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Studies on Chile's transition to democracy after Pinochet's regime regarding memory, history, and public space have focused mainly on their massive visual/material expressions, either officially sponsored or created by oppositional activists. Few have studied the battle for memory carried on through alternative means and on a smaller scale by groups excluded both by the retiring dictatorship and the upcoming democracy. This work analyzes how the aesthetic-political actions of the artistic duo Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis, as openly homosexual activists with intentionally fluid identities, embodied a radical and militant difference from which they actively aimed to publicly challenge and broaden the discussions and political culture by which a "new" country was being thought of and built.


Yeguas del Apocalipsis, Chile, democracy, performance, memory

No soy un marica disfrazado de poeta.No necesito disfraz. / Aquí está mi cara.Hablo por mi diferencia. / Defiendo lo que soy y no soy tan raro. Me apesta la injusticia. / Y sospecho de esta cueca democrática.. . . Porque la dictadura pasa. /Y viene la democracia.Y detrasito el socialismo.¿Y entonces? / ¿Qué harán con nosotros compañ ero?...¿El futuro será en blanco y negro?¿El tiempo en noche y día laboral sin ambigü edades?¿No habrá un maricón en alguna esquinadesequilibrando el futuro de su hombre nuevo? . . .A usted le doy este mensaje. / Y no es por mí.Yo estoy viejo/y su utopía es para las generaciones futuras.Hay tantos niñ os que van a nacer/con una alita rota.Y yo quiero que vuelen, compañero, [End Page 116] que su revolución/les dé un pedazo de cielo rojo Para que puedan volar.1

Pedro Lemebel, "Hablo por mi diferencia," 1986

On the night of August 21, 1989, Patricio Aylwin and a group of selected artists and intellectuals were at Santiago de Chile's Teatro Cariola discussing the cultural policies of the forthcoming democratic government led by the Concertación.2 This happened almost a year after 1988's plebiscite, in which the Chileans voted to end the military regime that had been in power since 1973 and to start the Transición (restoration of democracy), the first government of which was to begin in 1990. While this group was busy imagining what they would do in 1990 to fend off the damaging effects that fifteen years of what they saw as a "cultural blackout"3 had [End Page 117] bestowed upon them, a surprising yet harrowingly familiar thing happened: two men in full drag stormed on to the stage interrupting the speaker and proudly displaying a banner with the lines "HOMOSEXUALES POR EL CAMBIO" (HOMOSEXUALS FOR CHANGE). Taking advantage of the audience's surprise, the duo climbed off the stage and left, not before kissing future president Lagos on the lips.4 These intruders were Francisco Casas and Pedro Lemebel, popularly known as the fearsome Yeguas del Apocalipsis, the artistic duo of locas/maricas/colizas (homosexuals)5 born in Santiago's slums, who continually disrupted the capital's cultural and public arenas from 1988 to 1993.

After almost two decades under a military regime, Chilean society was used to forceful and dramatic actions. They started on September 11, 1973, with a military coup d'é tat carried out by the Junta Militar (military government, henceforth Junta) against the democratically elected socialist government of the Unidad Popular (Popular Union, henceforth UP), led by Salvador Allende. This bloodshed—whose most dramatic image was the bombardment of the Casa de la Moneda (Chile's presidential palace)—was captured by the media and forever imprinted into the memory of the Chileans. However, during the following years, less dramatic actions such as illegal raids on homes or public detentions (usually followed by the disappearance of the detainees)6 became pervasive. These gestures not only [End Page 118] showed that the new military regime had a flair for theatrical actions and understood their effects, but they also served to redefine how society functioned in public and blurred the divisions between the private and the public, instilling fear in the citizens' most intimate core.

Nevertheless, even as used as Chileans were to public (dis)irruptions, they were still taken aback by how the Yeguas presented themselves in public. That is because they embodied a radical and militant difference, a sharp contrast with the public image carefully constructed by the Junta for seventeen years. As Diana Taylor explains (based on Guy Debord's notion of "concentrated spectacle"), the military projected a singular image of a patriarchal, all-male, military, hierarchical and absolute power. There was no dialogue with this kind of power: all there was left was obedience.7 Conversely, Lemebel and Casas publicly and unapologetically presented themselves as loca homosexual activists with intentionally ambiguous and changing identities (some of which this text considers), expressed through different physical appearances and demeanors, adapted to what they aimed to achieve.

By analyzing the image that the Yeguas chose to publicly embody during Chile's transition to democracy (especially during the two years given to the regime to abandon power after 1988), this paper aims to explore the multiple ways in which the duo's artistic production invaded and manipulated public spaces and examine how the general public understood them. It specifically argues that the Yeguas' performances sought to take part in the conversation regarding the reconstruction of Chilean society after many years of authoritarian rule. In other words, by acting in public spaces and bringing forward topics that had been willingly ignored during the dictatorship and the fledging democracy (such as the situation and role of the LGBTQI community), the Yeguas' performances mainly functioned as intrusions into public memory, intended to shape and broaden the political discussions and culture molding in "post-dictatorship" democratic Chile and help determine how its future was being imagined.

In order to explore the implications of the Yeguas' performances from the proposed perspective, this text will first briefly address relevant analysis regarding the relationship between memory, history, and performance, specifically in the public sphere. Second, it will explore the general historical context of the democratic transition and the specific panorama of public performance in order to understand the continuities and fractures that the Yeguas' artistic interventions posed. Third, it will analyze some significant performances of the Yeguas in order to understand how they aimed to give new elements to the conversations regarding Chile's future. Finally, it will give some general conclusions in order to help broaden the analysis. [End Page 119]

Public Memory, Public History, and Performance

As indicated by the title of The Memory Box of Pinochet's Chile—historian Steve Stern's extensive three-part study of pre- and post-dictatorship Chile—memory is a key element when trying to comprehend Chile's recent history. However, Stern argues that to truly understand the Chilean process this reflection should be focused not mainly on the issue of how memory is constructed, but on the question of what is memory used for? More than a struggle between memory and forgetting, Chile's case was (and still is) mainly a process of competing selective remembrances.8 In said process, social actors, positioned from distinct memory frameworks, sought to define what was truthful and meaningful about a great collective trauma. In other words, they determined what got to be defined as history with its associations with truth and objectivity.9 Therefore, Stern's perspective proposes a situation in which early in the process both the military regime and the opposition understood memory struggles as a fundamental arena for achieving political-cultural legitimacy, the decisive battle arena for the hearts and souls of the Chileans.10

The relationships between memory and history have not been only fundamental for the Chileans, but have also been an area of a broader academic inquiry, as questions regarding their connections have been troubling scholars for a long time. In the late 1990s, public history specialists including David Glassberg, Diane Britton, Robert Archibald, David Lowenthal, Edward Linenthal and Michael Kammen considered these issues.11 Archibald convincingly argues that individual and communal memory (while theoretically explicable) are the chaotic product of so many variables as to be practically unpredictable. Therefore our understanding of them limited.12 [End Page 120] Britton, on the other hand, contends that without an understanding of the relationships between memory, identity and history, public interpretations of the past are at best sentimental, and at worst useless.13

According to Glassberg, a key element to understanding the relationships of public history and public memory is to acknowledge that the study of memory aims to comprehend the links between different public versions of the past, the minds of the audiences that receive these constructions, and the different meanings that derive from them. This argument is in line with Stern's call for a "historization of memory," which blurs the previous conceptual distinction between memory and history, in which it was the latter's responsibility to discern the factual truth or falsehood of the former. Instead, as Glassberg explains, current analyses of memory are focused on questions of (bilateral) communication: how individual memories of the past are established and confirmed through dialogue with others, how particular accounts of the past get established and disseminated as public (mainly official) history, and how these public histories change over time.14 According to Glassberg, this question about whose version is institutionalized and disseminated is a political one, as it understands public history as a reflection of a community's political culture. This is because public history embodies not only ideas about history—the relation of past, present and future—but also ideas about the public itself, the relationships between diverse groups in political society, and (as may be assumed) what these communities can do in the public arena.15

Perhaps this last reflection leads to one of Glassberg's most appealing notes regarding the role of historians in the public arena. In his words, rather than providing finished and "translated" interpretations of history to their popular audiences, the task of public historians is to create democratic spaces for dialogue about history and for the collection of memories, ensuring that various voices are heard in those spaces.16 Such ideas seem to have inspired more recent analyses regarding memory and identity, such as Lara Kelland's Clio's Foot Soldiers: Twentieth-Century U.S. Social Movements and the Uses of Collective Memory, an analysis of the memory practices of activist community historians from social movements (civil rights, black liberation, women's liberation, and gay and lesbian liberation). According to the author, these actors distanced themselves from the authority of an elite and instead developed new memory practices and honed existing ones in the service of their communities in order to craft a useable past that understood their newfound political identities as part of a legacy of shared struggle, a narrative that helped to legitimate their new identities and projects.17 [End Page 121]

Kelland's study recognizes the importance given by these communities to teaching and sharing their narratives and resources about their memories in order to strengthen, inspire, and mobilize their communities' identities.18 For this, Kelland emphasizes the importance of music, art, postcards, slide shows, and films used by these movements as sources and distribution means. Still, Kelland is mainly focused on what Diana Taylor defines as the "archive," defined as written, text-related materials (such as scripts) or material sources that endure over time, such as monuments. This focus leaves aside other means of embodied recording, communication, and dissemination especially relevant to the communities she studied, such as theatrical practices. This seems to be a common problem with many of these calls for democratizing history: the inclusion of "various voices" doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with the broadening of sources.

