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Mesoamérica Resiste
Staging the battle over Mesoamerica – capitalist fantasies vs grassroots liberation

The Mesoamérica Resiste poster by the Beehive Design Collective is an interactive, open access and user-friendly artwork that illustrates the complex interconnections between colonial and capitalist designs for Mesoamerica as envisioned by global financial and neoliberal governance systems on the one hand, and Indigenous grassroots resistance on the other. As an artwork created collaboratively with multiple Indigenous and peasant communities from Mesoamerica, it represents contemporary struggles and resistance through visual storytelling and Indigenous symbolism. Folded together, the poster illustrates a colonial-style map of Mesoamerica that details the global imperial designs, extractive fantasies and mega-developmentalist projects of the North American Free Trade Association, Central American Free Trade Association and the Bretton Woods institutions. Upon unfolding this colonial map, a perspective from ‘below’ – the perspective of the Ant in some Indigenous cosmologies – is revealed, highlighting the often-erased stories of Indigenous resistance against contemporary extractivist, exploitative and ecocidal mega-projects.

This chapter introduces the reader to the Mesoamérica Resiste poster by the Beehive Design Collective, a self-described all-volunteer, artist-activist and grassroots collective producing art whose imagery is not only resistant to hegemonic structures that maintain the global order but also radical in its process of creation, cooperation and dissemination. This poster was produced in response to the 2001 Plan Puebla Panama or 2008 Mesoamerican project to record the ongoing battle over Mesoamerica between neoliberal and financial agendas, on the one hand, and Indigenous, poor and grassroots liberation mobilizations, on the other. The former agendas depend on colonial legacies, imperial violence, extractivism, commodification and the destruction of both human and non-human life; the latter, however, is rooted in Indigenous cosmologies and worldviews, grassroots modes of communalism and democracy, and the land, including its spirits and ancestors. In this chapter we introduce the Beehive Design Collective and the poster in order to ask how it helps us to understand colonial violence as ongoing. How can Mesoamérica Resiste help us to understand colonialism as a structure of power, rather than a historical event confined to the past? How do the two sides of the poster – the folded developmentalist map, and the unfolded Indigenous vision – help us to make sense of struggles over Mesoamerica's future?

Figure 20.1 Mesoamérica Resiste, by Beehive Design Collective, 2013.

Contextualizing the Beehive Design Collective and Mesoamérica Resiste

The work produced by the Beehive Design Collective is not credited to one single individual and the Collective is openly anti-copyright, allowing communities and individuals around the world to use their work freely as learning and teaching tools. The Beehive Design Collective is committed to art as a political act of resistance as well as a tool for dismantling and reconstructing the narratives of developmentalism which continue to obscure processes of appropriation, genocide and dispossession experienced by peoples of the Global South. Specifically, the Mesoamérica Resiste graphic constitutes a response to the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), which was adopted by nine Mesoamerican countries and put forth a neoliberal and developmentalist vision for the region. In 2004, the artists and activists of the Collective conducted a five-month tour of Mesoamerica to listen and learn from various communities organizing against PPP in different places between Mexico and Panama. The creation of this artwork took nine years. Once it was completed, the Collective continued their work by holding presentations on the poster's images and symbols, which depict the larger structures of capitalism, industrialization, consumerism, developmentalism and colonialism while simultaneously highlighting the bottom-up perspectives of resistance and resilience from the communities which were negatively impacted by them. The Mesoamérica Resiste poster bridges social and ecological struggles – often discussed as separate issues in mainstream discourses – by using over 400 species of insects, plants and animals native to Mesoamerica as characters representing the communities which are resisting capitalist/colonial encroachment.

The Collective's focus on art as narrative bears close similarities to other community-based art forms, such as the Chicanx Muralism that emerged in the 1960s. These murals often require the active movement of the viewer to follow the narratives along neighbourhood walls. However, this movement is not always linear as the images in murals, similar to the Mesoamérica Resiste poster, spill over and connect to other images. If anything, this required movement is decolonial, as the conceptual interaction between the art piece and the viewer is about a relationality which transcends Eurocentric conceptions of time and space. What does this mean? Similar to various Chicanx murals, the Mesoamérica Resiste poster portrays various struggles across different timelines and lands rather than one place at one particular point in time. This non-linearity opposes the hierarchies of recency and individuality by visually denying an end or beginning, and instead forcing the viewer to recognize the interconnectedness of collective struggles against various imperial designs. Such a non-linear depiction of the passage of time avoids creating the impression that colonialism or coloniality is confined to the past and instead emphasizes that violent processes of colonial extraction repeat themselves and reoccur across time periods and at different scales. This concern with non-linear time, and the representation of ongoing colonialism in the present, is also taken up in the chapters by Ly (Chapter 12) and Styve (Chapter 21). Moreover, the poster's narrative does not delineate an ending to the storyline, as there is yet to be an end to colonial/imperial/developmentalist encroachments for all Mesoamerican communities.

