The Importance of Bodies and Emotions in Political Action: A Feminist Performance Workshop in Chiapas

Text by Claudia Rosas Rio
Translated by Dani d’Emilia
Images by Gio Leal

Editor’s Note

This is a story of a collaboration between two women’s organizations in the Mexican state of Chiapas—examples of a strong entanglement of art, political activism, collectivity, and solidarity in struggle. K’inal Antsetik and Colectiva Chamanas were part of co-organizing the First Feminist Congress of Chiapas and the Jornadas Lesbo Trans Feministas as well as a more recent workshop with Dani d’Emilia, in which they focused on their shared recognition of the importance of bodies and emotions in political action.

K’inal Antsetik means “land of women” in the Tseltal language. It is the name of an organization that was created in the early nineties by a group of Indigenous women led by Micaela Hernández and Yolanda Castro. Established as a civil organization in San Cristobal de Las Casas, they convened with the purpose of eradicating discrimination, economic exploitation, and structural violence suffered by Indigenous women in the state of Chiapas. Since then, K’inal Antsetik has not only opened its doors to countless people who visit it, it has also been a meeting place and site of historical events that left an important imprint in the history of the organizational processes of Indigenous and white women, feminists and lesbians, weaving intersectional alliances with afro-descendants, trans, and non-binary people locally and internationally.

Colectiva Chamanas is a group of lesbian and feminist Indigenous women whose main purpose is to contribute to improving the living conditions of lesbian women in the State of Chiapas through the construction of a collective space for reflection, awareness, education and training in the fields of human rights and in the strengthening of our feminist lesbian identity. One of the strategic aspects of the collective’s work is the articulation of alliances, maintaining strong political bonds that allow us a continuous dialogue with key actors within different social movements in order to make visible our struggles. In these daily encounters there are always conflicts and tensions that arise between those who participate in activism, either because of the inescapable political differences that are inherent to us or because of the ways in which we communicate. As lesbian and feminist activists, we recognize that we have been summoned by the spirit to heal many pains that have marked both our souls and our bodies: the pain of social rejection and the stigma of choosing a path other than compulsory heterosexuality; the pain of initial self-rejection when we realize that we are “different”; the pain of silence, of repression; the pain that we provoke when we do not know how to handle conflicts within relationships, be they couples, work, family or within political activism. The name of our collective always reminds us of our mission: to be Chamanas, i.e. shamansbeings that seek to trace their own destiny and in that way to heal their wounds and the wounds of others. In this sense, our work rests on the design and implementation of strategies that offer not only the political encounter but also self-transformation and healing. For this reason, it is vital to work with allies that make possible the construction of spaces that allow us to meet face to face to recognize ourselves, listen to each other, see each other, and help each other mutually in the healing of our wounds. We do all this through methodologies that evolve horizontality in an atmosphere of respect and understanding through the testimonies and stories of each participant.

In 2016, a number of women’s organizations in San Cristóbal (including Kinal Antsetik and Colectiva Chamanas) organized the First Feminist Congress of Chiapas. As part of a range of activities surrounding the “International day of fighting violence against women” (November 25th), the event included a panel on Lesbian Feminism, through which an initial alliance with Dani d’Emilia and Daniel Chavez (participating as Proyecto Inmiscuir) was forged, and later consolidated through the organization of the Jornadas Lesbo-Trans Feministas. This joint work has been strengthening a deeply political and sorority friendship that has allowed us to give continuity to the collaborations between Colectiva Chamanas and Dani d’Emilia. In November 2018, we co-organized the Performance Workshop: the importance of body and emotions in political action, for the lesbian network with which Las Chamanas has been working in the state of Chiapas.

The Performance Workshop: the importance of body and emotions in political action confirms a pact between Las Chamanas and Dani d’Emilia, an agreement dreamt of and realized just two years after that First Feminist Congress of Chiapas. In the workshop, sixteen people with different racial identities (Indigenous and white), sexualities, and genders (lesbians, bisexuals, trans, and non-binary) met with the initial purpose of exploring a territory often unknown to us: our bodies and the emotions that inhabit and constitute us. The workshop also considered the importance of recognizing ourselves in each other, to promote and strengthen an alliance that allows us to reflect on the relevance of the organization and our participation in political activism with the aim of working together to improve the conditions of our existence. Among the many dynamic exercises that were developed were those that made us touch the emotions we bring “closest to the skin”, as well as those that dared us to explore the depths, the vulnerabilities, that led us to the unfathomable and painful abyss of anger and fear.

The images accompanying this short description of some our feminist collaborations in Chiapas capture the self-giving and mutual trust with which we lived intensely every moment of this workshop.

Group photo of the two collectives

Two women are being smudged

Two women run hand-in-hand with their eyes closed

Two women walk hand-in-hand with their eyes closed

A person lies on their back while two others touch each leg

Two people sit facing each other while one touches the other's cheek

One person whispers into another person's ear

Six people sit in a circle while one person whispers into another person's ear

The hands of three different people clasped together

Two photos of two different people embracing

A person sewing fabric together

Two people wearing masks hold up a banner

A person wearing a mask holds up a banner

Workshop participants walking down the street holding banners

T-shirts read “I don’t want to live in fear anymore”

Filed Under: Photo & Video


Feminist, lesbian, anti-racist activist. Originally from Villaflores, Chiapas, Mexico. 42 years of age. Degree in Sociology. Master in Social Anthropology at Ciesas Sureste, with a Diploma in Gestalt Therapy and Systemic Therapy.

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