David Dean recently pointed out the gap between the embodied practices in the communication of public history and memory and the scholarship on public history itself in his argument for theater as a site for public history. According to Dean, perhaps the most notable achievement of historical theater is its immediacy and the immersive elements of historical performance that enable closing of the distance between the past event and the present audience and make it feel more personal by means of empathy.19 In the same spirit, Dean argues that theater is an important site for public history because it brings forward central topics essential for the discipline to further explore: memory, narrative, identity, agency, archive/source, time-space, reenactment, representation, and performance.20 Above all, Dean argues the key contribution of theater to public history is a vitality that guides imagination, but doesn't overtake it. Therefore, it can lead to a greater sense of the history continuing to resonate, because of the deeper impact produced by the immediacy and intimacy of live theater.21 However, "living sources" go beyond theater, and therefore performance studies may help history and public history to further reflect on memory and history.

According to Diana Taylor, one of the most important current authorities on performance studies, performance can be a fundamental tool to analyze history, memory and politics. Even though performance is commonly related to the avantgarde ephemeral gestures, Taylor advocates for a broader definition, which understands this expressive behavior as vital transfer means of identity, collective memory, and social know-how through repetitive actions.22 However, as Taylor herself states, the use of the term "performance" is complex and is not a fixed referent,23 [End Page 122] for it simultaneously connotes a process, a praxis, an episteme, a mode of transmission, an accomplishment, and a means of intervening in the world.24

In such terms, these sources belong to what Taylor defines as the "repertoire," that is embodied practices/knowledge (i.e. spoken language, dance, sport, ritual), as opposed to "archive" materials such a texts, written documents, buildings, and human remains that are considered more enduring and perpetual over time.25 However, "archive" and "repertoire" shouldn't be equated to dyads such as true vs. false, mediated vs. unmediated, modern vs. primordial, or hegemonic vs. counterhegemonic. This last idea is especially relevant when studying military regimes because performance belongs both to the strong and the weak, and embodied performances have often contributed to maintaining a repressive social order.26

Therefore, the relationship between archive and repertoire is not one of opposition, but one of non-sequential constant interaction. Both make the past available as a political resource in the present27 and therefore, both are relevant and bind performance and performance studies with history and historical studies. For these reasons, as Taylor emphasizes, performance should not be strictly defined. The question we need to ask is: What does performance allow us to see and do in order to understand the message being conveyed?28 And, specifically for this case study, it is relevant to take her advice and shift the question from "is performance un-or anti-historical?" to "What conditions in the present trigger performance practices to reactivate past behaviors and attitudes that will interrupt the status-quo?"29 This last question is fundamental when trying to understand how the Yeguas' performances sought to shape the conversations regarding the reconstruction of a Chilean society, especially related to history, memory, and future.

Chile in the Transición: Memory's Street Battles

Despite the different public self-representations, both the Junta that seized power in 1973 and its opposition (including the Yeguas) shared some fundamental beliefs regarding memory and performance: the importance of public memory, the significance of public gestures to mold it, and their connection. As stated before, starting with the events of September 11 themselves, the Junta chose to express its power dramatically in the public space, as the military regime understood that gaining control over the population started by regulating the open space they dwelled in and the open space among them, for it was the most vital realm of society as a whole.30 [End Page 123] At first, its power over open public space was shown in violent ways, such as the transformation of soccer stadiums into concentration camps or the whitewashing of Santiago's streets and walls in order to "purify" everything that actors such as the UP's Brigadas Muralistas31 had "tarnished" with their street art.32 The material elimination of Allende's legacy was the tangible symbolic and aesthetic expression of the Junta's will to banish, militarily and politically, the socialist ideas themselves, and this would continue during the coming months in all fronts.33

However, it didn't take long before the Junta realized that in order to make the most use of public space, it needed a productive front that gave its restoration campaign a broader historical grounding and ideological support.34 In other words, the regime needed creative "expressive policies"35 in order to secure its legitimacy and legacy within the social body if it wanted to be accepted not only by fear, but also by consent.36 This requirement was materialized in the intervention of public landscape with new monuments and restyling of pre-dictatorship sites.37 This monumental imprinting of public space with the dictatorship's own memory cues was part of a bigger effort that aimed to embed the Junta's actions as the continuation of a heroic and republican national tradition. In addition to physical changes, the Junta also started to create its own interpretation of its recent history to be instilled in Chilean society. From the time that it took power, the Junta tried to secure its own version of memory, in which the coup was defined as a necessary action for Chile's salvation. This version was greatly publicized through "archive" sources, such as reports in pro-regime media.38 In [End Page 124] addition to this construction of memory in popular culture, the military regime also tried to popularize their version in academia, mainly with the early publication of El libro blanco del cambio de gobierno en Chile. 11 de Septiembre de 1973, written by the historian Gonzalo Vial Correa. This text (published October 30, 1973) defined the military coup as a forced response to the UP's fictitious Plan Zeta.39 In this sense, the regime drew upon both archival and repertoire sources to cement its own memory and, consequently, its own version of history.

However, even though many Chileans were terrorized to their core by these actions, many fought back from the very beginning of the military rule for the hearts and the souls of the Chileans. They tried to take their fight back to the streets in order to remember what had been, what was happening, and what could be. These citizens understood that actions of the official apparatus were aimed to confiscate their collective memory, by concealing their past and expropriating important symbols of national identity,40 an action eased by the fact that the Junta had access and control of most archival sources that recorded their own crimes and the very existence of their victims. This cultural counter-offensive was waged through "aesthetic-political actions"41 (linked primarily to repertoire, but not limited to it), mainly staged by movements and artist collectives formed by those directly linked to the desaparecidos (people taken by force by the government and were never seen again) and the defense of human rights.

The most active groups were the Movimiento Contra la Tortura Sebastián Acevedo ("Sebastian Acevedo Movement Against Torture," henceforth MCTSA), various women's collectives (such as "Women for Life" or "Women of Chile"), and the Family Association of Disappeared Detainees/Political Prisoners (henceforth AFDD/AFPP). Later, they were joined (although not constantly or directly) by more aesthetic-oriented but still political actors mainly the C.A.D.A (Artistic Action Collective), representatives of the Chilean neo-avantgarde scene.42 These groups [End Page 125] believed imagination could be a disruptive force and conceived the city/stage as a living being, a semantic camp in tension, whose recovery could only be achieved by interventions that turned it into a space of dialogue.43 Thus, with actions such as "NO +" (as in "no more," 1983–1989), they gave the citizens new signs to appropriate, and rally around.44

When Chilean society at large was greatly depoliticized and paralyzed by terror and disbelief, afraid to manifest its dissent and seemed to feel powerless,45 these protesters started to take back the streets as public space and showed that it was possible to do so by persisting with their unauthorized presence in the public arena, especially as women, mothers, victims, and equals, in sheer opposition to the spectacle of the dictatorship. These groups understood the referred performances of the dictatorship as ritual gestures, collective memories codified into actions that transformed temporarily or permanently the spaces or participants they involved.46 Thus, their memory versions too made use of the archival and the repertoire to create their own rituals used to refute the dictatorship's constructed images of reality.

