This article contributes to a growing body of literature that questions state-centred approaches to analysing politics, adopting a more de-centred and cultural perspective. It does so by presenting a situational analysis and detailed ethnography of a local election rally in Western Mexico. The analysis of this event as a cultural performance highlights the dramatic enactment of culturally significant acts as a central part of electoral behaviour and shows how everyday organisational life, resource flows, public ritual and passion play a part in politics. That such acts are not merely symbolic is demonstrated by what occurs behind the scenes of political ritual: a local political group appropriates a Water Users' Association and draws on its staff, facilities, resources and wider power relations for its political campaign. Such practices also indicate the unanticipated outcomes of recent administrative decentralisation reforms. New producer organisations created by these reforms to administer former government tasks more efficiently are appropriated politically, not simply in an instrumental, but also in a culturally specific manner.