This summer, I collaborated with Colectivo Akelarre, a feminist collective, and local artists to organize an arts and feminism camp called Antiprincesas for girls 14-19 years old in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. I studied abroad in Xalapa my spring semester, and thanks to funding from Midd’s Center for Careers and Internships, I was able to stay the summer and work with this collective.
From July 18th-22nd, 22 girls participated in this week-long camp of discussion, reflection, art, and community-building. I opened each day with a warm-up, meditation, and interactive activities to cover the theme of the program How do we learn gender, Body, Representation, and Social Problems. In the afternoons, there were workshops from local artists (Voice/Body/Improvisation, Theater of the Oppressed, Film and Intersectionality through Drag Culture, etc.) and guest speakers (a sexologist, the director of the Institute of Women of Xalapa, a feminist human rights lawyer). We also included free time for the girls to read, collage, make zines, and hang out with each other. The final day, the group self-organized a final presentation for friends and family.
From the beginning, we had five principal intentions for this project.
- Definition of Feminism. Rather than impose our own ideologies, we wanted to create a space for the girls to share their experiences to reflect and learn from each other–to draw from the collective wisdom in the room.
- Collaboration and Diversity. The team of organizers and artists that worked on this project hold different political views and facilitation styles. The girls as well were a group of different ages, interests, and cultural backgrounds. This diversity and acceptance of difference allowed for deeper understanding.
- Corporal Understanding. We wanted to place importance on the body and on emotions as ways of connection and understanding.
- Art as Fundamental to Social Change. We believe art allows us to question our surroundings, gives us a voice to express ourselves, and invites collaboration and co-creation.
- Community Building. More than anything, we wanted to create an intentional community of acceptance of difference, of care, and of love.
When I proposed the camp to the collective, I had a vision for the project based on the above intentions and my experience with JusTalks, MiddSafe, Raisins (Radical Asians), Stairs n Stares (performance dance installation on sexual assault), and various dance projects at Middlebury. These experiences at Midd gave me practice building spaces of open and honest dialogue, self and communal reflection on power, privilege, and identity, and of using art as a form of social change.
But what makes this camp special was that it was a collaborative project. The distinct artistic/feminist backgrounds of the local artists and women of Colectivo Akelarre allowed us to share our knowledge and co-create this project. This means that even after I left, the structure and vision of the camp remained, as well as the personal connections formed among the organizers and the first generation of antiprincesas. I look forward to hearing about future iterations of this camp, even if I will not be able to be part of the planning process.
It was an honor and a joy to grow with and from my fellow collaborators and the group of girls. From this project, I realized the importance of care and open and honest communication during the process of creation. I learned that spaces of play allow for greater trust, vulnerability, and togetherness. This project also reaffirmed my belief in the power of empathic listening to open spaces of connection and of acceptance of multiple truths. And finally, witnessing the transformation of the girls from timid individuals to a united, loving, and empowered group of young women re-ignited a hope, an energy, and a revolutionary spirit in me sometimes stifled in the world of academia.
I want to thank Community Engagement and the Cross Cultural Community Service Fund that made this project possible. The funding not only allowed for the girls to participate for free, it also paid for transportation and meals for three girls who came from outside Xalapa (their housing was taken care of by Colectivo Akelarre).
Here is a 5-minute video documenting the week:
Here is our Mannequin Challenge Activity from Day 4:
Here are links to some press from when we were accepting applications pre-camp:
- Cronica de Xalapa Article
- MasNoticias Interview
- El Democrata Interview
- El Universal Veracruz Article
- Cronica del Poder Article
You can follow Colectivo Akelarre on Facebook.