These actors refused to let the victims and crimes of the regime be forgotten by projecting counter-official narratives of horror, loss, and rupture in dramatic actions in public space. Their protests aimed to rebut the Junta's construction of its intervention as salvation. These narratives were presented to the general public by putting forward nonconventional actions such as chaining themselves to the Congress building and embroidering the story of their missing loved ones in publicly exposed burlap sacks or exposing with manifestations and banners the true nature of some spaces that the dictatorship wanted to hide.47 In doing so they displayed their sorrow and bereavement by articulating these emotions as the core of an alternative and dissident memory field that with its ritual repetition would start a "street culture of [End Page 126] memory war."48 Within this culture their manifestations turned into "memory knots" that grew exponentially (especially between 1983–1986), galvanizing the population around them, breaking the walls of fear and fragmentation between citizens, and thus leading to the destabilization of the regime's legitimacy and the loss of its control of public space and its interpretations by the citizens.49

With their aesthetic-political actions, these groups gave birth to what Nelly Richard defined as "poetics of the crisis," actions that "instead of wanting to suture the gaps left by the representational voids with a discourse of reunifying sense . . . preferred to restylize [sic] cuts and fissures, discontinuities and eruptions."50 Therefore, these groups positioned themselves against an official discourse that evoked memory as something consensual, clear, and fixed by "provoking fractures in traditional interpretations,"51 in order to allow people to practice memory as a permanent activity. In other words, these actors provided their spectators with conceptual and interpretative elements that invited them not only to explore the symbolic density of narratives, but also to express their own sufferings, not in solitude, but as part of a bigger grieving community that aimed to turn their pain into something else. This is the arena in which the Yeguas positioned themselves.

The significance of the Yeguas' performances, however, are deepened by noting that both the aesthetic politics of the regime and the aesthetic-politic actions of its opposition faced new settings with the coming of the Transición. This was due to some of the very conditions that made the return of the democratically elected government possible, for as significant as this was, it didn't create a democracy, but rather a "democratic opening."52 This opening was a result of the consensual model of "democracy of agreements"53 that was negotiated among political elites that made it impossible to start from zero. This was not only because the regime was given two years to secure its legacy before abandoning power, but also due to the endurance of well-protected authoritarian strongholds (mainly embodied in the 1980s dictatorship Constitution that continues to be Chile's Magna Carta today)54 and official, cultural, and emotional ties to the military regime. [End Page 127]

This situation led to the definition of Chile's post-dictatorship early transitional government as "semi-democratic." This model favored top-down engineering by political elites, instead of the bottom-up social mobilization of the '80s, and in doing so further depoliticized citizens.55 For authors such Manuel Antonio Garretón and Roberto Garretón as well as Roberto Fernández-Droguett, Chile has gone through an incomplete democratization, leading to an incomplete memorialization, for not all things could be spoken, and, therefore, not all could be remembered, at least, not officially.56 In terms of public social spectacle, the Transición led to what might be defined as "institutionalized mutism" by both sides or, at least, a strategic de-dramatization of their practices. On one hand, the retiring dictatorship aimed to secure and institutionalize its legacy, even if that meant distancing itself from its bloodthirsty past. Thus, it turned its defeat at the plebiscite into a victory by defining it as a willing transfer of power over a prosperous neoliberal power to now educated citizens, achieved after "being forced" to rescue Chile from the evils of the "fratricidal communism" of the UP.

On the other hand, as Wilde explains, the Concertación's members were reluctant to publicly establish a clear moral distinction between the upcoming democracy and the regime with their expressive policies, acts, words, and decisions. This quote attributed to Aylwin sums up their actions: "truth and, justice to the extent of possibility."57 This was also the product of their will to continue with "positive legacies" of the regime, such as the neo-liberalization of its economy and the social tendency to avoid certain questions around memory. Later on, the Concertación [End Page 128] would publicly express its negative opinion about the dictatorship, but during this transition period its will to openly oppose some of the regime's practices was minimal.58 For authors such as Nelly Richard, this was the product of the "democracy of agreements," the consensual model of government of the Transición, which marked a passage from politics as antagonism to politics as transaction. This type of democracy made "consensus its normative guarantee, its operational key, its de-ideologizing ideology, its institutionalized rite and its discursive trophy."59 Thus, the official logic of the Transición underlined the importance of reconstructing the social body through the coming together of the protesters and the establishment into a unanimous voice.

This logic molded the terms in which memory (and its related truth and justice policies) would mainly be conceived during the Transición: not as a wedge or opening that should be broadened for future exploration, but as a closed formulaic construction that provided some acknowledgement and compensation, and then moved to something more immediate (and less volatile).60 In terms of cultural expressions, this meant the silencing of disruptive people, their opinions, and their nonofficial practices that challenged the upcoming government. This explains why the government favored policies in line with official constructions that appealed to unity and homogenization,61 able to create clear, univocal, and communicable meanings, in contrast with the symbolic, shattered, and opaque creations of the last decades.62 For two years and more, this meant that those within the system were pressured to either be silent or compliant in order to not risk the democratic Transición, especially by provoking the army.63 However, it didn't silence those [End Page 129] who were not considered a part of the system. This is the specific field where the Yeguas were most decisive and effective with their shocking performances that resonated more loudly in this environment of forced mutism.

"We Perform for Our Difference": The More Bodily Practices in the Communication of Public History and Memory

Between 1988 and 1991, theYeguas became the terror of cultural events where they mainly acted as disruptors. They were the first openly homosexual collective to present themselves and their demands obtrusively in public, by embodying their explicit and discomforting "otherness." This hadn't happened in such a theatrical manner since the first and only public LGBTQI protest in April 1973, when mainly trans and homosexual sex workers organized to reclaim their rights.64

When they appeared in public, Lemebel and Casas presented themselves in ways that not only placed them in sheer opposition to the unitary fixed logic of the retiring regime, but also to the homogenizing logic of the upcoming democracy, mainly because they changed their appearance and behavior for different occasions. Simply put, they were always locas in their performances, but not always the same locas, and these variations of their public identities served different purposes. The Yeguas instrumentalized their embodied but changing difference in order to reach out to others, mainly other marginalized communities.

This instrumentalization worked because they conceived "difference" as not exclusively defined by a closed homosexual identity, but by a loca identity, a fluid "way of being/thinking, not the solid shape of the macho"65 that intersected with other marginalized identities. In their own words, they were different from other activists not only because they were homosexual (other artists as Carlos Leppe, Raúl Zurita, or Juan Domingo Dávila had played with this identity, although always in private artistic spaces), but also because they were poor proletas (proletariats), [End Page 130] who came from another place (mainly in a social-economic sense) and "were dirty."66 The Yeguas embraced these other marginalized identities as molding their own loca identities. This idea resembles the feminist notion of "intersectionality," especially when defined as a potential creative site, loaded with "radical perspectives from which to see, and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds."67

However, Lemebel and Casas understood that these alternatives needed to be constructed in a collective manner, so they consciously used these marginalized identities by emphasizing or "quieting" them when needed. Yes, they were queer locas, but they didn't enclose themselves in the box of "sexual politics."68 Instead, they were constantly inventing rebellion strategies which allowed contamination and complicity with other social struggles.69 Such use of their bodies aimed to create what Lemebel defined as:

Alliances with minorities . . . those broken, fugitive places that are reconstructing themselves constantly for surviving within an oppressive system . . . But I never talk on their behalf. I borrow their voice and act as a ventriloquist . . . But I'm also speaking for myself: I'm poor, homosexual, there's a female part of me that is always becoming and I let it be.70

In this sense, the Yeguas used their multiple marginalities strategically while trying to shape and broaden the conversations regarding public memory, political culture, and the imagined future of "democratic" Chile, as the analysis of the three following actions demonstrates.

Refundación de la Universidad de Chile (1988)

In their performance/protest Refundación de la Universidad de Chile ("Refoundation of Chile University"), the Yeguas set some patterns useful for understanding their actions as a whole. Only three days after Pinochet's defeat, they entered the Universidad de Chile, one of Chile's most important institutions and one of the first oppositional academic strongholds attacked during the coup. Lemebel and Casas were completely naked, embracing each other while riding a mare on bareback, led by their feminist and artist comrades Carla [End Page 131] Berenguer, Carolina Jeréz, and Nadia Prado, who played the flute as if it were a joyous parade.

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In Refundación the Yeguas and their partners in crime framed their loca refoundation within the broader context of a general student strike. With this, on the one hand, they showed their support for the students' demands and their willingness to create solidarity with them around common causes. However, on the other hand, it may be assumed that while supporting their demands, the Yeguas' mere presence also served to highlight some elements that the students were missing, such as the inclusion of other minorities in the university. Source: Ulises Nilo, "Refundación de la Universidad de Chile," 1988.

