The Operating System and Liminal Lab


Poem Hanger with el Palacio de Bellas Artes in the background

This week, Exit Strata is honored to bring you a guest post from Pilar Rodriguez Aranda, the seemingly tireless organizer from México who has worked with 100,000 Poets for Change founders Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion from the movement’s inception in 2011 to coordinate events in 23 cities in her home country — as well as to assist in the translation of materials produced by this outpouring of creative activism.

Each of these cities, in turn, boasts its own impressive calendar of events, all of which you can see (though not always in translation), on the 2012 100TPC blog: Acapulco, GuerreroCelaya, GuanajuatoChihuahua, ChihuahuaCiudad de México DFCiudad Juárez, ChihuahuaCiudad Nezahualcóyotl, Edo. de MéxicoCiudad Victoria, TamaulipasCuernavaca, MorelosDurango, Durango; Ensenada, Baja CaliforniaGuadalajara, JaliscoMazatlán, SinaloaMonterrey, Nuevo LeónMotozintla, ChiapasNaucalpan, Edo. de MéxicoPuerto Vallarta, JaliscoQuerétaro, QuerétaroSan Luis Potosí, San Luis PotosíSan Miguel de Allende, GuanajuatoTijuana, Baja CaliforniaToluca, Estado de MéxicoXalapa, Veracruz and Yautepec, Morelos.

I asked Pilar to tell her story, as well as to focus on the conditions specific to activism in México, and to talk about her intentions and aspirations for the growth of the 100TPC movement both there and worldwide, which she does with great passion and beauty below. Oh, and by the way… if you haven’t yet had a chance to read our introduction to this incredible series, or check out the feature on 100TPC in Volos, Greece, you should!

In 2009 I shared with some friends a wonderful experience1 I had while visiting an old friend in Los Angeles, CA. It was at Self Help Graphics, and a group of artists, writers and performance artists were commemorating 16 years of femicides in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. There were only 30 or so, and we were all sitting in a circle. By the end of this moving ritual I was crying. I thought, why haven’t I had this kind of experiences in Mexico? That same night, one of the participants, theatre writer Josefina López invited us all to a meeting next day, where they would talk about a 40 day event she was organizing for March, 2010: A Prayer for Juarez. I went to the meeting and offered to organize something parallel in my hometown, Mexico City. Through my promoting and inviting others to join using the social web, by March there were events happening in many other cities, among them, Sydney, Barcelona, Montreal, Dallas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM. In Mexico City, we had several things happening: workshops, film screenings, a one day event with theatre, poetry and music, an art exhibit, and so on. This action originated others, for example, in Sydney the activist group remains as Sydney Action for Juarez, and in New Mexico, artist Deborah Gavel has continued creating installations with this name; recently in Juarez they recreated the event with a new title: A Mantra for Juarez. From this experience, our collective Contra la Violencia, el Arte (Against Violence, Art), was born.

Citizens students, artists join in sharing their feelings related to the theme of femicides in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico City, March 2010

I tell you all this, because when I saw Michael Rothenberg’s invitation on Facebook, it just seemed a natural following for me, as a poet. So I responded, again thinking I would just be doing something in my home city. However, and perhaps because my work as translator means I am all day in front of a computer, I started inviting other poets, created a Mexico City blog, which later expanded to include all the country, and finished coordinating all of the Mexico events in the first edition of 100 TPC.
Our collective organized 3 poetic actions then, a poetry route across one of the main downtown pedestrian streets, an open mic that night at a local co-op, and a virtual call for poetic tweets, or “poetweets” (In Spanish we call them “poetuits”, a selection of which can be read here), which started days before, but received many on the actual September 24th.

Individually, having coordinated the Mexico site, helping translate many of the press releases Rothenberg and Carrion sent me, promoting the event through FB and Twitter, the best part for me was to step from the virtual to the real, and meeting this way so many other poets and activists.

We received support from the radio, and that also open other doors, as I really insisted (and continued to do so this year) that poetry doesn’t only belong to poets, but to all, so I opened the invitation to others who were not poets to organize and have an event. This way we had political organizations becoming part of this, and then hearing how great it had been for them to immerse themselves in reading poetry, or writing the “poetweets”, etcetera.

Participants of the workshop at el Museo Memoria y Toleancia recreate their choral readingin the street.

This second year, our collective organized 2 workshops on “Poetic Action”, meaning, giving life to poetry beyond the paper, learning to read poetry aloud, whether their own or by other authors. One workshop was offered at a High School and the other was offered at one of our newest museums, El Museo de la Memoria y la Tolerancia (Memory and Tolerance Museum), and was free and open to the community.

The response to both workshops was wonderful. It is amazing how disconnected people are from their own bodies, including their phonic apparatus. On the 29th, all the participants were invited to join us for a poetic action: A “Poem Hanger” and Open Mic on the esplanade across the Beaux Arts Palace, where we each brought either our own poems or poems we liked and hanged them and then invited passers-by to read them, take them for free, and if they wanted to do so, read them. We did that for 2 hours. Many of the workshop participants read more than once, and some read in groups.

A scene from the poetry reading our collective hosted in one of Mexico City’s Subway Station

 In the case of our work with non-poets, they have all said how they have stopped feeling poetry is out there somewhere “high” above, and also, that being able to share it “out loud” has empowered them as citizens.

Mexico is living a difficult time, with more than 60 thousand deaths in the so called war against drug traffic, so one would think a lot of these poetic actions would have a strong political accent, and some do. But I sometimes see many other countries where this is a lot clearer and spelled out, and I would like to see that happening more here. Sometimes I feel even the young poets are still too preoccupied on their own work and on their performance, and not so much in the content and congruency of the content of the texts they are creating and sharing.

Creating the mural “A Prayer for Juarez”, the day of the art opening, Mexico City, April 2010

This is one of the reasons our collective Contra la Violencia, el Arte likes to use the word “Action” vs “Event”, it is the tendency now, to see culture as entertainment, and we are not interested in that. We want to provoke something in the regular citizen that will awaken them into action. Passivity and ignorance are two of the most effective tools to keep status quo. We also think that a very small action, can be as powerful as a reading in a large Arena, at least for those “acting” on it.

And being part of this larger “thing” is part of the learning.

Pilar Rodríguez Aranda shares the mic with young poet Alberto Vazquez, in a group reading of poem by Nela Rios’ “I work for peace/ You work for peace/ He works for peace…”

One the radio producers who again this year supported our efforts, Maria Teresa Juarez, is producing a series called “Imagined Communities”, and dedicated one of the shows to 100 TPC. The image is powerful: poets –magicians of the word- all together, around the globe, lyrically calling for a change of paradigm…

This second year, being an election year, a lot of the organizers decided to be part (in many cases again) of 100 TPC at the last minute, because they had been involved in the political turmoil before and after the elections. Others were really into organizing a large event, with musicians and painters, and so on, and I think this is great and necessary, and even though they might not be pronouncing for a particular cause (to clean their local river, or help a local charity, or promote some legal change), the fact to bring art to the people in a non-governmental, non-institutional way, seems political enough. Also, many of us decided to work with young “emergent writers/poets”. In fact one woman who was only able to come to one of the workshop sessions, finished organizing a poetry event with her Middle School students. Not sure if this will continue to be the case next year. But most all the participants have expressed their commitment to be part of 100 TPC again next year.

Highschool students pose at the end of 3 day workshop

** Check out last week’s installment with organizer Nana Nestoros celebrating 100,000 Poets for Change in Greece! **
Also: you can support 100TPC on their page via direct donation HERE.
Please consider helping this essential organization thrive!!!

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