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UNR exhibit focuses on the role of women in Mexico’s Zapatista movement

A wall painted red with images and text depicting the Zapatista movement.
Maria Palma
KUNR Public Radio
“Ella: Women in EZLN” will be on display in the Sheppard Fine Art Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno from May 19 through June 7.

Diana Espinoza Chamale, a master’s student at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), has been preparing “Ella: Women in the EZLN” for about seven months. It’s a bilingual exhibit that focuses on the roles of the women involved in the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional in Mexico.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation is a far-left political and militant group that claims to control a substantial amount of territory in Chiapas, Mexico.

Since 1994, the group has been nominally at war with the Mexican state and is made up of mostly rural Indigenous people.

Espinoza’s research has to do with the role women played in the early stages of the movement.

“I’m focusing more so on the women’s work in 1994, and how instrumental they were within the Zapatista rebellion,” she said. “A lot of Western media went down to Chiapas but they didn’t focus on the women, which was really interesting. So I’m taking a historical perspective on it.”

Her intention with the exhibit is to educate everyone, she says, but also to change and update the way the Mexican community views Indigenous women.

“There’s the stereotypes that Indigenous women are backwards. There’s all kinds of derogatory terms in Spanish for how you refer to Indigenous people and Indigenous women. I want to show a different part that isn’t in the main historical narrative,” Espinoza said.

“Ella: Women in the EZLN” offers more than 50 visual and interactive art pieces that will immerse the public into the history of the Zapatista women.

“I would say about 90% of the text is quotes. And that’s because I wanted the women to tell their own stories. It keeps with the same color scheme, the red, white, and black, those are Zapatista colors. Then there’s an interactive map where you can mess with the sheets to kind of see how land in Mexico has changed,” Espinoza said.

The exhibit will be on display in the Sheppard Fine Art Gallery at the University of Nevada, Reno from May 19 through June 7. Admission is free.

As a note of disclosure, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents owns the license to this station.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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