(Personal collection of the author, courtesy of the Yeguas del Apocalipsis' Archive)

A festive parade it was, despite its disquieting familiarity. With it Pedrita and Panchita (fluid feminine personalities the authors self-identified with almost daily in order to show their solidarity with women, particularly the most downtrodden) proposed a refounding of the university and with it open intellectual debate, mostly eliminated by the regime. However, this refounding was proposed as inherently linked to their bodies as locas, understood not as objects of academic study, but as living beings with rights and voices.71

This refounding, as with most of the actions that the Yeguas carried out, was not the product of an institutional negotiation. On the contrary, the very public display of their homosexual embodiment was on their own initiative. With this sort of nonviolent "propaganda of the deed,"72 they exercised their right to gather and [End Page 132] express themselves as openly locas in public. By doing so they redefined themselves and the spaces they claimed. As shown in Judith Butler's work, as these bodies in their plurality laid claim to the public, they also found and produced the public through seizing and reconfiguring the matter of material environments. At the same time, those material environments were part of the action, and they themselves acted when they became the support for action.73 With this action, not only did they materialize in public the intersections between art, sexuality, and politics that were invisible before,74 but they also declared that if they were to join the recovery of their beloved Santiago, they would do it through their bodies on the streets.

Furthermore, with Refundación the Yeguas exercised a practice that would serve as a model for their future interventions. They used their bodies as a means of communication, for not only were they the only tools that they had permanent access to, but also they were "the most visual zone of agony" according to Lemebel.75 In this regard, the Yeguas also played with the indetermination of their naked bodies, allowing the observers to give them meaning, yet they also transmitted some specific messages that resonated in the public's memory.

On one level, the Yeguas' (in)version of Lady Godiva's ride played on their name, as yeguas (mares in Spanish) was a popular way to label women as lewd or vulgar and also to refer to homosexuals as being "ridden." They also referred to—although in a intentionally erotic and problematic manner—the virile military figure of the conquistador and the soldier that conquered and founded spaces. By mixing these ideas together in their title (Refundación=Re-foundation), they were not only signaling who needed to get into the university, but also who could lead this new process.

On another level, however, the "disquieting familiarity" of Refundación may be explained by another approach for understanding the construction of memory, employed by authors such as Diana Taylor to study contemporary aesthetic-political actions (such as the activity of the Grandmothers/Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo)—the theory of social drama.76 This perspective (primarily inspired by [End Page 133] Victor Turner and Richard Schechner) asserts a fluent and interdependent relationship between social and aesthetic processes. Thus, the aesthetic performative practices of a culture are informed, modeled, and guided by the visible practices of said culture's social dramas, and vice versa.77 Because of this, when the aesthetic drama performance questions the social drama, it may modify how this drama is interpreted and interiorized, therefore modifying its public recollection and the effects of its legacy.

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Detail of Pedro Lemebel (on the left) and Francisco Casas riding on a mare during Refundación. An interesting aspect of their performances, especially in this one, is how comfortable they seem to be around each other, a deeply significant gesture during a period where social ties had been willingly rarefied or severed to hamper solidarity and resistance. Source: Ulises Nilo, Refundación de la Universidad de Chile (detail), 1988.

(Personal collection of the author, courtesy of the Yeguas del Apocalipsis' Archive)

In this regard, the familiarity of Refundación referred to social dramas performed during the dictatorship, that is, directly to the interventions and militarization of [End Page 134] multiple universities. However, the key element of this "quote" is that it referred to an existing pattern of social memories in order to propose a new beginning, by overturning the rites that once confirmed the regime's authority. It acted as a revocation ritual78 in which the artists' nakedness and vulnerability challenged the monopoly over foundational practices attained by hyper-masculine armed violence. This underlines the importance of redefining the founding figure with the interplay between yegua, the loca, and the conquistador.

This intervention exemplified fundamental elements that would shape—although in varying degrees—the Yeguas' aesthetic-political action within the broader field of extraofficial struggles concerned with memory. First of all, it put forth an oppositional reference to the immediate past, mainly achieved through its embodiment in a body tense and dense with problematic elements, especially regarding its radical divergence and transgression from an ideal citizen. And these were bodies where the queer, the loca, the undetermined, the marginalized status were not provisional artistic artifices used and then willingly removed: they established a way of living, of being a praxis of radical and fierce embodied difference.79 Secondly, this embodiment defined how they challenged earlier definitions of public space by their mere presence and existence within it. By existing there in their own irreverent terms, they exhibited the possibility of recovering and reassessing the social dynamics that molded it as living space. Finally, the Yeguas reshaped the memories this space aimed to transmit and in doing so, they aimed to show the contingent nature of the power relationships tied to said memories. On the whole, the duo declared their refounding principles: one needed to rethink and challenge the past in order to change the future.

¿De qué se ríe presidente? (1988)

A more radical and direct version of the Yeguas' demands regarding how Chileans were to imagine their future was exemplified by ¿De qué se ríe presidente? (What are you laughing at, president?), performed later that year (1988) and discussed earlier in this article. This action repeated a failed interruption of a general meeting of the Chilean Communist Party that same year, during which the Yeguas were expelled before presenting their demands, even though they considered themselves (especially Lemebel) socialists and had acted upon this conviction. This demonstrated the similarities between the reactions of those who viewed themselves as revolutionaries and those they criticized when it came to dealing with untamed "otherness."

In this version for Aylwin (on August 21, 1989), the Yeguas wore high heels, corsets, thongs, and feathers, which served to underline their unapologetic [End Page 135] exhibitionism. Knowing their ambiguous sexuality was troublesome, they hyperbolized it by adopting the over-the-top personae of abject vedettes (cabaret performers).80 This emphasis on ambiguity was also shown in their demands, which stated that if democratic Chile was to imagine itself anew, there needed to be a change, but here they were unclear in stating what needed to change. These gestures demonstrated what Marcela Carvajal has conceptualized as poéticas de asalto coliza ("fairy/faggot assault poetics"),81 which could be defined as the irruption of this radical difference in spaces where the organizers didn't want it to be considered in order to give the public new elements to reflect upon their society. This was the Yeguas' contribution to the aforementioned "poetics of crisis."

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The only record of "¿De qué se rie, presidente?" The Yeguas received a range of responses from their aesthetic-politic actions: from open surprise to laughter, including some indecipherable expressions. Patricio Aylwin can be seen in the first row, laughing and clapping between two men with glasses. Source: Eduardo Ramírez, "¿De qué ser ríe presidente?" (record), 1989.

(Original taken from the newspaper library of Chile's National Library, courtesy of the Yeguas del Apocalipsis' Archive)

This way, in a country where, in the Yeguas' words, "every transaction happened behind the public's back," they made themselves hyperbolically visible to contend the intended official invisibility of their existence and message, proven by their exclusion from these discussions. With these actions they pointed to dangerous limitations on freedom that Transición was reproducing while claiming to construct a new Chile. In this sense, the Yeguas literally forced the opening of new debates, [End Page 136] which took advantage of the gaps, dislocations, and contradiction present in the official discourse of reunification. The duo believed that this "new" Chile was being molded by an "institutional pluralism," which ensured the survival of repressive and concealing structures by forcing diversity to become noncontradictory, which limited the kind of society they were going to build.82

The Yeguas did not accept this definition of diversity, and so they emphasized they didn't point out these flaws from a comfortable and compliant "gay" identity, that is, an identity formed "in the shadow of victorious capitalism," and was obedient to its power, one it didn't confront or transgress.83 Instead they chose to exteriorize a transgressive identity, to define themselves (in their own words) as "maricones forever." And presenting themselves publicly as such, the Yeguas demanded a future country that gave "the transvestite a pathway, a space by the river, and gave the prostitutes (unconditional allies) a retirement pension."84 For, as the duo stated, either the "new" Chile accepted every difference and reached out to every outcast with whom it had a historic debt, and integrated them as citizens, or its democracy was just a hazardous and compliant carnivalesque perpetuation of the dictatorship.

