Arpilleras were created in Chile during the dictatorship as a way for women to denounce human rights violations, including mass disappearances, torture and murder. With this quilting technique, messages of pain and despair, but above all of resistance and fighting, are communicated through colorful patchwork and simple forms.
This arpillera was made in London by solidarity groups working with frontline communities. London Mexico Solidarity, a Zapatista support group, invited Movimiento Jaguar Despierto, the Wretched of the Earth and Expresión Inca to together create this disobedient object.
This arpillera reflects the Zapatista struggle in Mexico as an icon of community-based resistance and struggle. It denounces the more than 150,000 deaths and more than 26,000 disappearances that have occurred in the country during the so-called “War on Drugs”, particularly remembering the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa.
It has been stained with oily ink, representing BP’s devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has a history of collaboration with corrupt Mexican governments and will now benefit from President Peña Nieto’s disastrous energy reforms. It is currently bidding to drill in Mexican waters in the Gulf of Mexico, despite having polluted the coast following the spill. In 2015, BP and the Mexican Government celebrated their deadly partnership hosting a “Day of the Dead” festival in the British Museum.
The display of this arpillera in the British Museum is a first step towards the decolonisation of public institutions, and a fossil free culture that respects frontline communities.
“By working together to fight against human rights violations in Mexico, we are building another world in which many worlds fit, as the Zapatistas say”