“Ilusionismo Social” has been at the center of our experience in Cuernavaca.
Translating from Principios de Ilusionismo Social written by Javier Encina, director of UNILCO- espacio nomada, and others:
“What we call social illusionism: is a form of doing [forma de hacer] that bases itself in a dialectic dimension, that has a point of departure in the participative methodologies (especially in the IAP [investigacion-accion participativa: a bottom-up participative method of education and training]) and that develops itself in work with popular cultures. As central axis it has the dynamization and generation of wished social mediations [mediaciones sociales deseadas] in daily spaces and times; for this, one works with and from the people [con y desde la gente], moving within the possible toward hope of the impossible, through the resourcefulness [auto-gestión] of daily life. Without distinguishing between the thinking and the feeling, action and knowledge, the recognition and learning of knowledges.”
Javier Encina, whom we will meet in July, is friends with our closest coworkers and friends here, Polina and Juan Manuel who also work at UNILCO, and Erik. UNILCO is the Universidad Libre para la Construcción Colectiva, the free university for collective construction. It is founded on the concept of ilusionismo social, which it practices and promotes in many parts of the world. It is based in Seville and has branches in Andalucía, Madrid, Canarias, Mexico, Argentina and France.
Ilusionismo social can be understood as a process that sets itself in the dialectic between wished mediations and imposed and consensual mediations, as understood from the article “Participando con y desde la gente” by Javier Encina. It is the reverse and reversal of disillusionment, in a movement from the realm of the possible (imposed and consensual mediations [mediations are collectively constructed ways of “doing/feeling/thinking the world”]) to the realm of the impossible (wished mediations).
Because ilusionismo social happens in daily life, within communities and popular culture, it promotes popular activities, skills and knowledge as well as recognized and intuitive social ties and exchanges in daily life. By the same token, and because it acts in the spaces and times of daily life [tiempos y espacios cotidianos], it progresses non-linearly, without devising a definite product or outcome, nor a methodology and the setting of definite goal and final products, which imply the imposition of an extraneous and inflexible rhythm, regime and authority. It is thus opposed to the reliance on and compliance to institutions of any kind. In these ways ilusionismo social expresses the autonomy, self-sustainability and self-empowerment of communities.
These ideas garner substance and depth for Nour and I day by day, as we work and live (wishing not to distinguish between the two, nor knowing how) with Juan Manuel, Erik and Polina, and participating in their projects at the Texcal and La Estacion (see Nour’s post). These are led by Juan Manuel and Polina with the support of Erik and the Fundacion Comunidad, and are carried through along the axis of ilusionismo social.
Ilusionismo social at the Texcal
Here are some aspects of the community project at the Texcal that serve to understand ilusionismo social.
It was initiated two years ago with a Tendedero de los Deseos (a clothline of wishes) at different points in the apartment complex “Unidad El Paraje”, where anyone near could write what they wished for their community. They wished for facilities for composting and recycling (the private company who collects the trash of the area sets a high price for each trash bag – five or ten pesos depending on its size), for a soccer field, etc.
Initiatives that followed included the rehabilitation of a semi-abandoned pool complex with the participation of the comuneros, who maintain the place, and neighbors of the Unidad, who walk and bathe there. Among these are the cultivation of mushrooms and chicken breeding in abandoned concrete structures.
There are regular meetings between neighbors of the Unidad, and often Erik, Juan Manuel, Polina and us, to appreciate and discuss ongoing and future projects surrounding recycling. These projects are supported by the nearby chemical company that is leading a water sanitation project, and called for this accompanying “social” project to ensure its sustainability. There have been altercations between the company and UNILCO because it has been demanding concrete results and a definite schedule; but these imply to measure and “increase” input from individuals and accelerate the pace of life, and such measures conflict with ilusionismo social.
Discussions are held in neighbor’s houses, and carried with joy and humor, non-hierarchically and informally. They are open to anyone, and, everytime, we’ve been with at least two children, sometimes babies. The last reunion I attended was held in a family’s garden, around snacks and tamarindo juice, to talk and record for a radio program. When the radio host didn’t show up, there was no sense of dependence on the person, nor of “not sticking to the plan”; we expressed ideas and wishes regardless. It was followed by lunch and conversation at a taqueria with many from the reunion, and others, that sometimes turned to burlesque political commentary which we called “un debate taquero”.
Though neither at the Texcal nor at the Estacion, the members of UNILCO are part of the community, they nonetheless are always welcomed and accompanied by people who, in turn, become friends, and themselvesrepresentatives of ilusionismo social. Little work is done off-site and individually by members of UNILCO; most, if not all, work is done on-site and collectively for mutual training, sharing and living together.
If for Nour and I ilusionismo social is at the heart of our experience here, it is because it also defines a mode of participatory research which we wish to adopt so that our presence and work as researchers may also directly support and inform the solidarity economy here. Ilusionismo social – for autonomous, self-sustainable communities and empowered popular cultures – finally defines for me an essential form of solidarity, perhaps an ideal for the solidarity economy, and a point of resistance against assistencialism and classical capitalism that are the predominant social development strategies in Mexico and worldwide.