Introducing the poster: insurgent aesthetics and Indigenous remembrance

The poster's juxtaposition of Indigenous symbolism and imagery against mainstream consumerist logos and icons serves as a backdrop to demonstrate the not-so-benign impact of transnational corporations. This juxtaposition can be found in the poster's portrayal of the ‘Osito Bimbo’, the bear mascot for Grupo Bimbo bakeries, trying to ram a train through a blockade to bring in mass-produced, nutritionally empty food products that would destroy the traditional local market (found on the inner bottom right side of the poster). 1 The carriages of the train are made up of a bottle labelled ‘Capitalismo’ in Coca-Cola font, a Nescafé box and a loaf of Bimbo bread. Other artists have used this type of juxtaposition to demonstrate the cultural and spiritual violence which Western consumer products impose on Global South communities. For instance, Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to Border Patrol , by Enrique Chagoya, Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Felicia Rice, uses Western cultural figures such as Superman and Mickey Mouse within an artefact that resembles a pre-Hispanic codex to demonstrate the ‘collision between Western and indigenous worlds’ (Austin and Montiel 2012: 88) and puts forth the overall ‘political vision – resistance to the power of the American mainstream’ (Austin and Montiel 2012: 94). Imbued with political meaning, the Collective's work follows a line of art for social justice which forcefully invokes the knowledges of Indigenous communities and sacred symbols, such as the Quetzal or, in the case of Chagoya, Gómez-Peña and Rice's work, the codex itself, to demonstrate that Indigenous knowledges and peoples have not been erased or defeated.

Collaborative, community-based art such as the pieces created by the Beehive Collective or the Chicanx murals found in the streets of Los Angeles, San Diego or Chicago, to name a few, are crucial for the ongoing dismantling of Western narratives of benevolent developmentalism, to unveil the darker side of consumer/mainstream culture and to combat the collective amnesia of colonial/imperial violence which continues to this day. According to Martineau and Ritskes (2014: 5), ‘[s]ettler discourses of appropriation and inclusion are disrupted by Indigenous remembrance and re-presencing on the land’. This disruption is evident in the art pieces discussed, and specifically in the Collective's vibrant representation of human and more-than-human resistance in Mesoamerica to the colonial plans of developmentalism, neoliberal capitalism and high finance. Historically, the act of remembering stands as an act of resistance to the collective amnesia of the West (Smith 2012). Hence, the Mesoamérica Resiste poster is radical in its invocation of narrative and remembrance of Mesoamerican struggles, as well as its appeal to the viewer to decipher the images in relation to their own participation in the institutions which attempt to implement the developmentalist and colonial plans for Mesoamerica.

Mesoamérica Resiste brings together two oppositional agendas regarding financialization, commodification and neoliberalism in Mesoamerica. It connects the capitalist plans as proposed and executed by the major financial institutions – the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and Inter-American Development Bank – on the one hand, and the resistance against these plans by grassroots struggles in the region which propose alternative worldviews and visions, on the other. Those who engage with the poster are able to explore the different dimensions, aspects and real examples of this struggle of worldviews. When folded together, the poster shows the agenda and vision for Mesoamerica as implemented by financial institutions and neoliberal ‘free’ trade agreements. Through incredible detail, the poster highlights several elements of this agenda, which we want to briefly outline here to incentivize the reader to explore the complex themes and detailed examples on their own.

