“I Believe in an Anti-Systemic Feminism.” A Conversation with María Galindo

When María Galindo (La Paz, Bolivia, 1964) entered the courtroom dressed entirely in red and black, accused of destruction or deterioration of state property and national wealth, she did so with a necklace of broken dolls. The crime: a street intervention signed by Mujeres Creando. The graffiti denounced read: “Feminicide is a crime of the patriarchal State.”

Several years ago, I had a dream. I saw a last body fall from a last Fiat airplane. I saw Maria Galindo fall wrapped in ropes as in a bondage practice. Thrown by a macho-powered light aircraft. An erratic load under the sea. A sea with minimal undulations that do not even amount to waves, like the pool in which Fitzgerald’s Gatsby died while waiting for a telegram from Daisy; a telegram that never arrived. Or like the Mekong River in The Lover by Marguerite Duras. Waters that don’t seem to move. They seem stagnant. Blood in the body.

The blood in María Galindo’s body boils. We are sitting on the second level of the sweet shop La Mallorquina, in the heart of the heart of Madrid. An hour ago, I wrote to her because I knew she was in this city and I could not miss the chance to approach her and ask her some questions. She replied: “I’m practically on my way to the airport.” I told her that if she gave me half an hour it would be enough.

Maria, what is bastard feminism?

First, we should talk about bastardism. Bastardism is a political place; a historical place. Bastardism is the place of the illegitimate. It is the place of the in-between; in the middle of. Bastardism is also a colonial category, of racism, of a racism that has nothing to do with skin color, but with real racism. Racism is not a problem of skin color, it is a problem of hierarchical social categories.

Bastardism for me is a political place to encompass all these factors simultaneously outside of rigid identities and outside of legitimacy. That’s why bastardism could also be understood in relation to whatever you want: fields of knowledge, aesthetic fields, geographical positions.

When you say that in the face of power, we do not empower ourselves, but rather we rebel, what are you referring to? What forms of revolt do you think are the most coherent with this necropolitical drift of the planet?

I don’t know if there is a necropolitical drift of the planet. There is a necropolitical drift of capitalism. Capitalism and the planet are not the same thing. Capitalism, you and I are not the same. You have zero power to move capitalism. So do I. When I say that in the face of power you are not empowered, I mean that we have a power problem. I recognize that we have a power problem. But our problem cannot be trying to have power. It is not going from not having power to having power. Our problem is the relationship with power, with the forms of power.

Feminisms on a global scale, but also indigenisms, have been sold the developmentalist thesis driven by international cooperation, which is colonial. They say: “What women need is power.” This is the nonsense that was also circulated at the International Feminist Meeting We Call It Feminist. The Ministry of Equality did not know how to say anything else: “Women want power and we need power.” The same silly idea… Forgive me if it is not silly, but it is simple. The same simplicity circulates over and over again.

Patriarchy, colonialism, ecocide, adopt black figures, women, indigenous, to perpetuate the same necropolitical model. They tell us: “There you have the woman, there you have the black, the black woman, the indigenous person. Didn’t you want that? There it is.”

María Galindo (photo courtesy of the interviewee).

As tokens.

That is the most innocuous place we can occupy. That’s the origin of the anger I speak about. People understand it in a second. Besides, the thesis of empowerment not only becomes the iconic use of a black man, a woman, an Indian, but it also becomes a banal analysis of power.

All relationships are power relationships…

But one thing is that all relationships are power relationships and another is that they impose absolutely everything on you. That is what is happening to us. I come from Bolivia. I am absolutely convinced that there is a colonial suprapower so enormous that the governments of the south of the world are mere administrators of that project. They have no aspiration, no possibility, no intelligence to redirect, to question, to affect the global colonial project.

The idea that empowerment means making the decision to get a divorce, the idea of raising your voice, becoming an entrepreneur instead of an unemployed person, is the nonsense, the bullshit that international cooperation, the World Bank, the NGOs are selling to women as a whole. There is a desire to insert—and to a large extent they have succeeded—a political confusion between power, counter-power, rebellion against power and empowerment.

I like the concept of power that Flores used to use for Spanish men and women.

Lola?

Yes, of course. Lola spoke of power: “I am me.” Power is not empowerment. Empowerment did not even correspond to her time. The ability to denounce, to rebel, that is not empowerment. I would accept, with Lola, that this is power.

