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...
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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...
1. Solidarity Art
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Repressive regimes can spark creativity, in that individuals who do not consider 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...
2. Beginnings: Unemployment and Joining Groups
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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 recently worsened because their husbands, the family breadwinners for the majority...
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...
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 whereabouts known. In total there were 1,163 disappeared.1 Most were working class2...
5. Producing the Arpilleras
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The women did most of their arpillera work at home. During workshop meetings, 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...
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 international selling may begin quite by chance, when a trusted person living abroad offers to try and sell; at first it will be on a small scale....
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...
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 Missio, a Catholic organization, sold arpilleras made by arpilleristas in northern...
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...
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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 expectations...
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Page Count: 311
Illustrations: 24 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Louann Atkins Temple Women & Culture Series