Kammer 2



In the past decade, more than 170,000 executions were registered in Mexico and about 30,000 missing persons were tallied. Is Mexico therefore a deeply violent country, as is often suggested? If not, what are the origins and causes of this gruesome escalation in violence?

At the beginning of the 21st century, there was still the impression that this development had been permanently halted. The murder rate in Mexico fell sharply. Then, exactly a decade ago, Felipe Calderon was elected as president. After he declared war on drug trafficking, the country slid more than ever into a maelstrom of violence.

A rapid increase in abductions and killings of women is one of the tragic outcomes. Mass graves containing up to 100 bodies have been discovered. Images of devastated villages have been deeply engraved onto the collective consciousness. These tortured and dismembered human bodies hold the significance of a spectacle in Mexico. Each individual act follows a system of signs and carries a terrible message. This bears the features of a war of annihilation, which a population has declared upon itself.

Two years ago on 26 September 2014, no fewer than 43 university students at a training school for primary school teachers in Iguala were kidnapped and murdered. At the time it looked as if the first signs of a protest culture would develop in Mexico. This crime moved the public more than any other because in the course of the otherwise inconclusive investigations, it was discovered that the victims all belonged to a group that had opposed the discriminatory hiring and pay practices of the Mexican government. They were arrested and transferred by the police to the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, which was akin to authorising their execution.

Since then, public outrage has noticeably decreased again. However, on a more profound level, there seems to be a growing part of the population that is no longer prepared to accept drug-related crime, its associated violence, the sudden disappearance of people and the corruption that reaches deep into the state apparatus. People want to break the stranglehold that organised crime keeps on the entire country – and with it, the people who live there.

The performing arts play an important role for this civic momentum. In recent years, a number of young directors and performers has emerged who have broken away from the rigid aesthetic orientations of previous generations and, often using minimal scenographic means, enter public space to reclaim what first seem to be unsuitable venues for new forms of political theatre. An outstanding representative of this trend is Ángel Hernández, who has declared it his goal to reclaim and revitalise spaces and settings once damaged or even destroyed by organised crime; with the means of and for the purposes of art, he wants to make them available to the population once more.

Three prominent intellectuals from Mexico City will gather for a small symposium on the occasion of the Endstation Sehnsucht festival and explore the diverse relationships between art and politics, theatre and activism against the background of developments outlined here.

The critic and theorist Luz Emilia Aguilar Zinser analyses the political situation in Mexico and Central America, and the extent to which it has changed the artistic practice of the performing arts. If violence itself has become performative itself in such a fundamental way, what options does theatre have to distance itself from a grim reality, instead of duplicating it behind the back of its own intentions?

The writer and festival director Jorge Volpi deals with the issue of drug-related crime and the different perspectives that have developed both inside and outside the country on this phenomenon. He focuses on bestseller thrillers like “The Cartel” by Don Winslow, but also pop culture trends such as “narcocorridos”, a genre of song that is immensely successful particularly in the United States, in which the cruel acts of drug kingpins are glorified.

Ileana Diéguez is a university teacher of theatre and the visual arts. Using examples from both disciplines and using the medium of cultural activities, she talks about ways in which to process and grieve over traumatic events such as the disappearance of loved ones. The central “character” is the “missing burial” in which, especially in Latin America, an “unfinished historical grief” is reflected.

Part of Endstation Sehnsucht – Theater in Mexico: A festival about flight, identity and the representability of violence

Curated by Christoph Gurk and Ilona Goyeneche.

In cooperation with Goethe-Institut Mexiko. Funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes. Supported by Secretaría de Cultura de México, Goethe-Institut München and Instituto Cervantes.

Next to the individual ticket a FESTIVAL PASS is available at the box office.

FESTIVAL PASS (for 6 days): 60 Euro / discounted 40 Euro

In order to see the full program click here.