La conquista de América (1989)

The interest in creating new allies was especially evident in La conquista de América ("The Conquest of America), performed on October 12, 1989. This intervention was planned by the duo with members of the AFDD who carried protest signs. Here the Yeguas only wore discreet makeup and black pants, while carrying Walkmans glued to their bare chests. They performed a cueca (traditional courtship folk dance) while stepping barefoot on a map of South America covered by shards of broken Coca-Cola bottles, upon which they left a trail of blood while shouting the name of their deceased loved-ones, killed both by AIDS and state violence, not only during the dictatorship but also under the UP's government.85 This was, in Lemebel's words, their own love message whispered to the memory's incorruptible ear.86

The use of the cueca in the presence of the AFDD members was especially significant because they were the creators of the "cueca sola," a powerful type of public protest used during the regime's bloodiest years, in which women reappropriated the traditional and official dance by performing it by themselves, highlighting the absence of their partners and, thereby, confronting the dictatorship. The fact that the Yeguas performance "reactivated" this aesthetic-political action (but [End Page 137] with homosexual overtones) may be considered not only a way of honoring these women and their dignity and an invitation to join efforts, but simultaneously an accusation that stated that the causes of these wounds were still at work, and that the violent past—suggested by the reference to the Conquista process—wasn't really gone. Continuing the ambiguous treatment of the past deployed in Refundación, the Yeguas aimed to fuse that distant past with their personal and immediate past to demonstrate that the amnesia some promoted as necessary for healing was just another lie from the "reconciled carnival," as they put it, and a rather dangerous one.87 This is why they not only showcased the wounds left by the Conquista, but also incorporated a rather direct representation of the toxic effects of American imperialism (as the US supported the dictatorship through the "Operation Condor"88) all over Latin America with its ubiquitous symbol: the Coca-Cola bottle.

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This performance was carried out at the headquarters of the Chilean Committee for Human Rights, suggesting the continuity between the horrors of the American Conquista and the crimes of the Junta's military dictatorship. At the right, members of the AFDD are visible.

Source: Paz Errázuriz, La conquista de América (record), October 12, 1989.

(Personal collection of the author, courtesy of the Yeguas del Apocalipsis' Archive)

[End Page 138]

However, La Conquista did not merely express the existence of an unresolved historical wound. On the contrary, one may imagine that with every step of the cueca, as it created and reopened wounds, Lemebel and Casas worked to create a zone of solidarity and creative potential around common wounds. In this way, the duo designed this action to blur the lines demarcating public and private grief, already questioned by the original "cueca sola." By doing so, the Yeguas aimed to unfetter the mourning process, transferring it to a collective dimension of processing, which allowed not only the direct victims, but also society as a whole to rethink their grief and violent experiences.89 As Fernanda Carvajal explains, this action purposefully tried to transform the mourning/loss experience from a private, melancholic, and paralyzing experience (useful to the Pinochet's regime for its atomization of society) into a place of yearning, learning, and solidarity. In sum, the Yeguas proposed a political deconstruction of mourning.90

This intention links this performance to other aesthetic-political actions like Homenaje a Sebastián Acevedo ("Homage to Sebastián Acevedo") and Tu dolor dice: minado91 performed after this "interregnum of mutism" (respectively in 1991 and 1993). Here the Yeguas also expressed their own wounds and "toned down" their more explicit loca identities in order to forge better connections with others, and to signal the strategic proximity between the homosexual, the transvestite, the political desaparecido, the ardent woman activist, and other marginalized identities, all exiled within their own country.92 In this way they turned marginality into a strength, thus exposing subjugation not as an ontological condition, but as a situated and relational positioning, in which bodies intersected by multiple marginalization had the capacity to combine diverse elements of apparently different [End Page 139] social struggles. With this, the Yeguas seemed to propose that the reconquering of the public did not have to come from the top or occur in an orderly manner, but could also be imagined from multiple sites, brought together by past and present pain, but not immobilized by it and looking towards the future.

A Piece of Red Sky for the Generations to Come: The Yegua's Legacy

In August 1991, Patricio Aylwin declared "the transition is done and Chile is now a democracy." Yet the most authoritarian aspects of the 1980s Constitution had survived. Further, activists such as the Yeguas, who had shared the joy promised by the plebiscite's campaign, did not gain public full-rights citizenship.93 When faced by these contradictions within the democracy they wanted to help mold, the Yeguas chose to perform aesthetic-political actions aimed to make publicly visible the short-comings of Chile's imagined future when it came face to face with those who did not conform to its ideal, such as themselves. In a society that had been violently forced to believe that "that which appears, is good, and that which is good, appears," and act upon this conviction, this duo consistently displayed themselves and thus claimed that other ways of being were not only possible, but vital for a new Chile. This is why they continuously invaded the public places they were supposed to respect: to shed light onto the shadowed alleys and slums the new democracy seemed tempted to ignore, for it reminded its representatives how similar they may actually be to their authoritarian predecessors when dealing with an untamed "Other."

The survival of limitation of rights during the Transición led the Yeguas to create their own spaces, as ephemeral or small they may be. In other words, if they demanded a "piece of red sky to soar freely," they didn't wait until it was given to them, but took it by force or constructed it. If the university needed to welcome the sexual minorities, the Yeguas became their leading vanguard; if homosexuals required political visibility, they stormed the public stages that vetoed them; if wounds had to be open in order to create new bonds, they willingly gave their bodies and blood, literally.

These interventions, as stated before, were mainly molded by the duo's concern with the past, fundamentally with the ambivalence of the potential use of the "no-past" or "point zero of history" that the dictatorship signified. On one hand, the regime's ending enabled a tendency that "Pedrita" (Lemebel's female identity) criticized, in which "the modern always seemed to go against memory, as someone whose aim is to create an instantaneous country every day, with no past."94 However, on the other hand, actors such as the Yeguas believed this ending could open [End Page 140] the possibility to revise different narratives of the past, in order to create a history from other perspectives, avoiding those of the official sites of power.95 Hence, the Yeguas considered remembering in inventive terms (as contradictory as it seems) an ethical and vital obligation.

And this remembrance started by acknowledging the contingency of multiple past structures, revealed not just by their performances but also in the way they existed in public, which the Yeguas actually defined as their best performance.96 And in this sense, too, they were helping to craft a usable past, not for them, but for the generations to come, as invoked by Lemebel's "Hablo por mi diferencia" in 1986. In this sense, it may be argued that while the Yegua's loca identity molded their interventions into memory, these interventions simultaneously shaped said identity and its expressions, making them less complacent and compliant, and inseparable from the other marginalities (that "multiplicity of segregations,"97 according to Lemebel) that crossed their own existence. In this sense, when the Yeguas were claiming for a truly democratic Chile from their loca identity, they didn't act just by and for themselves, but aimed to do so for and with others.

As stated before, this loca identity embodied publicly as a willingly radical difference molded their poéticas de asalto coliza, the Yeguas' repetitive irruptions into public spaces through aesthetic-political actions from which they questioned the past, present, and future of the Transición. This was the Yeguas' contribution to the "poetics of crisis," a fundamental element of the opposition's public practices of memory that have been deployed over the years of street battles, trying to give the Chileans new ways to read their past and, therefore, to imagine their future.

All of this brings simple but fundamental questions to mind. First, what lessons can we learn from the Yeguas' case regarding public history, public memory, public art, and performance? In general terms, studies of this type of memory practices may help the "democratization of history," not only by broadening what are considered valid historical sources and narrators, but also the spectrum of what constructions are considered public history and who counts as valid transmitters. This can be done by bringing forward questions regarding history's relations to memory and of who writes history, what history, how and why, but also questions about how is history taught, who does it and for what. This is especially relevant in our current context, with the rise of extreme-right governments around the globe, which are trying to actively erase "inconvenient minorities" (including the LGBTQI communities) from existence, starting with their history and information regarding them.98 [End Page 141]

The second and perhaps the most fundamental question is, did actions such as the Yeguas' performance bring any real change? It is impossible to clearly define a programmatic proposal able to change society as a whole that the Yeguas put forth, so the answer could be "no." However, this was never their goal. The quid of the world that they desired to create rested on its scope and scale. Their actions demanded a radical readjustment of the utopic visions that came before them (both imagined by the UP and the dictatorship, even by the Transición with its "perfectly consensual present"). Perhaps their proposal should be understood as a "mediocre utopia,"99 the continual and temporary microconstruction of a bearable and habitable present. On this scope, the Yeguas' actions are still relevant as part of a "usable past" for those—like the "Colectivo Pedro Lemebel" or "La Yeguada Latinoamericana,"100 to name some local collectives—who are still demanding a better world for everybody, like the Yeguas did. In this sense, one must remember that even if the Yeguas' actions were considered laughable, they are still remembered and, as Arundhati Roy brilliantly explains, "To be present in history, even as nothing more than a chuckle, was a universe away from being absent from it, from being written out of it altogether. A chuckle, after all, could become a foothold in the sheer wall of the future."101 [End Page 142]

Juliana Sandoval Álvarez

Juliana Sandoval Álvarez is an art historian currently earning a second MA in geography at Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). Previous investigations in public history have focused on the social and cultural conditions that fostered the proliferation of female mystical deviants in New Spain throughout the eighteenth century. Present writings and investigations have shifted towards urban contemporary Latin American history, a field where she is aiming to understand different cultural phenomena (especially contemporary performance understood in a broad sense) and their affects on the ways urban dwellers have understood themselves and others.


