Reports - Caribbean Chile Mexico

Camila Marambio

Reading time: 10 minutes



Above and Below: Reflections on Freedom and Emancipatory Processes

Camila Marambio writes about The Current IV: Caribbean (other mountains, adrift beneath the waves) a curatorial project directed by Yina Jimenez Suriel for TBA21, whose extended programming convened Convening #1 last December. Emancipation, opacity, and movements that transform from the mountains.

A partial chronicle of contar transformaciones oceánicas (telling of oceanic transformations), a festival curated by Yina Jiménez Suriel for the convening #1 of otras montañas, las que andan sueltas bajo el agua (other mountains, those that are loose underwater), in the fourth three-year cycle (2023–2025) of The Current, commissioned by TBA21.

Mona Island is located in the Mona Channel, the strait that separates Quisqueya/Dominican Republic from Borikén/Puerto Rico. The sighting of Mona from the air opened windows in my awareness of time, like a cavernous portal, and only then did I understand a phrase that Yina Jiménez Suriel had repeated several times during the festival, “Freedom and emancipatory processes are not the same”.

  1. Emancipatory processes are actions of struggle to survive. Through resistance or flight, the processes of emancipation are a continuous rebellion against the deprivation of freedom. Mona is closer to the DR than to PR, so why does it belong to PR and, therefore, to the United States?
  2. Emancipatory processes are ways of constructing and trafficking forms of subjugated knowledge. These safeguard the ancestral, alternative, and collective knowledge that imperialism tries to destroy with oppression, genocide, and ideological machinery determined to raise an individualistic construct of exceptionalism. Mona is described as a calcium carbonate rock platform from the Miocene Epoch (approximately 5.3 million years old), which was exposed after the Bahama Banks collided with the Caribbean Plate and caused the sea floor uplift.
  3. The freedom that neoliberalism offers us, built on slavery, extractivism, heteropatriarchy, and the military industrial complex, among others, wants to make the binding ties among humans, non-humans, elementals, and extraterrestrials disappear. Sensual, opaque, chaotic, and material bonds that contradict the fallacy of free will, of illumination, of stability, of the disciplines of knowledge and of bodies. Mona hides a cave system well known to the Indigenous people who freely inhabited the Caribbean prior to the stalking and massacres inflicted by conquerors and settlers. Their art is still captured on the surfaces of the island’s maw. Flying over this repository of images—pictographs made with complex techniques, including the use of bat excrement as pigment and plant resin to fix the writing to the rock—I think about the “other mountains, the ones that are loose under the water,” I review my erratic notes, frantically written on loose sheets, trying to put into words what happened in another cave on December 8 and 9, 2023.

Freedom and emancipatory processes are not the same

Located in the center of Parque Iberoamerica, a green space in the Dominican capital, what is now called the Cueva Santa Ana was also beneath the sea in the distant past. Like the Mona caves, its composition of karst (calcium carbonate) and water-sculpted porosity tells us about the origins of the Caribbean islands. Nowadays, the cave is a public amphitheater that has a simple open-air platform, a stage inhabited by bats, bees, and butterflies that flew incessantly around those of us who temporarily visited that space during the two days of the festival, especially when we entered the cave to protect ourselves from the rain that choreographed the first day.


Allowing time to curve naturally, Yina appeared as flexible as living coral. Confronted with the downpour, she modified the order of events and transparently practiced improvisation, one of the main strategies of emancipatory processes. Coordinating with the TBA21 team—Maria Montero Sierra and Elisa Cuesta—and the local technicians, Yina moved the initial activities to the interior of the cave. And that is how about thirty of us found ourselves in the dark, settling on the floor to listen to the first round of presentations, after a loving introduction made in dialogue between Yina and Markus Reymann, the co-director of TBA21.

The uprising
comes from the bottom of the ocean floor.
those who escape
evade subduction.
They step aside,
a sliding step,
a strike.


The Dominican marine biologist Yasmín Evangelista, the Saint Vincentian artist Nadia Huggins, and the Dominican psychologist Patricia Molina presented a workshop under the title “Nadar hasta hacerse coral” (Swim until you become coral). Each of them, in their own way and from very personal places, narrated their emancipatory processes. Neither posthumanism, nor techno-shamanism, nor transcendental aspiration. What these three women presented were their escape routes. Honest stories of bodies that defied traumas, restrictions, and inhibitions to reintroduce themselves to the ocean. Crossing disciplines, the afternoon of listening and a guided meditation exercise provided accounts of embodied knowledge acquired through wonder, repetition, persistence, and joy, as well as an urgent insistence on the production of interspecies relationships.

The deep ditch
is a dividing trench
between reality and fiction.

Immersing herself for years in the waters of the bay closest to her home in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with her camera in hand, Nadia Huggins intimately records the vitality of the corals and seems to discover the silent potential of buoyancy. Shimmering photographs of swimming bodies, including her own, recover a resplendent oceanic, quantum, geomorphological imaginary, in which immersing is not disappearing. It is a maroon act that undoes the vertical order of the world, that reverses stony hierarchies, giving room to worlds of improvisation, to rebellions that twist freely because they are loose under the sea.