Capitalist fantasies for Mesoamerica

Colonial legacies

The very aesthetics of Mesoamérica Resiste make it clear that the global financial and neoliberal governance systems are the current colonial institutions which seek to subjugate and dominate the Global South. The map itself mirrors the style of colonial maps which were generated to (mis)represent the lands, territories, resources and populations of the Americas and to plan their subjugation. The limitations placed on photographs and maps as one-dimensional ‘evidence’ of colonial encounters is discussed throughout Part V, ‘Gestures’, in chapters by Ferrini (Chapter 13), Randell-Moon (Chapter 14) and Kish (Chapter 15). This mapping style also emulates the top-down view of the policies of global financial institutions, which are represented in each corner as conquistadors, judges, bankers and surgeons plotting the invasion into Mesoamerica. These institutions even have their own pawns on the map, represented by feudal European ships manned by corporations, banks and Western pop-culture symbols heading towards Mesoamerica. This aesthetic depiction of global financial institutions and their agendas charges that they operate on the same logics and ideals which drove the initial European conquest of the Americas in 1492. The poster's aesthetics invites the audience to discover these legacies of colonization by suggesting that colonialism is not something of the past, but anchored in the present – that colonialism is better understood as a structure of power which unleashes violence in the present rather than as a historical event which took place in the past.


The poster challenges the dominant representation of financialization and the policies of neoliberal and financial institutions as straightforward, clean, rational and abstract processes that take place in banking offices or legislative chambers. While this view is often promoted in mainstream media outlets and taught in schools around the globe, the poster offers a different perspective. Specifically, it demonstrates the need for vast and grotesque forms of violence to implement capitalist financial policies and protocols which have a direct material impact on people, communities and landscapes. The depiction of monumental weapons, police forces and life-sucking machinery unleashed on Mesoamerica suggests that such policies are not sterile and abstract, but messy, violent and material. More so, the poster conveys the impression that this violence is by no means a question of one ‘bad apple’ or an exception to the rule. Instead, large-scale and systematic violence is a central and fundamental element of implementing and realizing the vision of financial and neoliberal institutions.

Extractivism and commodification

The poster suggests that the top-down plan for Mesoamerica is based on the commodification and extraction of life. All of Mesoamerica on this colonial map is covered by walls, dams and electric grids, while pipelines penetrate the Earth's crust and access roads transport Mesoamerican life into the pockets and purses of international financial institutions. The poster shows that, in the process, life (in the form of forests, streams, mountains and human and non-human bodies, among others) is transformed first into ‘resources’ and then into money, which is funnelled into the global circuits of capital and finance. 2 While this transformation from life to resources to money comes through different avenues and projects, which are described by the poster, it always constitutes a basic premise for the colonial vision of Mesoamerica. We leave it to the reader to explore these different avenues and projects for themselves.


The poster reveals some central characteristics of the dominant plan for Mesoamerica. This plan is an undemocratic one. It is decided by four powerful financial entities who are all headquartered in the metropoles of the Global North. From this colonial perspective, it is these institutions which seem to know best and which decide the future of and for Mesoamerica. The confidence in their plan and their faith in capitalism is so inflated that the use of direct and indirect violence to implement their vision is legitimized. In their eyes, financialization, neoliberalism, commodification and privatization are inevitable processes of history which do not need to be debated but only to be executed in order to reach the equally uncontested ideals of progress and development. Together these elements (and we are confident the reader will identify additional ones), which arise from the cumulative impressions on this side of the poster, testify to the dark side of capitalism, financialization and commodification, which is often sanitized and disconnected from its inherent colonialism and violent techniques.

Resisting the colonial visions and financialized futures for Mesoamerica

When unfolded, the poster shows an alternative perspective of and vision for Mesoamerica. This alternative vision is articulated by Indigenous peoples and peasant communities in Mesoamerica who have been impacted upon in one way or another by the top-down agenda of the global financial institutions. It not only testifies to the violence of financialization and neoliberalism, but also proposes alternative worldviews and ways of living together which are part of their anti-capitalist struggle.

Worldviews in struggles

The Indigenous and peasant struggles against neoliberal globalization and financial capitalism include the revitalization and defence of the grassroots vision for Mesoamerica. What that means is that the projects envisioned and implemented by global financial governance institutions target not only Mesoamerican people, communities and ecosystems, but also Indigenous knowledges, alternative visions and communal ways of living together which are in contrast to the individualism and greed at the heart of neoliberalism. In other words, the struggle for Indigenous peoples and rights for local communities is also a struggle against a ‘monoculture’ of knowledge and future. It is a struggle for multiple and alternative futures and worlds, which are under threat from capitalist and extractive projects and which are harnessed, mobilized and put into practice throughout the resistance itself. Examples of this are numerous in the poster, from democratic circle meetings to communal child-rearing practices and Indigenous spiritual caretaking.

