Symbols of Memory and Resistance

Forced disappearance was a violent practice, which flourished in Latin America during the seventies with the arrival of military dictatorships and armed conflict. This practice was used for different purposes according to the country. For example, in some countries of Latin America, the military used it as a repressive approach, in other countries it was the right way to lower homicide rates and maintain an attenuated war.

For a while the forced disappearance seemed to be the perfect crime within its perverse logic, there are no victims and therefore no perpetrators, as well as exposes Weld “a desaparecido is neither quite dead nor alive, simultaneously present and absent” (p.8)

The constant pain that this violent practice produced on the families of the victims, and the constant wondering of “where are they?” “what happen to them?” “Did they suffer?” “For how long did they suffer?” and the special case in Argentina where the mothers of Plaza de Mayo not only wonder about their children but also about their grandchildren. Have generated a very important and interesting artistic production, I remember seeing an exhibition in Colombia on the disappeared in Latin America one of the symbols created to portrait the disappeared in Argentina and then used in some countries of Latin America as a flag, was a graffiti of a bicycle that has a number in red in one of the tires which represents one of the 350 students of Universidad de Rosario disappeared during the military dictatorship.


But there were other artistic initiatives – or at least that I consider artistic- that comes from the people, looking for not only a symbol, but also to maintain the memory of what happened and a voice of resistance. One example of this kind of art are the Arpilleras. During the dictatorship in 1974, the catholic church opened a workshop to help women victims of the violence to produce carpets so they can have some financial income. These women started to transform those usual carpets into an instrument of public denunciation of social injustice and the violation of human rights, the movement spread to other cities and other countries around the world.


These two kinds of representation and symbolism, one coming from the Artilleras and one coming from Fernando Traverso a known artist from Argentina, makes me wonder if we can consider both art? and if they are both art which of them has has a broader meaning in the collective consciousness and memory?


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