She intersperses her images with a cuático story about a real estate company that wanted to develop yet another hotel on her native island, privatizing a beach where people usually swam. In response, Nadia posted images on Facebook. One after another, they appeared as evidence that contradicted the “scientific research” that said that there were no reefs at that location and, therefore, it didn’t matter that the development would modify the currents of the bay, intervening with solid rocks to create a “pool,” the image of the Caribbean paradise that tourists expect. The resulting debate had profuse effects in all directions: death threats, confluences of solidarity among neighbors who also opposed the project, and above all, for those people who, for various reasons, do not immerse themselves under the sea, including the scientists from the study who never went to see-hear the aquatic biodiversity. Nadia showed all the people who promoted the project that there was life down there. The hotel was never built.

Nadia is (a)cuática. She is not afraid of confrontation when it comes to defending the ocean, its rights, its difference, and its corals. When the rain stopped, we saw her moving images projected on a large screen: the videos Coral and Ash and Circa No Future do not hide the political force they contain behind their beauty. They manifest chaos as a process of aesthetic transformation.

“Why is it easier to think about the end of the world than the end of the State?” repeats danie valencia sepúlveda. “What needs to be sustained? Or, rather, what are the sensitivities that sustain and sediment fascist reasoning?” they ask us during their presentation on the morning of the festival’s second day, which ends with the projection of a video essay by karkará tunga that shows, among other things, some images of the revolts in Chile. The Chilean students who raised a cuática in front of the Government Palace risked everything, demanding a new Constitution with their bodies. They did not fear disorder nor did they negotiate with power, but bravely abandoned education, conversation, and the aesthetics of order to break with the “factory of worlds.” Nowadays, Chile is broken, there is no doubt about that, and it remains to be seen what other world will be rebuilt.


I talk about Chile because I know it and because the student uprising coincides almost exactly with the date on which the Caribbean arrived in the country. The (a)cuático Caribbean, unrestrained, exorbitant, abundant in languages, rhythms, rebellious subcultures, and emancipatory processes, landed in the South thanks to Dominican and Haitian, as well as Colombian and, more recently, Venezuelan immigration. The migratory movement from the Dominican Republic to Chile, a racist country, whitened by the discourse of miscegenation, contributed to the necessary outbreak.

That generative, erratic trafficking of languages, temporalities, and knowledge is constitutive of Yina’s curatorial project. I understand this when I listen to the dazzling presentation by Monique Johnson, a Trinidadian scientist who studies the risks and effects of the so-called geological hazards in the eastern Caribbean. Her narrative arc upset me. Taking us from the Cretaceous (between 145 million and 66 million years ago) to the future, she shared the story of how planetary tectonic movements created displacements of the Pacific Ocean floor toward the Atlantic, through subduction processes that crossed volcanic islands across the Isthmus of Panama, until it collided with the Bahama Banks and produced the Puerto Rico Trench: all new names for ancient geological transformations that we are not yet able to fully verify, but that continue their course.


It was after the eruption of the volcano known as La Soufrière, located on the island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, on December 27, 2020, that Monique began working with Nadia on recovery processes led by Garifuna communities that live near the volcano. The Garifuna communities of the insular and continental Caribbean are found today in the nation-states of Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. These are the result of marronage processes, strategies of resistance and liberation of enslaved people who fled and who, as Yina wrote in a press release, are communities whose knowledge is poorly disseminated, so their contribution to the understanding of the routes through which one can return to the ocean is limited. By way of redress, Yina invited Monique and Nadia, as well as Haitian artist Tessa Mars and Mahoran philosopher Dénètem Touam Bona, among others, on a study trip to the Guatemalan Caribbean in July 2023, titled Flotation #1. On that trip, they climbed the Pacaya Volcano, and from what I understand, it was there that Monique painted her first watercolors to explain to her colleagues the underwater forces that animate the volcano.

In Santo Domingo, she showed us another series of these vibrant and colorful watercolors and closed her story with questions and observations about the process of creating participatory maps. In them, she works with the communities of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to graph the change produced by the eruption, so that the territory is not reduced to a map, but rather is a relevant tool for the people who live there. Monique’s precise and poetic words, supported by ancient and experimental cartographies, move me to this day. That is why I close this chronicle with a poem harvested from the seeds that she planted and that grew in my notebook.




Smoothed by erosion,
How did these rocks get here?
Tsunami after tsunami,
the materials of the world rub against each other.
on purpose,
to grow.

The uprising
comes from the bottom of the ocean floor.
those who escape
evade subduction.
They step aside,
a sliding step,
a strike.

The uprising
is a rhythmic metamorphosis,
by the high temperatures,
the increasing pressure.

The lowest depression is exalted,
holding on to itself,
from the dense oceanic plate,
it thickens,
creating more depth.

and continuous fall
preserve biological material
in fossil records
that walk on the territory.

Oblique collisions.

There is no movement at right angles;
they are located on the other side of the perimeter,
cradling oralities that divert
and redirect.

The apron of sediments came about by trivializing the difference.

The deep ditch
is a dividing trench
between reality and fiction.

We no longer live on the same earth’s crust.

Liquid rock,
I’m interested in you.
I study you to live with you.
I share my ideas
to learn
how to share my space.
The rivers drain the ashes.

Let’s imagine the red zone,
dismantling the map’s isolation,
promoting replacement representations.

Mapping our boundaries,
redefining our identities,
without shame,
naming those mountains that are loose.


There are no coments available.

filter by


Geographic Zone