1. I'm not a fag dressed up as a poet.

I don't need a costume. Here's my face.I speak for my difference. I defend what I am and I'm not that weird.Injustice reeks to me and I suspect of this democratic cueca . . .Because the dictatorship will pass. And democracy will come,Followed by socialism.And then what? What will you do with us, comrade? . . .Will the future be black and white?Will time turn itself into unambiguous labor nights and days?Won't there be a faggot in a cornerDeranging the future of your new man? . . .I give this message to you./And it's not on my behalf.I'm old and your utopia is for the generations to come.Many children are going to be born with broken wings.And I want them to soar, comrade,I want your revolution/to give them a piece of red skyTo fly.

(Translation by author.)

2. The "Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia" (Coalition of Parties for Democracy) of Chile was the alliance between center/center-left parties (which came back into existence after more political parties were legalized in 1987) and various civil movements from the '80s that came together after Pinochet announced the plebiscite with goal of his defeat. All democratically elected presidents in Chile since 1988 (the beginning of the Transición) have belonged to this political force.

3. The notion of "cultural blackout" has a complex history. According to Francisco Casas's semibiographic novel Yo, yegua, it was invented by Pinochet's wife to refer to the cultural production of the Unidad Popular (UP). Similarly, Donoso argues that it was created during the military regime to criticize the UP. However, as the military regime continued, its supporters realized that their own poor cultural production was serving as a new variation of said "cultural blackout" and even supporters of the regime defined most of its cultural creations as such. This notion of "cultural blackout" survived in the Transición, where it conveyed the idea that there had been no cultural production during the military regime. This idea is problematized by authors such as María Fabiola Freire, who argues that this meaning not only implied that culture disappeared and then only returned with the democratic government, but also implicitly served to discredit nonofficial cultural practices that had indeed happened during Pinochet's dictatorship, because they were not functional to the new government's ideas of "democratic recomposition." Francisco Casas, Yo, Yegua (Santiago: Pequeño Dios Editores, 2017), 79; Karen Donoso, "El'apagóncultural' en Chile: políticas culturales y censura en la dictadura de Pinochet 1973–1983," Outros Tempos 10, no. 16 (2013): 6; and María Fabiola Freire, "Territorios políticos, cuerpos politizados. Acerca del género en el arte de acción: Chile (1973–1992)" (PhD diss., Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 2014), 240.

4. Casas, Yo, Yegua, 26.

5. Terms such as locas, maricas, maricones or colizas are homophobic slurs (the first three used across Latin America; the fourth exclusively Chilean), which this paper has opted to use to define the Yeguas. Even though they could be somewhat translated as "fags/faggots," "fruits," "fairies," or even "queers," this text uses the original Spanish words (especially locas, the duo's most used term when talking about themselves) in most cases for two reasons. First, they were the terms the Yeguas specifically used to self-identify, emphasizing the use of the feminine as part of the negative characterization. As Lemebel explained: "perhaps we always were locas (crazy women/fags), locas as used when they stigmatize women." In this way they turned the intended insult into an identity. This last word will be used throughout the text to evoke the queer identity they embodied. In the same spirit, Lemebel never described himself as gay, because he defined this identity as compliant with power because it didn't confront it or transgress it, and had managed its "emancipation" in the shadow of "victorious capitalism." Second, the use of their native tongue was fundamental for these creators (specially for Lemebel) who didn't understand or simply rejected the English language forced upon them by the American gay community, and argued that their "Indian–(Latin) American tongue" was ignored by those in the US, where they were expected just to obey. This last tendency also reflects, as Felipe Caro and Patricio Simonetto explain, a transnational tendency among Latin American homosexual liberation groups during the late '60s and into the '90s: a tense relationship and dialogue with the homosexual community in the United States, in which the use of more local and relatively autonomous language can be seen as demarking some kind of distancing from their northern peers. Pedro Lemebel, Loco afán: Crónicas del sidario (Barcelona: Anagrama, 2000), 124–28; Felipe Caro y Patricio Simonetto, "Sexualidades radicales: los movimientos de Liberación Homosexual en América Latina (1967–1989)," Izquierdas 46 (May 2019): 72.

6. For further information on the practices of the dictatorship regarding detainees and other human rights violations (including extra-judicial killing, torture, kidnapping, and forced disappearance) see the "Rettig Report" of 1991 (officially The National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation Report, and the "Valech Report" of 2005 (officially The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture Report,

7. Diana Taylor, "Performance and Politics," Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 21, no. 4 (2014): 338.

8. Steve J. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet: The Memory Question in Democratic Chile, 1989–2006 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), xxix.

9. This comprehension of history as "truthful" can be perceived in sources such as Pinochet's letter to the Chileans written after his arrest in London. This text can be understood as Pinochet's justification of the dictatorship's "excesses" (such as its high death toll), defining them as absolutely necessary to achieve the triumph of the "Western Christian concept of existence and fundamental values and respect for human dignity." Here Pinochet references "history" as the site where the truth of the military regime's "heroic deeds" lie that will be later understood by a comprehensive "new generation of fellow countrymen." Interestingly, while Pinochet's statements can be seen molded by his logic "history will absolve me," he simultaneously seems to understand history as a fixed journey towards a glorious ending, a teleological vision perhaps modeled by his deeply seated and aggressively expressed Christian values. Augusto Pinochet, "Carta a los chilenos: las emotivas palabras que Pinochet escribió desde Londres," The Clinic, September 13, 2013, Translation by author.

10. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 5.

11. Most of these articles (except Glassberg's and Britton's) can be read in The Public Historian Spring 1997 issue, in which these authors (including Linda Scopes, Jo Blatti, Barbara Blanco, and Michael Frisch) discussed David Glassberg's 1996 essay, "Public History and the Study of Memory." This issue exemplified the aforementioned interest in analyzing the complex relations between history, public history, and memory. In this same spirit, Britton's text is an adaptation of her presidential address given that same year at the annual meeting of National Council on Public History.

12. Robert R. Archibald, "Memory and the Process of Public History," The Public Historian 19, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 63.

13. Diana F. Britton, "Public History and Public Memory," The Public Historian 19, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 22.

14. David Glassberg, "Public History and the Study of Memory," The Public Historian 18, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 10.

15. Ibid., 11.

16. Ibid., 14.

17. Lara Kelland, "Clio's Foot Soldiers: Twentieth-Century U.S. Social Movements and the Uses of Collective Memory" (PhD diss., University of Illinois, 2013), 2–17.

18. Kelland, "Clio's Foot Soldiers," 207.

19. David Dean, "Theater: A Neglected Site of Public History?," The Public Historian 34, no. 3 (August 2012): 33.

20. Ibid., 37.

21. Ibid., 38.

22. Diana Taylor, "Introducción. Performance, teoría y práctica," in Estudios avanzados de performance, ed. Diana Taylor y Marcela Fuentes (México D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2011), 20.

23. Ibid., 9.

24. Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 15.

25. Taylor, The Archive, 19; Taylor, "Introducción," 14.

26. Taylor, The Archive, 22.

27. Diana Taylor, "Performance And/As History," TDR 50, no. 1 (Spring 2006), 68.

28. Taylor, "Introducción," 15.

29. Diana Taylor, "Performance And/As History," 83.

30. Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, "Enactements of Power: The Politics of Performance Space," TDR 41, no. 3 (Autumn 1997): 20

31. The Brigadas Muralistas (Muralist Brigades) were part of a broader cultural initiative organized by Salvador Allende's government in order to bring art to the people. Their creations were also meant to signal and help common people take pride in what they and the new socialist government had achieved.

32. Marco Antonio de la Parra and Ariel Dorfman, Chile from Within, 1973–1988 (New York: Norton & Company, 1990), 109.

33. Luis Hernán Errázuriz, "Dictadura militar en Chile: antecedentes del golpe estético-cultural," Latin American Research Review 44, no. 2 (2009): 137–42.

34. Ibid., 154.

35. Alexander Wilde, "Irrupciones de la memoria: la política expresiva en la transición hacia la democracia en Chile," in Chile: los caminos de la historia y la memoria, ed. Horacio Pons (Santiago de Chile: Anne Perotin-Dummon, 2007), 16.

36. Ana Longoni et al., curators, Seminario-Perder la forma humana. Una imagen sísmica de los añ os ochenta en América Latina, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid), October 26 and 27, 2012. Madrid: Centro de investigaciones artísticas –MNCARS.

