Art Against Dictatorship
Making and Exporting Arpilleras Under Pinochet
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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One hot afternoon some years ago, a colleague at UNICEF in Santiago, Chile, and I were talking about the city’s shantytowns,1 when he spontaneously offered to take me with him to La Victoria, one of the most rebellious and repressed of these during the Pinochet regime. Curious to discover a part of Santiago I did not know, I accepted. We took the long bus ride to La Victoria’s edge ...
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I am very grateful to the arpilleristas, the members of the Vicaría who worked with the arpilleristas, the Chilean exiles, and the human rights activists outside Chile who kindly granted me interviews. I would like to give very special thanks to Juanita Carrión, Ada Ocaranza, Sara Mena, and Estrella Abriga for their tremendous help in the field and for the care and friendship they showed me. I ...
1. Solidarity Art
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Repressive regimes can spark creativity, in that individuals who do not con-sider themselves artists seek ways to communicate that evade repression and censorship.1 New art forms emerge, new artists arise, and preexisting artistic genres evolve, while more established art forms, venues, and artists may be repressed. When, for example, national security doctrines result in the ...
2. Beginnings: Unemployment and Joining Groups
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To create art containing messages about the failings and aggressions of the Pinochet dictatorship was a dangerous enterprise. How, then, did the arpilleras When they began making arpilleras in early 1975, the very first arpilleristas were living in poverty in shantytowns. Most were married, looking after their small children, and not working for an income.1 Their poverty had very recent-...
3. The First Arpillera Groups
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With one exception, the first unemployed women’s arpillera groups started off as income-earning groups that specialized in arpillera making in 1975. They were based in the shantytowns of Puente Alto, Lo Hermida, Villa O’Higgins, and La Faena in the eastern zone, and one group was based in the shantytown of Huamachuco in northern Santiago. At about the same time, a mixed ...
4. Arpillera Making in Other Groups and Its Spread
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The relatives of the disappeared who made arpilleras were the mothers, wives, partners, sisters, and daughters of people who had been taken away by the secret police and never seen alive by their families again; nor were their where-abouts known. In total there were 1,163 disappeared.1 Most were working class2 and leftists from the Socialist and Communist Parties and the Movement of ...
5. Producing the Arpilleras
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The women did most of their arpillera work at home. During workshop meet-ings, which took place one to three times a week in their local church, they continued with work already begun, started designing arpilleras for which they had just received orders, or added the final touches to arpilleras they were about to hand in. They were creative about acquiring the raw materials for ...
6. Selling Arpilleras
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A system for selling solidarity art abroad does not fall into place immediately. Initially, the art may be sold locally, at the initiative of the artists. The interna-tional selling may begin quite by chance, when a trusted person living abroad The selling of arpilleras began locally. Comité staff were important buyers. At first they bought as individuals, and not for the Comité. Anabella, the Comité ...
7. The Buyers Abroad
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The individuals who bought the arpilleras wanted to help the arpilleristas and express solidarity with them, and they were sympathetic to the anti-dictatorship cause. Because they bought out of solidarity, I call these buyers a solidarity market. As Gertrudis, a Vicaría employee, said: “The arpillera was something that was very solidarity focused (solidario) across the world. In other words, ...
8. Selling, Giving, and Exhibiting Arpilleras in Chile
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Only a few places in Chile sold arpilleras during the dictatorship. The Vicaría headquarters had a room where it sold some, along with crafts made in prisons, and the eastern Vicaría office sold arpilleras occasionally. The Fundación Mis-sio, a Catholic organization, sold arpilleras made by arpilleristas in northern Santiago. These venues benefited from some protection due to their affiliation ...
9. The Consequences of Arpillera Making
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The arpilleristas saw their arpillera making as having contributed to the downfall of the dictatorship, and as having been important for their survival and social and intellectual development. From their perspective, it enabled them to inform people abroad about what was really happening in Chile, provided them with income and donations, gave them the opportunity to learn, helped them relax ...
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The case of the arpillera suggests that under a dictatorship, for a solidarity art system to emerge, it is necessary to have people eager enough to make the art that they are willing to risk the dangers involved, or eager and not fully aware of the danger, and willing to overcome other barriers such as gender expecta-tions and difficulties with group formation. Severe economic hardship or harsh ...
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Page Count: 311
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series