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Arte a 360 Grados

Communal Aesthetics: Toward a Radical Updating of Memory

Reconfigured in 2019 as a Tequiocalco, Arte a 360 Grados is an organization that resides in Hueytlacuauac, Cuauhtotoatla, Tlaxcalla (Mexico), bringing together professionals in the visual and plastic arts, music, biology, philosophy, multimedia and electronics; and professionals in the knowledge and ways of the altepetl-cuauhtotoatla culture. Its members include Emmanuel Tepal Calvario, Enrique Maraver, Maurilio Sánchez, Joel Martínez, the Romero family from San Nicolás, José Luis Romero, and Cuauhtlalopetzi Cuauhtotoatla. Currently, they are focused on reconfiguring and recovering the Nahua universe through the use of the Nahuatl language, from which they derive the notions of 'doing-thinking,' 'doing-knowing,' and 'doing-learning' of their culture, which allows them to question and face the current problems of their context.



At first, the pretensions or aspirations to modernize the artistic exercise within the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico, was what motivated us to form a collective. It all began with the Minilab_Tlaxcala project of transdisciplinary experimentation in the neighborhood of San Nicolás belonging to the Nahua community of Quauhtotohuatlan (municipality of San Pablo del Monte, Tlax.), whose purpose was to undertake socio-artistic actions based on the synergy between art, science and technology, and the community, which to some extent addressed aspects, interests or problems of the community's reality.

This allowed us to recognize the serious problems that afflict the material, socio-political and cultural life of the community: the lack of memory of our language (Nahuatl), unregulated logging, human trafficking, discrimination, and the extraction of knowledge, among others. In the face of this, artistic work was reduced to being a window for certain areas of reality and no more, a demobilizing "esthetic" showcase, somewhat apolitical, which was not resolved in—or nurtured by—praxis (the community and its problems were offered to new specters of "art": neo-indigenism; the idealization of the community as a creative agent; new age; etc.). The socio-artistic action ends up in the aesthetic pleasure, for example, of the exhibition or re-production, or absorbing everything gained in the theoretical-practical field to that same pleasure, with an almost non-existent contribution to the transcendence, recognition, development, and positioning of the concrete community culture; the minimal exceptions to such a situation became, at the time, strategic allies, support networks, and comrades.

This context helped us understand that we were facing a colonial economic, political and cultural system, whose aesthetics we initially aspired to without being fully aware of it. For this reason, in 2019 we reconfigured ourselves under the Tequiocalco project as campa tlachializtli mozcalializtli in totlamatiliz huan toyuhcatiliz [place where we observe or research and revitalize our wisdom and culture, ways of being or what is lived in the community].

Axan [here-now] we seek to (re)live critically and responsibly not only totlahtoltzin [our language], but the territory, tocuahtla [our mountain], toaltepetl [our altepetl], our Matlalcueyatl, tonelhuayotl [our roots], totlamatiliz [our wisdom], toyuhcatiliz [our culture]; without falling into ethnocentrism reproducing the same suffered violence.


We do not conceive ourselves as owners of a "universal truth" or of "legitimate knowledge," we don't see ourselves as those "destined" to "alphabetize" or "civilize" the "others."

We reject and distance ourselves from being reproductive agents of violence towards those who have the freedom to refuse not to be interested in our knowledge, that is, we refuse to be racializing, discriminating, excluding, infamous, etc. agents.

The violent homogenization of knowledge (and cultures) is a characteristic of the educational system of national states, for whom "universal” or ‘national’ knowledge is power,” “the institution legitimizes knowledge,” “’official’ education is synonymous with ‘status’”1 and the knowledge of our peoples-languages is “ignorance” and “savage thinking,” so it must be displaced or eliminated in order to “civilize.” These ideas have been installed in our spirits, in the communities, in such a way that their knowledge is despised or demeaned, or copied and distorted by certain agents or institutions.

