With the Classroom Doors and Windows Open

XV Freirian – Zapatista Seminar

Several decades have passed without us tiring of proposing these spaces to students, of searching, of bringing characters, novels, stories —real and fictitious stories— poems and songs capable of breaking the confinement of the delirious “solitude” of the empty word-image, imposed through all kinds of screens: cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions that we have turned into stories that hinder, impede, and distort already-silenced concepts, where pain is presented diluted as a necessary evil for the advancement of the society of the spectacle, today the robot society, the society of the image in the cave described by Plato1.

Where it seems that the real reality no longer exists, only shadows in the era of big data, of the hegemony of statistics with engineered technologies, with algorithms that salute artificial intelligence and exert on the mind (and especially on the brain) irreparable damage that breaks the harmony between body and heart, emotion and reason, pain and suffering, feeling and thinking. We live in a reality in which we are sorting out different forms of violence, from those coming from devices, distorted information or social oppression without accepting that it concerns us. We live splattered by violence without accepting that it concerns us.

This is why we chose a classroom with open doors and windows — to let in characters that have allowed us to “admire” that is, to look at stories and situations different from our own — because in the luck of this difference we have also been able to find very different and multicolored possibilities of being, feeling, thinking and coexisting with the world. Characters like Lisa, Maya, Ymar, Magda, don Durito, old Antonio, Sombra-the warrior and Defensa Zapatista, the SubMoisés, the SubMarcos now Captain Marcos, among others, have been a bridge for us to feel closer to their “inner landscapes.” Milpas with collective sowings and plantings, weavings whose colored threads come together to form symbols, paths that even before we travel we already feel are ours, stories that we want to end well, friends who share just for the sake of sharing, lovers who love companionably and make us see love within reach of an outstretched hand —possible and easy as it can always be– shadows that gather beneath the stars and around bonfires (without pijamas because Freire says that the oppressed do not wear them) of those who dream a dream very different from the one above; a dream more like good living, more like come home and we will share, more like I listen to you and you listen to me, more like the art with which we heal ourselves and feel the freedom that enlivens.

We name these characters, with the intention of arriving at this 15th Seminar, always taking it outside the classroom, cracking its walls to give life, in another way, to real characters, flesh and blood, like the students to whom we owe this rebellious, dreamy and vibrant educational space, which is sometimes sullied by the lie that filters through to try to immobilize possible and necessary struggles in the university spaces.

The Freirian-Zapatista Seminars are Freirian because Paulo Freire continues to be close to us. He continues to throw questions to us from the collective Latin American memory, although worldwide, of those who raised their voices in culture circles, in literacy groups, in talks under mango trees, in discussions in classrooms without walls or halls and auditoriums full of people, questions of those who just knowing how to read and write named their world, fishermen, peasants, housewives, day laborers, rice growers, social fighters, teachers, even indigenous people and students.

Freire invites us to become aware, to deepen the Pedagogy of the Oppressed to the oppressed of today, inviting us to become sensitive to the pain of those who suffer the aggressions of those who are in political power and reduce them to statistics. And so it is in the abstraction of figures that distance us from reality and throw us into logical delusions – insofar as they are abstractions that can open the doors to psychosis by denying oppression, dispossession and oblivion, femicides and the disappeared.

And, these Seminars are at the same time Zapatista because they allow us to bring their rallying cry: “Enough is enough!”  inviting us to organize resistance against bad governments and traditional, banking, paralyzing and silent educational processes. Zapatismo summons the movement of benches and blackboards to the restlessness of ideas, the joyful rebelliousness of the classroom, to see ourselves, educators, as students with a gaze across the mountains, in favor of those who open themselves to dialogue, to the assembly of the true word, to the shared and the sharing, to the ala – kabi- ala kabi, in tojolabal: I speak – you listen – you speak – I listen, to the knowledge that is shared in common, to the critique that thinks, to art in caracol mode in the educational processes, to tolerance that is always respect for otherness, to companionship versus competition and spaces to fall in love with knowledge or with whoever sits on the bench next to us. Spaces of “enough is enough!” that seek to sow seeds of dignified rage and, perhaps, friendship which accompanies it.

And it is Freirean-Zapatista because, although imperceptible, in sight of those who know how to see from the heart, there is a bridge from the Amazon jungle to the Lacandon jungle, a stretch of river that joins the waterfalls of “Agua Azul” with the Solimões river, a story-telling knot that is similar between Freire’s beard and that of Old Antonio, and it is the gaze beyond the mountains, of the horizon that reinvents itself, which is a little bit the same look as from Paulo’s glasses or of anyone who wears glasses. But above all, we find between the two a double and shared urgency: that of the freedom for the nobodies that in Zapatista code we can call: Choles, but Tzotziles, Tojolabales, but Tzeltales, but others and others and others. And a second urgency to find an answer to the mirror questions, that of the Zapatista caracoles “and what about you?”… as opposed to that of the book “100 voices and a letter to Paulo Freire” that the educator Nicolás Arata writes “and after Freire, what?”

These spaces allow us to give life to silent verses, in the worst pandemic to which we are subjected, masking silences, pains, fears, insensitivity in the face of murder, dispossession, impunity and lies. We do not want to accept what we know: that without the youth we are condemned like Sisyphus, Oedipus, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, to disseminate that we are destined, condemned to silence, to not name the murderers-made-governments, to the bunker of the classroom to not let ideas or writings come out, that resistance with a raised voice or “living voice” as Juna Inés de Asbaje used to say, of struggle in opposition to the violated friend, the assassinated brother, the disappeared defender of mother earth, the battered trans person or today’s suffering and irreparable genocide against the Palestinian people. There are not enough moments of silence to honor what hurts.

As if it were just a horror movie. “Let’s buy popcorn and coke to enjoy the killings. “Bon appetit” the Palestinian children and the madres buscadoras say to us.”

It is the students who will be able to make from their joyful rebellion spaces where empathy is not a concept empty of content bordering on psychotic delirium. We will continue, and we will continue here, proposing, reinventing and giving life to these spaces, a symbol of the commitment to crack the walls of the classroom and allow the naming of enough is enough! We will stop them from being commodified to fill the dumpsters of the dead letter and the empty vessel and rewrite the notebooks of historical memory.

Education, liberation and rebellion – education, liberation and rebellion, in struggle, in struggle, student teachers! And long live the EZLN, the Zapatista communities, and the CNI. Here some of us can find the strength to fight without forgetting that the real struggle is outside the classroom. These spaces of the Seminar are, have been and will continue to be a small crack to step out of the classroom where the students organize it, make it their own, coordinate it, and are the speakers. It is a small utopia, but nevertheless a utopia. Without passion, utopia is not possible. Let us do what is possible today in order to realize the impossible of tomorrow that now exists in the Zapatista communities.

Original text and photo published by Desinformémonos on May 25th, 2024.
Translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. Referring to Plato’s allegory of a prisoner chained to the inside of a cave, in which he sees only the shadows of reality as they are cast across the walls of the cave
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