Spirits and ancestors

A central aspect of Indigenous worldviews that distinguish the grassroots vision from the capitalist agenda is the central role of ancestors and spirits, which are depicted in multiple forms and shapes throughout the poster. Based on regional indigenous worldviews, ancestors are not erased from existence after death but reinhabit parts of the spirit and socio-natural worlds of Indigenous nations. They are not relegated to the past, but are anchored in the present and in the land where they contribute to the shaping of futures, including the influencing of current resistance against neoliberal projects. This understanding of time, spirits and ancestors within the grassroots vision challenges the top-down ideas of progress as an inevitable phenomenon which develops linearly and universally through history. Instead, the poster's many scenes and examples suggest that building futures and alternatives does not have one universal and predetermined road to follow, but that there are many possibilities, shapes, modes and ways – there is room to dream (Subcomandante Marcos 2001). The ancestors and spirits which run through the ecosystems, people, communities and their relationships demonstrate that these are sacred and meaningful in ways that go far beyond the ideas of value and meaning propagated by the capitalist visions. For the capitalist vision, neither people, communities nor ecosystems have value beyond their immediate utility for a capitalist system that is geared towards endless growth and expansion. Here spirits and ancestors do not exist.

Communalism and democracy

The Indigenous worldviews which constitute the bottom-up alternatives for Mesoamerica include a way of decision making as well as working and living together which fundamentally contrasts the top-down agenda for the region. The poster shows multiple scenes of various animal and plant species engaging in mutual aid, work sharing, consensus-based decision making and communal organizing. These scenes cover all aspects of the resistance, from front-line confrontation to food preparation and childbirthing. This stands in stark contrast to the approach of the global financial and development institutions, which enforce their vision from afar, non-democratically and through authoritarian and fascist violence. Instead of an organic process with energy, aid and work flowing circularly and in multiple directions as depicted in the grassroots perspective, the top-down agenda is a one-way extractive process.

The very set-up of the grassroots vision reinforces this impression. Contrasting the top-down view which relies on a colonial map to know, engage and enforce its vision, all the scenes of the grassroots perspective take place literally at the roots of a ceiba tree. In Mayan cosmology, the ceiba is the mother tree who protects the world and holds it in place after it was set on her head by the first gods (Subcomandante Marcos 2001). Hence, whereas the neoliberal and financial fantasy for Mesoamerica is a colonial implant from elsewhere, the grassroots perspective is a grounded view, anchored in the land, its cosmology and knowledges, and concerned with the defence of worlds.

The notorious and charismatic Subcomandante Marcos, spokesperson for the Indigenous Zapatista uprising that emerged in the south Mexican state of Chiapas in 1994, teaches us (Subcomandante Marcos 2001: 330) that, sitting above the head of mother ceiba, the world is at risk of being pushed over by the ‘winds from above’, the winds of Power, including the global neoliberal and financial fantasies which try to make the world fall into oblivion – that is, so it would die and be forgotten. Fortunately, however, the world has not fallen yet, thanks to the ‘true men and women from all the worlds that make up the world [who] have become the trunk and branches and leaves and roots next to mother ceiba so the world will not fall.’ Mesoamérica Resiste is a testimony to this battle between the ‘winds from above’, from the powerful, and the ‘winds from below’, the dispossessed, which takes place not only in Mesoamerica but all across the world. We invite the reader to explore and listen to the battle recorded in Mesoamérica Resiste so that they might learn from its testimonies in their own battles against empire.

Further resources

Beehive Design Collective (2013) ‘Mesoamerica Resiste – a large collaboratively drawn illustration on global struggles’. (accessed 4 September 2022).

Galeano, E. (2009) Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent. London: Serpent's Tail.

Walsh, C. E. (2018) ‘Part I: Decoloniality in/as praxis’, in W. Mignolo and C. E. Walsh, On Decoloniality: Concepts, Analytics, Praxis. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 15–102.

Works cited

Austin, K. and Montiel, C.-U. (2012) ‘Codex Espangliensis: Neo-Baroque art of resistance’. Latin American Perspectives 39(3): 88–105.

Chagoya, E. , Gómez-Peña, G. and Rice, F. (2000) Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to the Border Patrol. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

Martineau, J. and Ritskes, E. (2014) ‘Fugitive indigeneity: Reclaiming the terrain of decolonial struggle through Indigenous art’, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 3(1): i–xii.

Smith, L. T. (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. London: Zed Books Ltd.

Subcomandante Marcos (2001) Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings. London: Seven Stories Press.


1 On cheap food, see Szeman (Chapter 1).
2 On resource making see also Ly (Chapter 12).
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The entangled legacies of empire

Race, finance and inequality


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