To identify the context or sphere in which pedagogical practice moves or, as the case may be, tries to dissociate itself in pursuit of a genuine (inter)communitarian development of knowledge. The commercialization of education, and the conception of it as a privilege, apart from showing the deep material inequalities, problems of classism and racialization, to which systematically disadvantaged (impoverished) social sectors are subjected, especially indigenous communities, reinforce the disdain for their knowledge or, in other scenarios, “recover” it under specific economic interests (epistemic extraction) by distorting it or taking advantage of it in profitable terms.

It is paramount to disarticulate myths and prejudices about the communities' knowledge, not only to recognize and expand them, but also to incorporate them in the measures and actions for the reconstitution of the territories, of the communities, with a view to the responsible care of the common goods (that the knowledge be a source of wisdom and be effective in the construction and care of the territories). For our case, currently we think of a pedagogical practice of the political thinking of “we”2 as a path for our reconstitution as altepetl-cuauhtotohuatlan. In general terms, this practice addresses the following considerations:

1- it attempts to critically dissociate itself from modernity's promise of infinite growth (progress) in a finite world, sustained by techno-scientific progress and the violent plundering of peoples subsumed by the Western powers.

2- We seek other ways of knowing and acting, ways of doing in thinking and thinking in doing, within the framework of a constant process of community making (of recognizing and caring for the common goods) and in the care of atlalticpac in terms of its finite territories, of its value and material and spiritual wealth, without losing sight of the continuous improvement in its realization. Thinking-doing from ourselves, recovering ourselves critically, collectively and responsibly, with openness to support networks with other communities.

3- 3) We design actions that help to reconstitute our economic-political and territorial processes, at the same time that we assume and position ourselves as us; distancing ourselves more and more from the old European formulas of "revolution" (bourgeois and socialist), and from the hackneyed ideologies of "right" or "left;" for now we walk as the excluded third party with the memory and construction of another truly plural and diverse world.

We believe that to the extent that the educational-pedagogical practice values, recognizes, channels or favors the collective construction of knowledge with/from the knowledge, practices and technologies of the communities, without prejudice or epistemological biases, there can be a significant contribution to artistic practice insofar as it can detonate creative-cognitive processes with and from the community, allowing its strengthening, growth and responsible care.3

Project planning session for the Tequiocalco: Arte a 360 Grados, Comunal: Architecture workshop and *tumbalacasa*. Courtesy: Arte a 360 Grados.

For us, it is important to confront the processes of forgetfulness from an aesthetic mediation in communal frameworks, based on an ethical-political-pedagogical horizon, which nourishes the work aimed at the recovery of ourselves (memory), to the reconfiguration of the territory. Such mediation responds to the task of stirring our spirits to recover our own place of walking, seeing, feeling and living yin atlalticpac den altepetl-cuauhtotoatla; we are convinced that the gradual achievement of this purpose will be a reflection of the living, effective proceeding of doing in thinking and thinking in the doing of our altepetl-cuauhtotohuatlan, and this for us will be the "rebellion of memory," our memory, the radical updating of our past enriching the reading, understanding and transformation of our present, the strength to break the various chains of oppression and colonialism; a moment to which we truly aspire and think, the return to the We.

In the understanding that pedagogical practice can have an "artistic" character, we need to point out some ideas regarding aesthetic mediation. The proposal of mediation does not try to aestheticize practices of various kinds and other socio-bio-cultural elements to place them within the "art" system and market; the decolonial revision of "art" will help to redefine its practice under other approaches, notions and realities; it will serve to abandon the "artistic endeavor" for another discourse, for another name.

Mediation seeks to speak of a subject-other in dialogue with others: with plants, animals, visible and invisible beings, humans. In this same sense, to promote spaces for dialogue, conflict resolution, collaborative work, that serve as a bridge or support to the process of knowing, of appropriation of the territory, of critical revitalization of knowledge, of thinking-doing based on language and territory. We understand that mediation alone is not enough for the reconstitution of the altepetl, but we consider it a proposal that can significantly contribute to its visual, sonorous, verbal, architectural (re)production, etc., and link these components to the plane of action.

Mediation can also be understood as a communal aesthetics that, broadly speaking, bursts and demands, with practice, doing and thinking from our skin and our word, to the modern, Western aesthetics and its ways of death for our territory.

