Thinking of our work… what the hell do we do again?

Comuner@s and friends at Sutikalh

A story of many stories: building dreams together

CIPO-VAN is a collection of stories that, together, make for an interesting exercise of building community across many realities. This is a space where each member, or comuner@, can explore their craziest ideas and put to practice their skills as we work together to build a better world for everyone today.

We have work alongside indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico. Our hope is to go beyond traditional solidarity and build connections that turn our words into reality: we are all many hands with a single heart in this struggle. We take our name borrowing from the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca “Ricardo Flores Magon” (CIPO-RFM), an organization of indigenous communities from the Southern Mexican State of Oaxaca that struggle for their reconstitution and free association. CIPO-VAN’s history is part of the history of struggle and alternative-building that we share with our friends, brothers, and sisters in Oaxaca, in Chiapas, in Mexico, and around the world. We believe that our project is a concrete expression of being part of a larger community that resists and builds together, not simply simpathizing with the struggles of others.

The backwards steps of the Comuna

We believe that what matters most is the process, not necessarily the results. We believe that the community is the one to decide what to do, not leaders or representatives. We agree with the analysis made by the Zapatista communities, and we see the Other Campaign as one of the few truly communitarian paths that trascend this moment of global struggle. We are a little anarchist; a little socialist; fans of the music, food, and sayings of the communities; we never say no to a good party and we quickly lose interest in those who seem to have all the answers. We are, quite simply, magonistas.

The communities that we talk about so much are not as far away as it seems. In the hearts and minds of each comuner@, these spaces and people are close by, and getting to know each other helps us struggle against the apathy and distance that could separate us. With the support from many kind-hearted people in Vancouver and throughout Canada we have managed to raise funds for community projects in Oaxaca, but most of all, we have gathered flowers of many colors that feed our collective dreams.

So what exactly do we do? – Building a Magonista utopia

As members of CIPO-VAN, we do not live the same reality as people in most of Latin America. We certainly do not face the same daily issues as people in Oaxaca do. So how do we participate in a struggle that can be so different? We believe that by recognizing the priviledged position we find ourselves in, and by making cumulative changes to our lifestyles within our own communities we can take significant steps in rebuilding the better world we want for everyone. Just as Ricardo Flores Magon talked about the possibility of building a better world with our own hands today, not tomorrow, and without having to wait for someone to come and show us the ‘right’ way for us to build a better world – to reach our utopia — we try to work on our ideals every day.

As part of our activites we have organized events where people can engage in these issues through fun, imaginative ways like the Consulado Rebelde — an evening of music, traditional Mexican food and documentaries or presentations to get to know each other and enjoy having the opportunity to talk and imangine how we can unite our efforts. Our primary objective is to help build strong bonds of friendship and support through concrete actions.

We have organized demonstrations that are actually traditional celebrations in Oaxaca, such as a calenda against repression that marched on Commercial Drive and joined the Illuminaires festival at Trout Lake. We’ve also organized workshops to learn how to make papier maché figures (Mojigangas, as they are known in Oaxaca), to learn about theater of the oppressed (but building our own version of transnational community theater), to learn about the Dia de los muertos by making traditional bread and hot chocolate (chocolate made by CIPO-RFM’s indigenous women’s coop and bread made by a bunch of friends in Vancouver)… the list goes on.

As much as we like organizing crazy events, we have also done the usuals: we have organized and supported countless demonstrations at the Mexican Consulate (we have actually closed it down… let’s say 3 times?) and the Art Gallery, and participated at international events like the World Urban and Youth Forum organized by the U.N. and the World Peace Forum (where we ended up organizing around 11 parallel events with a bunch of other local organizations).

All our collective activities follow what our members love to do. Few of the events or actions we have organized did not come from an idea that at first seemed outrageous or impractical, but that’s precisely why comuner@s are into working their ass off while having fun!

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