Welcome to Weelaunee Cambalache by Mariposas Rebeldes! Cambalache is a form of bartering/trade that arose among the Mayan communities (specifically Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolobal and Chol communities) in Chiapas, Mexico. Bartering/trading arose in response to capitalism, but pre-capitalism, most Indigenous communities across the world relied on a gift economy. More specifically, El Cambalache (the Swap in English) is a collective and space for moneyless exchanges of all different kinds in Chiapas, Mexico. El Cambalache was started in 2015 by 5 women from Mexico (hailing from Sonora, Morelos, and Chiapas) and one from the US. We are inspired by the work the women at El Cambalache are doing and want to apply the concepts that they have forged in our own work as Mariposas.
How do I Cambalache?
To Cambalache, is to exchange without money. According to El Cambalche in Chiapas, there are three main ways to Cambalache:
To exchange something for something else.
To Gift something for the joy of giving.
To make a request for something you are in need of.
If you are exchanging something for something else, the most important thing is to apply interchange value, a theory coined by El Cambalache, which simply means to remove the market or money value of whatever you are exchanging (whether it is knowledge or a material item). This enables you to have a horizontal exchange, and remove hierarchies surrounding what is more or less valuable according to the capitalist market. According to El Cambalache, participants and the generators of the project all strive to create horizontality. “Horizontality is the practice of creating organized, non-oppressive structures where no one person has more power than any other. Horizontality allows for non-dominating relationships to exist without the imposition of a hierarchical legal or economic system.” Going back to Interchange value, and example: “one could interchange a pencil, a notebook, a sweater, or a cheese grater with a computer, a radio, a dish or a pair of pants.” What matters is not the monetary value of each item, but the value it has to the person exchanging it/giving it/receiving it. More importantly, “the greatest value generated is the creation of a collectivity or network of people who support one another.”
El Cambalache Identifies as an “anarcha-feminist” project.
El Cambalache in Chiapas has come up with these goals for creating change through el Cambalche. We feel that these are a great framework that should be applied in all communities, but especially in communities trying to operate from an anti-capitalist and moneyless praxis:
1− Create an economy where each person has equal access to the resources available.
2− Create a space where women and anyone else vulnerable to violence are comfortable and safe to be and express themselves.
3− Support community members to make non-capitalist economic decisions.
4− Emphasize the importance of forms of knowledge that are not generally considered to be important in a capitalist economy.
5− Support the sharing and growth of forms of indigenous women’s knowledge in order to emphasize the importance of these forms of knowledge.
6− Assert that each person is resource-rich. When a new person enters the economy, every other person in the economy abilities of each new person.
7− Create a network of abilities and knowledge that will supplement the lack of access to important services such as healthcare, education, construction (e.g., of homes) and childcare.
8− Increase people’s access to electronics through repair and redistribution because of their importance for communication and access to information.
9− Decrease the quantity of items that enter the waste stream.
For more information on Cambalache, check out the following:
El Cambalache Blog
El Cambalache Youtube Channel