In this sense, the communal aesthetics mediates for the common life in the making-creation of discursive forms that, not only contain in their structure the symbolic materiality of the communal making, but also work from the communal oral transmission. Under this line, our sentipensar is capable of creating a whole body of written, visual and sonorous expressions that allow configuring the process of knowing its (our) territorialized universe through the oral, conceptual and historical deployment of the word.

Communal aesthetics is linked to the persistence and reconfiguration of memory, its updating in different spaces and environments, influencing processes such as the political pedagogy of thought.


We learn from the spaces (sites, specific territories, meeting places, ravines, cultural manifestations, etc.) of the altepetl, especially from those that are the cause of conflict, struggle, venues for the channeling of actions that reproduce symbolic and material violence, or displacements and "cleansing" of our own culture, or are the minimum reason to invent (impose) discourses that follow utilitarian and partisan logics, among others. It is against these situations/actions that impoverish, stigmatize, sell to the highest bidder everything possible of our Nahua-mestizo bio-socio-cultural reality, that we undertake actions and critical reviews. Under this line, we can say that the project is nourished by the conflict arising from the violent processes of forgetfulness and the irresponsible and colonizing "transformation" of our "identity", in the face of which we position ourselves in pursuit of the reconstitution of the altepetl. To this we add the need to recover the Nahuatl language in Cuauhtotoatla, the configuration of our own political pedagogy, the responsible recovery/reappropriation of our biocultural reality, the need for self-representation (in images, sounds, practices, community symbols, etc.), the critical review of tradition.

Undoubtedly, the neighborhood and family ties of the altepetl represent a fundamental point of support, collaboration and work that the project implies and requires; colleagues and comrades from other latitudes and from the community are of great help and, at the time, strategic points. The dialogue with communities of other regions and problems (related or not so much, apparently) help to feed back the own thinking-doing.



Ideas appear when the social, biocultural, political and economic reality demands answers to its problems or new dimensions. This demand leads to mobilize, expand and review that which nourishes the thinking-doing. The idea moves us in the active, critical and responsible construction of the altepetl, allows us to rethink and move away from frivolities and banalities.

As an organization we seek autonomy and to defend the territory through an ethical-aesthetic-political pedagogy of the feeling-thinking of the nahuas of the altepetl Cuauhtotoatla, in areas related to eating, healing, living, coexistence, communal aesthetic work and the recovery and strengthening of our own technological and scientific autonomy.


Depending on the moment or situation, doubts, errors, intuitions and contingencies play an important role since they favor and channel the pertinent revisions of the processes or the development of the actions. They also help to broaden or refocus the reading of the changing and porous scenario -and with it, the actions themselves-, as well as to identify actors or agents that had not been considered at the time or that are appearing in the course of the initiative in question, and that have a direct or indirect impact. They also help to recognize the temporal and material limits of the actions, and help to project with greater coherence. In the face of such situations, a creative/inventive procedure with a sense of responsibility can be encouraged. Doubt, error, contingency, intuition help to achieve greater clarity of the horizon; review, reorient, refocus processes and actions, abandon what is not useful, pass through the sieve of criticism that which requires it, reinvent oneself creatively and responsibly.

Over time we have recognized the importance of breaking the silence in order to find ourselves; those silences systematically produced and imposed suffocate us. Such a change of focus in the processes is neither easy nor free, but it is the price to pay for seeking the realization of the purpose that guides us: the reconstitution of our peoples, the healing of our wounds and the construction of another path from us for the We that we are.

Strategies, Dialogues and Procedures

In the delimitation, diagnosis and design of the proposal, we employ horizontal dialogue, making use of the points of view and readings from different spheres and knowledge (of the members, of community knowledge bearers willing to participate, of external agents sought in specific cases). Tools are used to synthesize information (maps, tables, etc.) or to gather ideas, perceptions, concerns (brainstorming, spider webs, etc.); resources (own and required), limitations, management actions are identified, and responsibilities are delegated (with prior agreement and consensus) to implement the proposal.

