In Solidarity: Living, Making, Together, a group of four intersecting projects with discussions and an exhibition, developed over the course of two months in early 2017, in collaboration with four local initiatives that are working with passion and urgency to establish the principle of collectivity and the solidarity economy as essential conditions for a more resilient society. Building on their desire to expand their networks, the Design for the Living World class worked with, across, and between the Huerto Roma Verde community garden initiative, the housing collective Cooperativa Palo Alto, the residents of the América neighbourhood in Mexico City in cooperation with the Social Hub of CENTRO University, and the residents of the San Francisquito neighbourhood in Querétaro in cooperation with the Dérive Lab at BEMA.
We shared documentation from the four projects with the public in the exhibition In Solidarity: Living, Making, Together, which opened at Muca-Roma of UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) on March 16, 2017. We were pleased to see that half of the space at Muca-Roma, in the Archipelago of Social Practices room, was dedicated to ongoing public discussions, so that over the two months of the exhibition, Muca-Roma was transformed into a living discursive space.
Towards the end of our stay in Mexico, we organized three roundtable discussions at Huerto Roma Verde: on the topics of solidarity societies, solidarity economies, and the right to the city. At Muca-Roma we held a fourth roundtable, which brought together the four initiatives we had worked with.
In Solidarity: Living, Making, Together is part of the research and exhibition project Mexibility: We are in the city, we cannot leave it, which is supported by Goethe-Institut Mexico (the subtitle is a quote from the Mexican poet Octavio Paz).
Photo above: Sharing knowledge: Conversation at Cooperativa Palo Alto, Mexico City
Title: Mexico – In Solidarity: Living, Making, Together (En solidaridad: Viviendo y haciendo juntos)
A participatory project by the Design for the Living World class, University of Fine Arts/Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) Hamburg. In conjunction with Mexibility – We are in the city, we cannot leave it (Estamos en la ciudad, no podemos salir de ella) on the occasion of cultural and science exchange between Mexico and Germany in 2016.
Date: February 13 – March 26, 2017
Location: Mexico City, Queretaro and Mezquital Valley
Students: MacKenzie Boomer, Xin Cheng, Lisa Eggert, Tino Holzmann, Lea Kirstein, Robert Köpke, Barbara Niklas, Konouz Saeed, Kathrin Sohlbach, Mana Stahl, Julia Wycisk, and guests of the class Hye-Eun Kim (Konzeptdesign, HFBK Hamburg), Julia Tielke (Film department, HFBK Hamburg), Susanne Wilk (scenographer and architect, Berlin) and Tessa Zettel (artist and researcher, Sydney).
The Class of the Design for the Living World in collaboration with: The Mexico City based Huerto Roma Verde, Palo Alto housing collective and CENTRO University, as well the Derive Lab in Queretaro.
Supported by: Goethe Institut Mexico, Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) Hamburg and Muca Roma of the UNAM Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.
Photo above: The ixtle producers of Mezquital Valley pose for a photo during work on the foundation of their cooperative workshop.
Construction and project: The communities of El Decá, La Vega, El Bingú and Cooperación Comunitaria A.C.
Photo by: Isadora Hastings.
The Cooperative Workshop of the Mezquital Valley Ixtle Producers
In October 2016, half a year before the beginning of the project In Solidarity: Living, Making, Together, Barbara, Julia, and Marjetica visited the ixtle producers of Mezquital Valley, in Hidalgo, at the invitation of Cooperación Comunitaria, an NGO dedicated to improving living conditions in rural communities. We attended a community meeting at which the ixtle producers formed a cooperative, agreed on principles for a solidarity economy, and decided to construct a workshop where they would all work under one roof. The ixtle producers saw the cooperative as a way to create better working conditions for themselves and develop fair trade as an alternative to the neoliberal social and economic agreement. This experience inspired our journey to learn about solidarity in Mexico and confirmed our focus on solidarity economies and collectives.
The political notion buen vivir (which may be loosely translated as “good living”) represents a worldview that foregrounds collective authority, social responsibility, local experience, and care for the environment. Originating in Latin America and closely related to the principles of indigenous rights and the rights of nature, it acknowledges the limitations of capitalism and the capitalist ideology of continuous development.
While working with initiatives in Mexico City and Querétaro, we encountered buen vivir as a social movement that emerged in reaction to Mexico’s globalized market economy – an economy implemented over the past thirty years under an austere social and economic agreement that has left many in poverty and destabilized the rural population. The buen vivir movement represents the aspirations of those who seek a new social agreement based on coexistence and not the mentality “every man for himself”. The movement’s proposal is to consume less (as opposed to consumerism) and rebuild collective authority (as opposed to individualism). Combining political philosophy with indigenous knowledge and practices, buen vivir embraces a solidarity economy and a solidarity society.
Working with Huerto Roma Verde community
Huerto Roma Verde represents a growing holistic laboratory of knowledge and a growing community of educators, volunteers and activists. For the last four years, it has been a garden, deeply dedicated to experimenting with strategies of resilience in Mexico City. Their objectives include: permaculture, solidarity economy, community building, recycling, holistic and ancestral medicine, sustainable methods of living and construction and the integration and awareness of nature in the city.
Working with Palo Alto Residents
Places in Palo Alto, video by Goretti Angeles Cabrera, Erandeni Sofia Espitia Mejia, Juan Daniel Franco Estrada, Luis Garcia Martinez, Olin Yaotl Márquez Cabrera, Barbara Niklas, Julia Tielke and Gloria Valdespino Domínguez.
We were invited to spend time in the neighborhood of Palo Alto, a living cooperative in Mexico City. Palo Alto is an example of self-organization and self-determination from a community exploited by neoliberal circumstances.
Working with América Residents
Initially, we were afraid of feeling misplaced in a quarter which struggles with drug related violence, unemployment and low school attendance. We did not find a strongly unified community but we observed numerous acts of generosity and support among individual residents. Merchants and neighbors have constructed their own system of support. We were introduced to the Panchitos gang and to the cultural center Faro and from our living room stand on Sur 128, we got to know América’s neighbors and they joined us in our investigation of Solidarity in the neighborhood.
Working with San Francisquito Residents
For two weeks in February 2017 we lived and worked in the San Francisquito neighborhood of Querétaro. With the help of local residents and our collaborators at BEMA, a newly-developed cultural platform, we constructed a mobile coffee cart using salvaged window frames and doors from the BEMA site. The cart became a small extension of BEMA, a platform to visit our neighbors, offer them coffee and talk about their ways of working and living.
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