María, I think you are making a clarification between bodies as objects of power and bodies as political subjects. What is the distinction?

The political subject is also subjected. The condition of subject is not purely sovereign. There is no such thing as sovereignty. At the same time that I enunciate myself as subject I enunciate myself as subjected. That is the intrinsic ambivalence of any place and of any condition. This must be understood as a perpetual ambivalence. A pre-existing ambivalence. Absolute distinctions lead us to wrong conclusions and also to wrong forms of politics.

During the International Feminist Meeting We Call It Feminist, several videos went viral where you question the audience in a very emphatic way. How do you handle anger? Can we talk about anger?

Yes, we can talk about anger cubed. I didn’t bring dynamite because I value my freedom, but otherwise I would come with dynamite. I can’t stand a Meeting where they say, “We women want power.” Do you want power? You have every right to want it, to desire it, to mythologize it and whatever you want. But not in my name. The complexity of feminisms cannot be reduced to one position. At the International Feminist Meeting, somehow, there was the will to do that.

No, honey, we are here because we have visions and issues that we have to raise, period. Apart from the fact that the power they referred to is laughable. What they call power is not power. What they call power is ambition for power, ambition for status. I believe in an anti-systemic feminism.

I come from Bolivia. We are having a tough time right now. What the exploitation of lithium is going to be in terms of what we are as a nation is going to be again the situation of the 17th century, in the same terms. Our capacity to challenge this extraction of “riches” will probably be less than what we had in the 17th century.

In Europe they are subjected to a very large form of depredation of nature, but they are no longer aware, they are no longer capable of realizing it. We, as southerners, are subjected to an intensive and very evident process of destruction of nature, we can see it. In Bolivia there are still places where I can stand and say: “There used to be jungle here.” In Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru. It is not a Bolivian problem. To say: “There used to be jungle here. There used to be rain here. We didn’t have a drought. There used to be humidity here.” Today, as societies, we are in a situation of much disaster and much destruction of our own knowledge and of our social relations.

I come with that anger, of course. In Bolivia I also act from anger, permanently. I believe that anger is absolutely legitimate.

It is a power of transformation.

I believe it is an equal power. Wake up! In the case of the International Feminist Meeting We Call It Feminist I felt I was speaking to a sleeping audience. They were asleep. The need to wake up, that is, the agitative need, exists.

María, from where you stand, how do you observe what is happening in Cuba?

I wrote, after July 11, a column called “What is happening in Cuba?” I am very critical. I do not forgive the left for a second what has happened in Cuba, in Nicaragua, in Bolivia itself. I do not forgive them for a second because, moreover, they had the decisions in their hands. We are on the side of revolutions, but that is not the way things are done. They did not listen to us, they did not want to. Caudillismo has been a very strong process. I say this for Bolivia, but in Cuba we also have it, although the Bolivian process was nowhere near as bad as what has happened Cuban.

Fidel Castro took the situation in Cuba to the extreme that everything is now counterrevolution. And the only way out, probably, is counterrevolutionary. Do not tell me anymore, because I am fed up with it, that the blockade and this and that. There was also an internal blockade. I speak of Cuba as a pimp socialism.

I never had the privilege of being in Cuba because they didn’t let me in…

How come? What do you mean they didn’t let you in?

The thing is that many years ago, I don’t even remember, I was invited to a Film Festival in Havana and I couldn’t get a visa.

Who didn’t give it to you? The Cuban Government?

Yes, the Cuban Government.

When you talked about the new way of extracting lithium in Bolivia by patriarchal-colonial powers, I remembered a notion just coined in Dysphoria mundi by Paul B. Preciado: the petrosexoracial aesthetics. The petrosexoracial as a technology of extractivism. In territories as bodies. In human bodies as territories. Do you share Paul’s idea?

No. I value Paul’s vision very much, but I do not fully share it. I do not adopt his nomenclature. There are things I don’t understand and there are others that I understand and formulate in a different way. I think bodies are what we have left. I am a lesbian. I am the first public lesbian in Bolivian society. I am an archeological monument. I remember very well my process of enunciation, of affirmation. I also see it in large masses in Bolivia. In Bolivia there is no state sovereignty, but there is collective and personal sovereignty. I believe the body is what we have left. I would not say the body is what we have also lost. I would not say that.