37. Some significant examples of these new monuments and restylings are the "Eternal Flame of Liberty" (1975), the "Motherland Altar" (1979), the reconstruction (with some significant "socialist" areas sealed) of La Moneda (1981), the restyling of the "Constitutional Plaza" (1983) and the construction of the new Congressional Building in Valparaíso in 1987, among others. Roberto Fernández-Droguett, "Lugares de la memoria de la dictadura de Chile: Memorialización incompleta en el Barrio Cívico de Santiago," Revista Bitácora Urbano Territorial 25, no. 1 (2015): 117.

38. One intervention that epitomized the media's complicity with such constructions can be found in El Mercurio—one of Chile's main newspapers and an unconditional ally of the military dictatorship—on its front page on September 13, when media was allowed to circulate again. Here they defined the events with the title Hacia la Recuperación Nacional ("Towards National Recovery"). "Hacia la Recuperación Nacional," El Mercurio, September 13, 1973.

39. According to González Vial, the Plan Zeta was a strategy to be deployed in the future by the Unidad Popular government, in which it would stage a coup on its own government in order to get rid of military leaders of the opposition and gain more popular support.

40. Nelly Richard, Márgenes e instituciones. Arte en Chile desde 1973 (Santiago de Chile: Ediciones Metales Pesados, 2007), 50.

41. The concept here proposed is taken from the seminar given by the curators and investigators of the exhibition Perder la forma humana. Una imagen sísmica de los 80, organized by the Reina Sofía Museum of Madrid in 2012. This exhibition defined the activities of the Yeguas as participating in a nonconsensual process of multiple and simultaneous expression of similar tactics, spaces, and ways of making art and politics throughout the continent. These activities broadened the conventional space of art and its relationship with activists, especially during the dictatorships. These different kinds of resistance on the part of activists, artists, and others were included under the umbrella term "poetic/aesthetic-political actions" (here simplified to "aesthetical-politic actions"), which not only aimed to connect them based on their similarities (especially their ultimate goals), but also state the distance they established not only from traditional leftist discourses, but also from the classical understanding of "political art." Longoni et al., Perder la forma humana.

42. This term was proposed by Nelly Richard to categorize a heterogeneous group of Chilean practices (mainly artistic and literary) that questioned and modified the discursive strategies of aesthetic production, challenging fundamental pillars of its institutional practices, traditional supports, spaces, and, above all, its relationship with its surroundings and the public. Their main and defining common trait was their production under Pinochet's regime that many opposed. It is fundamental to acknowledge (as Richard did while she tried to legitimize her contemporaries by creating this term) that theirs was not mere experimentation for the sake of it, but that with actions such as the hyper-codification of languages or the intervention of the city, many of them aimed not only to avoid censorship, but also to give the general population new ways to imagine and create. Richard, Márgenes e instituciones, 15–16.

43. Robert Nestaud, CADA DÍA: la creación de un arte social (Santiago de Chile: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2001), 93.

44. "NO +" is considered C.A.D.A.'s most memorable for its cultural resonances. Its premise was simple: the collective members proposed the motto "NO+___" and invited other artists to stamp it around Chile and let people fill the blank with their own ideas (e.g. No+Pinochet, No+Violence, No+Fear). Its first expressions were graffiti, but over time this motto became a public war cry that rallied the opposition. Its popularity grew so much that it was even used in the official campaign for the "NO" in 1988's plebiscite (which asked citizens if they wanted the Junta to stay in power) and could later be seen in banners during Patricio Aylwin's inauguration in 1990.

45. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, xxv.

46. For further information consult Richard Schechner, Performance Studies: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2006); Richard Schechner, Performance Theory (London: Routledge, 1998).

47. Peter Winn, "El pasado está presente: Historia y memoria en el Chile contemporáneo," in Pons, ed., Chile: los caminos de la historia y la memoria, 15.

48. Steve J. Stern, Battling for the Hearts and Minds: Memory Struggles in Pinochet's Chile, 1973–1988 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), 250.

49. Ibid., 250–51.

50. Nelly Richard, Cultural Residues: Chile in Transition (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 29.

51. Ivonne Pini, "Memoria y violencia: reformulando relatos," Ensayos: Historia y teoría del arte 16 (2010): 29.

52. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 1.

53. Richard, Cultural Residues, 15.

54. According to Lazzara and Stern, the more immediate and evident obstacles that the new democratic government faced had to do with the provisions included in the 1980s Constitution (which established the permanence of Pinochet as chief of the military until 1998 and as senator for life among other questionable practices), the 1978 Amnesty Law, Law 18.771 (which legally allowed the Defense Ministry, the military, the police, and other security forces to withhold or even destroy their archives), and the strategic placement of loyal ex-DNI (National Directory of Intelligence) members in military key positions. Additionally, the courtrooms were filled with many pinochetistas (people loyal to Pinochet), and a business class dependent on the privatizations the dictatorship pushed forward was a key element in Chile's economy. Other strategies were focused on creating and sponsoring a favorable mass media, especially by financing private and official media outlets. Last, but not least, it's fundamental to remember that 2/5 of the voting population (2,290,972 Chileans voted "Yes" in the plebiscite) still agreed—although in varying degrees—with the regime. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 31–33; Michael Lazzara, Chile in Transition: The Poetics and Politics of Memory (Florida: The University Press of Florida, 2006), 17–25.

55. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 8.

56. Manuel Antonio Garretón and Roberto Garretón, "La democracia incompleta en Chile: la realidad tras los rankings internacionales," Revista de Ciencia Política 30, no. 1 (2010): 116; Fernández-Droguett, "Lugares de la memoria," 115.

57. As Stern explains (Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 32) it's strange that this critical phrase is not included in the published text of this speech in El Mercurio (the official newspaper that served as a key cultural agent of the regime), but Aylwin recalled saying it. What is certain is that it gained such cultural relevance that Aylwin used it again later. Stern explains that with this idea, the president tried to acknowledge the limits faced by the new government regarding its relationship with the dictatorship and the public demands for justice and truth, while also highlighting its achievements and discouraging direct action from the population, such as vengeance killings. The best example of this policy was the "Informe Rettig" which demonstrated that torture, murder, and other violations of human rights had been systemic practices during the regime, but this report was not allowed to publicize the names of the perpetrators, only give them to the jury and the president himself. Because of actions such as these, some victims, including Lorena Pizarro (president of the AFDD), defined the policies of the Transición as accommodating to the previous regime as it didn't really abandon dictatorial practices and aimed to benefit those in power, not the victims themselves. Vivian Lavín, "Perdón . . . en la medida de lo posible," Arcadia,

58. The most important public actions of the Transición came in 1990–91, after the Concertación officially took over. First, on March 9, 1990, a day before Aylwin took office, the National Stadium was "exorcised" of its past as concentration camp with the performance of the "Cueca sola" (explained here in the analysis of La Conquista de America) by members of the AFDD. Later that same year (on September 5) last honors were given to Allende in the Metropolitan Cathedral, which were followed with his formal burial in the General Cemetery (official republican cemetery of Santiago), a symbolic act that made him part of Chile's democratic tradition. Finally, on September 5, 1991, Aylwin used public television to present the results of "Informe Rettig" and asked the victims for forgiveness on behalf of Chileans. However, as Wilde explains, after these key actions, the Transición became rather passive and reactive, not producing, but only reacting to the "irruptions of memory" it couldn't control. Wilde, "Irrupciones de la memoria," 14–18.

59. Richard, Cultural Residues,15.

60. Stern, Reckoning with Pinochet, 94.

61. Pini, "Memoria y violencia," 47.

62. Eugenia Brito, "El cuerpo performático de los años 80," in La intensidad del acontecimiento: Escrituras y relatos en torno a la performance en Chile, ed. Mauricio Barría y Francisco Sanfuentes (Santiago: Ediciones Departamento de Artes Visuales, Facultad de Artes Universidad de Chile, 2011), 69.

