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Learning to be a crossroads and to walk in beauty, collectively

To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads

– Gloria Anzaldúa

Coming from Guatemala, Colombia and México, our team had to cross oceans and borders in order to gather in a forest inhabited by century old trees, streams, woodpeckers, bears and deer: the beautiful lands of Woodstock, just north of New York City. In this process we had to – painfully – leave behind three of our dearest comrades whose mobility was constrained by a visa system (one that defines the paths and lives of so many migrants) that determines who is worthy of entering the United States of America. Holding this complexity, we celebrated our gathering by lighting many fires, telling many stories and sharing lots of delicious food. 

It sounds simple and common, but it is something we tend to forget: the strength and sustainability of our movements and our networks of storytellers, change agents and human right defenders, depends deeply on our capacity to hold and care for each other. In times of increasingly isolated lives, growing violence and fear, our community becomes our refuge from an uncaring world. These are not perfect utopian spaces. In fact they are spaces of struggle and contradiction, but also for friendship, for shared meaning, for collective hope, possibility and radical imagination. By putting care at the center of our work we are modeling the world we want to live in. By caring for each other we are shifting the paradigm that puts money over life. 

This team has a magical mix of storytellers, sociologists, dancers, land defenders, and activists. We are all driven by a call for justice and an urge to be the change we want to see in the world. Our talents, styles, and personalities are quite varied, but what we all have in common is being creative rebels and centering NARRATIVES as our territory of dispute. We also have a collective baby named VIVX: a network to support social leaders and land defenders whose lives are threatened. 

During our residency we explored how we want to tell the stories of the land defenders we support and who we want to share them with. We shared our cinematic inspirations, we watched long and short films together, we talked about the challenges of holding space for conflict and modeling restorative justice, we built a narrative horizon and theory of change for VIVX. But most importantly: we danced, stared at the stars, listened to nature, swam in cold streams, went for long walks, braided each others hair, rested and ate: knowing the harsh realities we must continue to face, we infused our time with some joy and celebration in order to weave solidarity between us. 

We are learning how to “be a crossroads” in a world full of borders that divide us and violence that discourages us. We want to center Tiichajil* and infuse this work with joy, to honor our ancestors and those who have been stolen from us, and continue to walk in beauty, collectively. 


*Tiichajil is the name of a short film produced in collaboration between Skylight and members of the Maya diaspora in the United States. The title refers to a Maya Ixil concept known as the“good life” a future in which there is freedom of movement and everyone’s basic needs are met.

Featured image: Some of the VIVX leadership team take a break at the Silver Sun Residency

Vanessa Cuero Forero

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