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Arpillera woven on both sides of the Andes unites the memory of the Coup in Uruguay and Chile

Santiago de Chile, June 25 (EFE).- Arpilleras are a Chilean historical symbol, because in times of repression they embroidered testimonies denouncing the violations of human rights that occurred under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

Fifty years later, and on the occasion of the shared anniversary of the beginning of the twin tyrannies in Chile and Uruguay, a group of Chilean women have woven one of these large banners and sent it to the neighboring country to join another one that their Uruguayan counterparts embroider in a joint exercise of memory and vindication of the disappeared detainees.

A round trip that began this week heading east to denounce the autocratic regime of Juan María Bordaberry and that will return to the west in September for the anniversary of Pinochet’s coup, in a libertarian journey similar to that of the sun of the flag Uruguayan, which rises in the Atlantic and hides in the Pacific.

“The idea is to go out with the fabric, not put it in a painting or on a wall. We carry it as a symbol of struggle because that is the idea of ​​the burlap, a subject of denunciation,” one of the women told EFE. the organizers of the 50 years Solidarity and Resistance initiative, Berta Valdebenito at the “José Domingo Cañas House of Memory”.

In Chile, thousands of people were victims of the dictatorship, many women lost their family livelihood after the disappearance of their husbands, children or fathers.


In this context, the burlap workshops were born, where women expressed their anger and frustration through the fabric, and on many occasions, these embroideries were the only source of income that families had.

And with the same spirit it continues to be made now, on both sides of Los Andes, as a symbol of reminiscence and as a way of representing and not forgetting the struggle of women during the years of the dictatorship.

“This is a commemorative act to show how we experienced the coup d’etat, each one has had their own story during the dictatorship, suffered that repression, and those wounds are still present,” says the arpillera Patricia Ruiz.

The person in charge of the project, Gonzalo Zuriña, explains to EFE that this activity is part of a project that they have been developing since October of last year with colleagues from Uruguay because, for him, the union is not only on the anniversary of both countries but in understanding the processes of solidarity and resistance.

“This has a tradition that is well-established in Chile and it occurred to us, as a result of the activities that we have been developing, to start with this initiative that is associated with certain moments and elements in the history of resistance from dictatorships,” says Zuriña.


During the almost 20 years of Pinochet’s dictatorship, these fabrics did not remain exclusively in the workshop, but rather traveled outside Chile to tell the exiles what was happening within the borders, so the fabric, It acted as a communication channel through which they narrated all the atrocities that the government tried to hide.

For the weavers who participate in this project at the José Domingo Cañas Memory House, the fabric has a special meaning, not only because of how it has been used in the past, but also because of the utility they give it in the present, the fabric as a social complaint, as a living element that serves to keep the memory latent.

For Patricia Ruiz, embroidering has become “a new textuality” of resistance because “it is memory in all senses” and even “a political act.”


Patricia tells EFE what those first meetings were like, where each classmate recounted her memory and that brought back an image, another memory that they embodied with their hands on the fabric with a needle and thread.

“This experience helps many to process and integrate the experiences they suffered during those years. I did not experience moments of maximum repression, but many of the colleagues present here did, and this textile technique helps them to heal,” says Patricia.

Memory is the memory of the past, and in a historical sense, how society recalls what happened and the different ways of understanding the present and being able to redirect it, from the José Domingo Cañas House, a former place of torture, generate these meetings because they understand that “memories have to dialogue, go out and be visible”.

Elvira Osorio Seco (c) EFE Agency

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