63. This fear of provoking a response from the army would prove to be true during the 90s, when the military forces took to the streets to show their dissent regarding policies of the new democratic government, especially investigations. The most famous of these actions is known as "El Boinazo" ("The Beret Parade"), a military action ordered by Pinochet himself (chief in command of the military forces at the time) in which fully armed soldiers with camouflaged faces and black berets surrounded the main building of the Military Forces (very near to La Moneda) in an action that clearly echoed 1973's coup. This was the response to an ongoing investigation linking Pinochet and his family to possible financial fraud (the famous "Pinocheques" scandal). This was not an isolated event, for in 1990 a similar massive action (known as "Ejercicio de Seguridad Alistamiento y Enlace") was carried out by military troops taking to the streets while rattling their sabers. This was a response to the announcement of the opening of investigations regarding human rights violations and embezzlement. Such performatic public disruptions have been understood not only as means to secure Pinochet's power, but also as actions aimed to make the general population believe that democracy was just a transitory exercise, dependent on following of the military conditions. Mario Navarro, "Pensando en ejercicio a travé s de los 'ejercicios de enlace,'" Colección Cisneros, November 3, 2014,; and Claudia Soto, "'El boinazo': el momento más tenso del gobierno de Patricio Aylwin," La Tercera, March 19, 2016,

64. This was a spontaneous protest that broke out during Allende's government to protest against police brutality towards Santiago's LGBTQI community, mainly against sex workers. This situation was symptomatic of Chile's general position towards homosexuals, not only during the UP's government, but also during the military regime and future democracy, for not only were their claims ignored and their protest violently disrupted, but it was also mocked, criticized, and moralized by left and right. Some even went so far as to justify violence. Víctor Hugo Robles, Bandera Chueca: Historia del Movimiento Homosexual en Chile (Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2008), 12.

65. Ana María Risco, "Escrito sobre ruinas," La Nación, June 2, 1995, 18. Translation by author.

66. Angela Barraza, "Francisco Casas y la mejor performance que se ha hecho en la historia de Chile," Fisuras (blog), 2013,

67. bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1999), 207.

68. This was expressed by Casas while explaining that although they aimed to bring together "humans rights with homosexuality, our [the Yeguas] first compromise was with the desaparecidos and against the human carnage the country was facing; homosexuals came after." Robles, Bandera Chueca, 29.

69. Fernanda Carvajal, "Prácticas artísticas de la disidencia sexual y perturbaciones sobre los signos de la izquierda política," presentation, VII Jornadas de Jóvenes Investigadores, Buenos Aires, November 7 and 8, 2003.

70. Andrés Gómez, "Es necesario liberar algunas perversiones," La Tercera, September 21, 1997. Emphasis by author.

71. Carolina Robino, "Las últimas locas del fin del mundo," Hoy, August 26 to September 01, 1991.

72. "Propaganda of the deed" is an anarchist notion (formally adopted as a strategy in the Anarchist Congress in London, 1881) mainly linked to insurrectionary anarchism, which believes the disappearance of the state and capitalism requires active attacks, open mutiny, and the spreading of insurrection among the exploited. This logic dictates that instead of words, the downtrodden need actions (mostly violent, but nonviolent expressions have also existed) that give them hope and demonstrate that something is possible by actually carrying it out. In anarchist terms, this strategy mainly aimed to show that the state and those in power were not all-powerful by actually attacking them and succeeding. Perhaps the most famous expression of this strategy was the stabbing and assassination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni in 1898.

73. Judith Butler, "Bodies in Alliance and the Politics of the Street," lecture, "The State of Things," 54 Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy, September 7, 2011.

74. Fernanda Carvajal, "Yeguas del Apocalipsis: La intrusión del cuerpo como desacato y desplazamiento," Carta 3 (Spring-Summer 2012): 60,

75. Elizabeth Neira, "Las estrategias del deseo," Rocinante no. 9, year II (1999). Translation by author.

76. Diana Taylor, "Trauma and Performance: Lessons from Latin America," PMLA 121, no. 5 (October 2006); Diana Taylor, "Introducción."

77. Richard Schechner, Performance Studies, 25.

78. Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989): 9–13.

79. Fabio Salas, "Yeguas del Apocalipsis Entrevista con Francisco Casas y Pedro Lemebel," Cauce, May 1, 1989, 29.

80. Angela Barraza, "Francisco Casas," Angela Barraza Risso (blog),

81. Carvajal, "La intrusión del cuerpo," 60.

82. Richard, Cultural Residues, 16.

83. Lemebel, Loco afán, 124–128.

84. Maura Brescia, "'Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis' en una acción de arte," La Época, October 17, 1989.

85. Salas, "Yeguas del Apocalipsis," 28.

86. Pedro Lemebel, De perlas y cicatrices: Crónicas Radiales (Santiago: LOM Editores, 1998), 102. Translation by author.

87. Lemebel, De perlas y cicatrices, 18. Translation by author.

88. "Operación Cóndor" (Spanish) was a transnational United States-backed campaign that coordinated efforts throughout Latin America in order to eradicate Soviet or Communist-inspired organizations and influence and broaden the scope of neoliberal policies in the continent, mainly directed by the "Chicago Boys," the Chilean liberal economists trained at the University of Chicago (mainly under Friedman's and Harberger's influence) who became economic advisors of the military dictatorship, among other South American governments. Concretely, this meant the support of right-wing military dictatorships (especially in the Southern Cone) since its official implementation in 1975 and during the Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan administrations. This central coordination of South American regimes not only explains the general similarity of the regimes' actions and policies (even though each country served as a laboratory for the next one, as the cases of Chile and Argentina show), but it also meant a continent-wide coordination of intelligence and actions against opposition (including assassinations and disappearances). This last fact was brought to light in 1992 with the uncovering of the "Archives of Terror" in Paraguay, a series of sources that documented this collaboration and its effects. J. Patrice McSherry, "Cross-Border Terrorism: Operation Condor," NACLA, September 25, 2007,

89. Diana Taylor, "Trauma and Performance," 1

90. Carvajal, "La intrusión del cuerpo," 62.

91. This is a game of words that is not translatable into English. On one hand, it plays with "dice," the present tense of the verb "decir" ("to say" in Spanish) and the adjective "minado" (meaning "mined"), implying something like "Your pain says: 'I'm mined.'" On the other hand, it plays with the homophonic relationship between "dice: minado" and "diseminado," meaning disseminated or scattered, as referencing the act of spreading sorrow, as in sharing, but also in a more violent manner.

92. Grupo de investigación Micropolíticas de la desobediencia sexual en el arte, "¿Qué pueden hacerle las desobediencias sexuales a la historia del arte,'" May 14, 2014,

93. Regarding the LGBTQI population, for example, it is fundamental to remember that Article 365 of Chile's Criminal Code defined sodomy as a crime until 1999, while Article 373 sanctioned whoever attacked modesty or threatened "good manners" or "public morality." Both articles served to attack and judicialize members of the LGBTQI community.

94. Elizabeth Neira, "La metáfora de la subversión," El Mercurio, February 21, 1999. Translation by author.

95. Risco, "Escrito sobre ruinas," 18.

96. Barraza, "Francisco Casas."

97. Lemebel, Loco afán, 125.

98. Examples of this can be found all around the world. For example, intellectuals such as Arundhati Roy and others have spoken against the erasure of India's Muslim Past by the Bharatiya Janata Party (a right-wing Hindu Nationalist Party), with actions that such as violent attacks against their monuments and shrines (such as the destruction of sixteenth-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in 1992), to the more recent initiative of rewriting the nation's Mughal past in school texts, either defining it as an invasion or just erasing this part of India's history altogether. A more specific case regarding the LGBTQI community is the recent initiative of Trump Administration to redefine "gender" (understanding it as a biological and immutable condition determined by genitalia), an action that would legally define nonconforming gender individuals out of existence and erase their protections. Arundhati Roy, Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 25–42; Ruby Lal, "Empress Nur Jahan and the Politics of Erasure in Modern India," LitHub,; Erica L. Green, Katie Benner, and Robert Pear, "'Transgender' Could Be Defined Out Of Existence By Trump Administration," The New York Times, October 21, 2018; Neil Broverman, "Trump Admin. Preparing to Deny Trans People Exist, Erase Protections," Advocate, October 21, 2018,

99. Dorota Biczel, "Utopía mediocre" in Perder la forma humana: Una imagen sísmica de los añ os 80 en América Latina, ed. Red de Conceptualismos del Sur (Madrid: Museo Reina Sofia con Red de Conceptualismos del Sur, 2012).

100. The "Colectivo Pedro Lemebel" is a Chilean feminist-leftist high school movement formed in 2013 by students in order to fight homophobic, sexist, and transphobic elements in education and demand a more inclusive education. They have used art (mainly performance) as means of public visibility. The "Yeguada Latinoamericana" is a feminist anti-speciesist collective formed in Santiago which gained public visibility for their provocative performances during Pope Francis I's visit to Chile. They have a postcolonial inspiration that links together women's struggles (understood broadly as human struggles) with nonhuman struggles as a continuum of patriarchal exploitation. Jonás Romero Sánchez, "El colectivo trans que revoluciona los liceos en toma,"; Cheril Linett, Jennifer Concha, and Lorna Remmele, "Banda de Guerra: Yeguada Latinoamericana [Manifiesto],"

101. Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (New Delhi: Penguin Random House, 2018), 55.

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