Accepted paper:

My world is being staged: indigenous theatre in Chiapas, Mexico


Susanna Rostas (Cambridge University)

Paper short abstract:

Many events have performative elements but theatre differs from others in its 'self consciousness'. Theatre is always theatrical, outside everyday life and can parody and comment on the quotidian. By this means it can increase cultural awareness, support social upheaval and new forms of sociality.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will look at actors (and the plays that they create) who come from various indigenous communities but are based in the mestizo town of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Teatro Lo'il Maxil (Monkey Business Theatre) emerged from the writers co-operative Sna Jtz'bajon some 20 years ago and more recently an all female theatrical group (FOMMA) has also been formed. At least one new play is written and produced each year by Lo'il Maxil. In addition to those that have clearly historical themes (such as to teach the audience about their Mayan past), many open up a forum using both traditional metaphors and new tropes to look at and discuss creatively the cultural changes that indigenous people are having to face as they try to adjust to the new realities that globalization is bringing (especially as more and more are leaving their natal communities). Lo'il Maxil performs throughout this extensive indigenous region using the local language Tzotzil; in Spanish in other States in Mexico and has even visited the United States. This is theatre with an audience, but one in which participation is welcomed as a form of social activism linked to identity politics, as increasingly a self-consciousness about daily life becomes more wide spread.

panel G50
'All the world's a stage': the social and political potentialities of theatre and performance