For operationalization, responsibilities are also delegated (with prior agreement and consensus) and times are agreed upon for socializing progress and feedback in order to recognize problems and better channel the initiative. In the same way, we proceed with the final feedback, accountability, impact of the work, collaboration networks, and establishment of new lines of action, according to the situation of the context.


In progress

In 2016-17, we launched the sound project La lengua del diablo4 [The Devil’s Tongue] focused on the Nahuatl language, still present in the community of San Pablo del Monte Cuauhtotoatla, Tlaxcala, and on everything that contributes to its disappearance. The project used the 'devil' as a metaphor, a guiding image, to account for the forms of negative valuation of the Nahuatl language and its implications (forgetfulness, racism, etc.). La lengua del diablo was a way to show—if possible—a Nahua community that lives forgetting itself, due to the devil's way of proceeding. Thus, in its gradual development, the project found echoes in different latitudes, making a latent map of languages of the devil emerge.

From this experience emerged the project Las Lenguas del Diablo [The Devil’s Tongues] (2020), in which we continue working, deepening in the implications and effects of the devil (from its metaphysical-religious/external conception to man and as a human problem), in the current territorial, political, biocultural and linguistic panorama of Cuauhtotoatla; with a view to identify and promote forms of re-existence and consolidate their own knowledge in the face of homogeneous and violent, historical and systematic processes, which entail—depending on the cases, interests and moments—dispossession, displacement, extractivism, gentrification, racism, ethnocide, among others, and which are sheltered in the discourses of modernity. It is not superfluous to point out that the reinforcement and problematization of language is a pillar in the work, of utmost importance for the construction of our own knowledge and to delineate the current panorama. Of course, collaboration and dialogue with other native peoples and communities are part of the ongoing work.

In Retrospect

Arte a 360 Grados' work has led us to understand that many ways of seeing and feeling the world are denied for being considered lacking in "scientific" rigor or not corresponding to the methodologies of Eurocentric sciences. Such is the case of the ways of seeing and feeling of the "indigenous" people-language where we live, where most of the knowledge is re-produced orally or through practices (or a combination of both). All this reflective path is a glance at ourselves, which guides us to find ourselves in that which we want to conserve and preserve: our Nahua language and the world produced from it. Thus we have recognized the importance of thinking from our world, memory, experience, imagination, with our bodies and life; from the political-territorial and aesthetic exercise of memory, outside of hegemonic epistemologies, within our own voices, oralities, narratives, textualities, listeners, speakers; with the traces of our past and its present actualization. This journey, which has been going on for 14 years now, has reconfigured us and moves us to continue in the emergence of promoting spaces for dialogue, lines of action, and communal work for the systematization, critique, revitalization and documentation of the Nahua knowledge of Cuauhtotoatla, Tlaxcala, as well as its implementation for the reconstruction of the altepetl.


Our context as a racialized, discriminated, segregated, pulverized people-language demands a critical, sincere, mature dialogue between architectural, editorial, scientific, artistic rationalities and techniques... and the forms of knowledge still present (this helps to better understand the context in which we find ourselves, and to consider that which, filtered through the sieve of criticism, can help us to regain control over the re-production of our reality). Undoubtedly, our context, its problems, requirements or demands, as well as its apparent ambiguities, channel lines of action or nourish practices in terms of (re)approach, expansion or linkage to other sphere(s).5

According to its situation, level of cohesion, problems, etc., the territory has a fundamental influence, since it is a (re)generator and (re)promoter for the realization, maturing and effective incidence of thinking-doing, of genuinely political organization, of defense strategies. Without effective and concrete incidence of the territory and its components, artistic reflection (and of other kinds) would hardly cease to be a matter of mere psychological and egocentric order, a situation favorable to the logics that discursively and materially undermine or annihilate the territory according to their interests, and that can co-opt or use such "reflections" for their ends.

We understand a similar situation for reflection or pedagogical practice: without the effective incidence of the territory and its components, the procedure results in a repetition of forms without content, or with foreign content, without effective incidence and with high possibilities of being distorted and even producing negative impacts on it.