I see in Bolivia a very broad emancipation of the body. New forms of disobedience. New forms of very daring aesthetic expressions.

Like what?

Like, for example, sleeping in the street. I am not talking about the person who sleeps in the street, Madrid style. That person who is broken, the homeless person that one day they are going to kill. I’m talking about women who take to the streets as a means of subsistence. Women who have to travel many hours to set up their stall and who, therefore, take their midday siesta, pleasant, sunny, wonderful, in the street. I have a short film about that called Vengarnos del cansancio. You can easily run into a woman at her stall. And nobody wakes her up. Nobody dares to wake her up. That event, to give you an example, is very poetic.

What about sexuality?

Sexuality in Bolivia is still a truly captured and strangled terrain due to a very strong colonial ancestry of punishment, of persecution. Little by little we are untying that knot. I do believe that there is a consciousness of having lost the body in terms of sexual pleasure. I do think that this awareness is going to become something more interesting. I hope it translates into a desire to recover it. The awareness of loss is present.

What are your current aspirations as a performer?

I don’t have any aspirations. I don’t fragment it. I do politics. Everything comes together there. What I do are absolutely new, inaugural forms of politics. At this moment I am dedicated to building an anti-fascist social empathy. At this moment as a performer, but not only as a performer, I am interested in social empathy. For me social empathy is a very important concept. What capitalism has broken is not only our desire, our subjectivity, but empathy, the capacity to resonate with each other. That empathy has to be rebuilt; it is very important. Besides, I am interested in building a different empathy, not from conciliation, but from indignation, from rage, from the ugly, from the grotesque.

You would rather stay in Bolivia, why?

Ten days in Spain wither me. I am on the verge of withering away. I am leaving like Cinderella who leaves before the magic of the party is over.

What is it that withers you?

Relationships here are destroyed. They are completely destroyed and I don’t want to live in a society with destroyed relationships. That’s the first thing. Secondly, I don’t want to fight here for a very questionable legitimacy, which is that I would acquire as an artist, a migrant, I don’t know. These are appellatives that completely burden me. I cannot hear the word migrant. What is happening is not migration. It is economic and political exile. Economic exile is political exile. It is a destruction of our lands, of our societies. People leave because they have no other opportunity.

I want to go against the current of the word migrant. I don’t want to be a migrant. I can’t stand the lines. I would not put up with it. I would not put up with living in a destroyed society or coming to fight for legitimacy in institutions that I myself question: the university, the encyclopedia, universalism, human rights, art. They are all European cultural institutions that I question.

And, on the other hand—I don’t know if it happens to you in Cuba—, in Bolivia you put a political seed and a flower comes out. Interlocutions are not destroyed. The role I play in Bolivia is very important.

María Galindo (photo courtesy of the interviewee).

When I entered La Mallorquina I thought about the dissident food produced by Mujeres Creando. I thought of Mujeres Creando as an experiment that is also built around the kitchen.

Mujeres Creando is an experiment that could die tomorrow. It is not a vanguard. It is not a model of anything. It is an experiment in permanent change. We work as a cooperative, everyone does what they want, I don’t represent anyone. In Mujeres Creando no one represents anyone. We propose a collective management of health, of food, of education, of social struggle, that is not unionized, that is anti-systemic, that goes beyond who you are. That is why we say: “We are Indians, whores and lesbians, together, mixed-up and united.” We are not an identity movement. We don’t believe in identities. Mujeres Creando is, at the same time, something very big and very small. I belong to Mujeres Creando because I believe in collectivities. I am always linked to some collective experience. Changes are made as a team, through a collective consciousness. That consciousness never ends. It is something you are part of.

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EDGAR ARIEL
EDGAR ARIEL
Edgar Ariel (Holguín, Cuba, 1994). Journalist, researcher and art critic. Master in Theoretical Studies of Dance (2020) at the University of the Arts of Cuba (ISA) and Bachelor in Journalism (2018) at the University of Holguin. He is a graduate of the Centro de Formación Literaria Onelio Jorge Cardoso. He is currently researching on the configuration of post-critical aesthetics in Cuba. He is part of the Rialta staff.

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