Chiapas: Opening of Photographic Exhibition of Banavil Displaced Families
Photo from the exhibition (retaken from Faces of Dispossession)
July 5 saw the opening of the photo exhibition “20 Windows on Forced Displacement in Chiapas” in the Paliacate cultural centre in San Cristobal de Las Casas. They invited the Banavil displaced families, the Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Centre (Frayba) and Melel Xojobal. The exhibition is the result of an action of the Faces of Dispossession campaign and the four displaced Banavil families, who were expelled from their land after an attack by a group of members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) carrying firearms the December 4, 2011 in the municipality of Tenejapa. The exhibition contains 20 photos, 20 photographic windows that are “our memory that will not break and will never be broken”, the families at the event said. The photos represent a selection made and titled by the families themselves in “an exercise in self-recognition and a return of the solidarity received from those who also have provided security in the three provisional returns in 2015 and to those who have walked with them for more than four years”. The photographs are mostly anonymous, born of the lens of international observation and free media accompaniment.
In the audio-visual event, visitors were actually included in the exhibition. Through an activity where testimonies and descriptions for each photo were told, people better understood the value of each photo. Looking for the story of each of the photos, one participant said that, “due to the testimonies, I felt a closer relationship to the photos and the story that is behind all that.” One example is the testimony of Maria, where she speaks about how they support their families: “We were embroidering the cloth, that’s how we started working. It was not the work we did before when we were in Banavil. This is very different, the work that is done. Now we embroider cloth to get money to keep our daughters and sons too … It is to survive in this displacement we are in right now, that’s the work we do, the women” (see photo on this post). The documentary “Justice, Truth and Return for Banavil Displaced Families” (2015) from the Koman Ilel collective was also shown. At times, recordings of the voices of members of families in Tzotzil were heard, telling stories of everyday life and the daily challenges they face in their temporary homes where they live since their displacement four years and seven months ago.
Faces of dispossession analyses that “forced displacement in a context of counterinsurgency warfare to eliminate experiences of autonomous organization in Chiapas is a daily violation of human rights”. These are the same families in forced displacement, and their support networks, who do not cease in their path of dignity to demand return, justice and truth so that the human rights violations committed against them do not go unpunished and the events are not repeated. The Banavil families also sympathize with other displaced families in Chiapas such as in Shulvo, Zinacantán and Primero de Agosto in the Municipality of Margaritas.