The Whale Dances

Sixth Commission of the EZLN
December 2019

To the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing
To the individuals, groups, collectives and organizations of the national and international Sixth:
To the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion:
To those who enjoy dance:

First and only:

The Whale Dances

The illuminated mountain. The echo of cinema, not of a movie, but of cinema itself as a community still lives on in recently lit ocotes, in the nostalgic blue of that horse–Tulan Kaw–, in a glimmer that reads «Welcome,» and finally in that defiant light that spells, «ZAPATISTAS.»

You’ve tried to leave this place but for some reason that you’re unable to explain, you can’t… or you don’t want to. Night has fallen, cold as always. You stroll through the flat open area where, hours earlier, the serpentine path between the stations reminded you of small-town fairs in distant calendars and geographies.

The smorgasbord of posters catches your eye: “Second International Encounter of Women in Struggle,” “Gathering in Defense of Territory and Mother Earth,” “26th Anniversary,” “Second ‘Puy Ta Cuxlejaltic’ Film Festival,” “First ‘Dance Another World’ Dance Festival.”

Is it possible to dance the air?

Could a dance, seemingly so distant from everything, trace the outlines of a dream through movement alone?

Yes, perhaps you’re delirious; it could be due to the cold or to that irreverent red star glittering at the top of the mountain.

You’re in the middle of analyzing this when the little girl and her gang arrive and surround you with their enthusiastic chatter: “There’s going to be a dance!” they shout, jumping up and down. Well, the girl called “Calamity” barely gets her heels off the ground, but her joy is just the same as the others’. The prospect of a dance does not excite Pedrito, the skeptic of the group, who declares: “There’s a dance every now and then anyway, I don’t see what the fuss is about.” Defensa Zapatista begins her pedagogical approach with a slap upside the head and continues, “There’s going to be a dance hanging from a cloud, not just any old dance,” as she performs an impeccable ron de jambe par terre en dehors.[1] Not to be shown up, the Cat-Dog follows with a pas de chat.[2]

“There’s going to be a dance!” repeat the girls in a jumbled chorus.

An insurgenta (you identify her by her uniform) comes running and says, “Calamity, come here, they’re going to dance the whale!” Calamity runs as fast as she can – which isn’t very fast – up the gentle slope that leads to the belly of the wooden whale still resting… or recuperating from injuries from harpoons, lies, and forgetting. Defensa Zapatista follows with the Cat-Dog in her arms.

Esperanza Zapatista is still arguing with Pedrito, who is pointing out that not only is it impossible to ‘dance a whale’, but also that it’s impossible for a cetacean (that’s what he calls it) to have ended up in the middle of the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. You don’t get to hear the end of the argument but you can guess how it played out: Esperanza Zapatista, even though she only comes up to Pedrito’s waist, usually ends every argument with: “Men can’t see past their own noses… and they’re snub-nosed!”

You decide to follow Defensa Zapatista, the Cat-Dog and Calamity. Esperanza Zapatista and Pedrito follow behind, complaining that they’re hungry.

You enter into the belly of the enormous animal, which by now is nearly empty. A group of dancers practice their movements. They (ellas, elloas, ellos) bound across the stage which, despite its name, is not higher than the bleachers, but lower.

You sit down and, instead of watching the dancers’ exercises and rehearsal, you watch the reaction of the little gang. Calamity, very excited, has climbed up onto one of the wood bleachers and attempts to execute an echappe simple,[3] and, as she falls onto the wooden bench, it breaks. “Calamity!”, Defensa Zapatista shouts – but Calamity has already climbed onto another bleacher and repeated the move… and another bench is broken. By the time the fifth bench has broken, a cluster of milicianas is trying in vain to restrain her still despite her insistence on challenging the laws of gravity… and logic.

The scene that follows – with Calamity jumping from one bleacher to another with an agility that defies the limits of her body, the milicianas trying to surround and grab her, the cat-dog biting the milicianas, Defensa Zapatista trying to stop the Cat-Dog, Esperanza Zapatista trying to get her phone out to video-record the chaos, Pedrito reminding everyone that perhaps it would be best to have something to eat – doesn’t appear to bother the dancers who seem to hang on a wind that, in the absence of music, blows only in their hearts.

Is it possible to dance an injured whale?

“Oh, the Zapatistas: as usual it’s like they’re watching a movie of their own,” you think to yourself. It’s as if when they talk about the world, they’re referring to a world besides the one we’re all suffering through; as if, traveling in a spaceship, they decided to look not at the world they’re leaving behind but the world that is hiding someplace in the universe… or in their imagination.

Can you imagine the soundtrack to a new, rebellious world rising from the ashes of the old as the latter crumbles imperceptibly?

Then you understand… or you think you do. With “Dance Another World,” Zapatismo is not issuing a challenge, but rather an invitation.

Meanwhile, cornered at the far end of the auditorium, Calamity has stopped the milicianas’ attack – they are listening attentively to the girl’s explanation of the “popcorn game” and her “history of popcorn, Calamity’s version.”

Just then you feel a rumbling under your feet. No – could it be? Yes: it seems that the whale has finally gotten desperate and is trying to restart its journey up the mountainside.

As if dance, the art of dancing another world, had healed its wounds and its heart, and had encouraged it to continue its absurd effort.

But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?


Given the above, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN invites the men, women, others (otroas), children and elders of the Sixth, the CNI and the Networks of Resistance and Rebellion throughout the whole world, as well as anyone who can and wants to, to attend the First Festival of Dance…

“To Dance Another World”

The festival’s first (!) edition will take place in the Zapatista caracoles of Tulan Kaw and Jacinto Canek, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, December 16-20, 2019.

There will be exhibitions of contemporary, classical, and neoclassical dance; folk, aerial, and African dance; bellydancing, butoh, acrobatics, circus performance, participative dance, dark belly dance hip hop fusion, modern dance, hula hoop and fire dance.

The activities will take place in:

  • The caracol of Tulan Kaw, Deceber 16, 17 and 18, 2019, beginning at 10:00AM.
  • The caracol of Jacinto Canek (in the facilities of CIDECI in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas), December 19 and 20, 2019.

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast,


With his beautiful and well-formed body (Ha!) injured from having tried a Temps Levé Coupe.[4] Don’t laugh, I nailed it! … Well, sort of… Okay, okay, I couldn’t do it.

Mexico, December 2019.


[1] Basic ballet exercise involving circling the leg on the ground. Depicted here:
[2] French for “a cat’s step.” In ballet, a sideways jump with both feet brought as high in the air as possible. Shown here:
[3] Ballet move in which the dancer jumps from standing into a wide-footed pose, shown here:
[4] Temps Levé: a small jump. Coupé: A small intermediary step done as preparation for another step. Shown here: