of how people have moved from optimism to indifference and why that happens. Speaking with them at their houses or places of employment gave me the opportunity to have a more complex portrait of each one of them.

I visited large transnational publishing houses such as Random House that just published a book about the disappearance of the 43 students titled La noche más triste, as well as editors that gave coverage to the movement in support of the 43 students such as Armando Talamantes, director of CNN Mexico or Alma Delia Fuentes, director of Más por Más (an urban journal). I also had conversations with artists and activists such as Lorena Wolffer and María Rivera. Lorena Wolffer is an artist and activist who is exhibiting in one of the most import museums in Mexico: The Modern Art Museum. María Rivera is a poet and poetry promotor who invited me to participate in a poetry reading and also gave me her testimony on how becoming involved in the social movements for Ayotzinapa affected her work and her health.

I also had a chance to talk with Dr. Benjamin Mayer Foulkes, director of the Instituto17 and with Dr. Juan Ramón de la Fuente, former president of the UNAM to have a more academic, theoretical and political perspective of the events.cnnmexico

I was able to record most of the interviewers; some others scholars, journalists and editors I met (as Benjamín Mayer Foulkes, Fernando García Ramírez and Rocío Cerón) will give permission to record them later. Having testimonies allows me to have a more complex and affective vision of facts and stories that I had followed throughout the year. The experience of being in Mexico gave me a context that is very difficult to seize unless you are meeting face to face. Moreover it allowed me to understand their complex relations with the cultural and political institutions and the ambivalence that is required in order to survive the system.

Gaëlle Le Calvez is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at IU.


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