Chile: Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanrios…


We’ve been back from Chile 2 months and I’m still only up to day 3 in Santiago on here!

After leaving the Artequin our next destination was to be the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanrios.  We strolled along Av Portales past the Dirección Meteorológica de Chile which is not slanted as my photo suggests…  IMG_1901aThe building was completed in 1857 specifically to house astronomical and meteorological records and instruments.   By Supreme Decree No. 714 the Dirección Meteorológica de Chile was established in March 1884 and demanded that meteorological observations were sent daily by telegraph to Santiago.  The National Archive of the Central State Administration is here – an extensive library and archive of materials including lighthouse records from lighthouses along the entire length of Chile as well as the Pacific Islands of Pascua (Easter Is.), Isla San Felix and Juan Fernandez.
IMG_1902aWe wandered a further block along

and then turned left into Avenida Matucana and a few blocks later we arrived at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos – Museum of Memory and Human Rights established to commemorate the victims of human rights violations during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.  IMG_1916In May 2007 then President, Michelle Bachelet, announced the construction of a museum of memory, and a competition to select the architect for the project.  The winning group was a Brazilian company, Estudio America.  The first stone was laid by Bachelet in December 2008 and the museum was inaugurated by Bachelet on January 11, 2010.   A lot of the grid of the building is made from copper and coal and the use of glass is to signify transparency.

The Plaza of Memory had an exhibition titled: “Transitions: From Dictatorship to Democracy in Latin America”.      There were no English translations so we were left guessing a few paragraphs…   IMG_1919aThe wall along the esplanade leading into the museum’s lower level –


The museum is divided into 11 Sections –  the first section is titled “Human rights; Universal Challenge”  and displays a large world map constructed of photos showing human rights violations across the globe – a trail of war, genocide, torture and executions.

Section 2 is “September 11”  (1973)  which marks the beginning of the military dictatorship.   There are screens with sound and film of the moment of the coup including the bombing of the Palacio de La Moneda.

The most emotive and dramatic display is  Section 8 titled “Absence and Memory” a 3-storey wall of photos of victims and the “disappeared” – a living velatón (tribute).  There are candles amongst the display which are said to be reminiscent of “velatones”  placed in the gutters during protests and which were placed at detention centres and locations where tortures took place.  There are touch screens in-front of the wall which allow navigation through pages dedicated to each victim.

The last two sections are called “Return to Hope” which documents the rise of resistance against the regime and the 1988 national referendum that ended the dictatorship;  and Section 11:  “Nevermore”   which features a giant photo of President Patricio Aylwin taking office in March 1990.

The entire museum was incredibly powerful even without many tags in English (something they are working on).  You can not leave here without reflecting on the value of freedom.

Across the street is the metro station with busts of Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) Chilean poet, educator, diplomat and feminist – the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945).  Mistral was the pseudonym of Lucila Godoy Alcayaga.  Her portrait appears on the 5,000 Chilean peso note.

IMG_1929aand Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) the pen name,  later legal name, of  Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.   Neruda was hospitalized with cancer at the time of the Chilean coup d’etat .  He died on 23rd September 1973 and Pinochet denied permission for the funeral to be a public event.  Thousands of Chileans disobeyed the curfew and crowded the streets.   IMG_1928a

The busts sit in-front of a wonderfully bright mural IMG_1926..IMG_1930



16 responses

  1. love the mix of photos you have in this post. I can not imagine the museum of memory. SOmetimes I forget, not being well versed in out of the US history that each country has need of a place of memory… Also would that we put poets on our money!

    • This museum was really well laid out and detailed very well that period of Chile’s history – my only complaint was the lack of English, but then I *was* in Chile so that’s not really a fair complaint. The photos and film footage told the story.

      I saw images in newspapers during this period but this was happening a ‘world away” from the farm I was growing up on. The museum sort of gave a “face” to the people who were living this. It had a lot of impact.

      Putting poets on money sounds a nice idea…

  2. You have a new banner! Is that your street? Brrrr!

    I’m glad the Chilean government has made such a powerful effort to remember the era of the military dictatorship and the revolutionary time that preceded it. Most nations would try to forget it, or write it off as an unfortunate anomaly in their histories.

    I discovered Pablo Neruda when I was in high school and was deeply affected by his poetry. When I heard he had died right after the Pinochet coup, I cried. I’m sure he was killed by a broken heart as much as by the cancer that was already eating away at him. Since Chile’s return to democracy, I’ve wanted to visit the country and look up the places where Neruda lived and wrote. Thank you for posting these photographs!

    • Yes that is my street. It was one morning last week as I left for work and the lighting was so pretty with the sun rising at the end of the street.

      I wondered what Pablo Neruda would’ve thought of the coup and agree about the effect it must’ve had on him. We went through his house in Valparaiso – it was wonderful. At the rate I’m posting you’ll probably read about it in March!

    • Hi Lily – this was the day after the cemetery but the commemorations are similar. The cemetery had the “Memorial of the Disappeared and Executed for Political Reasons” – a giant wall; and this was a Museum commemorating those dead and disappeared. I stuck to the rule of “no photographs” inside this one as it didn’t seem very appropriate to point & shoot but we were surprised at the seeming lack of respect from groups of school kids in the museum.

      • Damned kids. Thanks for explaining that they’re different — they certainly sound the same to me but if I lived there, I’d probably feel much differently.

  3. The museum is a reminder that we take our many freedoms for granted in Australia.
    I’m also impressed with the photograph on your banner. Brrrr
    I can’t help thinking that any copper dome in my town would last no longer than a week before some enterprising criminal would dismantle it in the dead of night, melt it down and sell it. Maybe Chile have guards who shoot first and ask questions later.

    • Yeah you can’t go through a museum like this without reflecting on how fortunate we are as a country. Projects here (DC) are stripped of copper piping if they’re not behind security fences. There’s so much copper in Chile perhaps it’s not seen as worth stealing.

      I was very pleased with that photo – I was running late for work and as I looked right before crossing the road I noticed the sun rising and how lovely the light was. I pulled the little Canon out and took just that one shot basically while I was still walking.

  4. Yay! I’m all caught up! Do you take notes or do you just have a fantastic memory for all the info you relay in your posts? Sometimes I am such a bad tourist I don’t look as closely (or…at all) to the plaques/info displayed. I guess it depends on where I am and how crowded it is.

    • I collect lots & lots of brochures & programs from places we visit (even when they’re not in English!) and I take photos of signs and notice boards. I email my mother & a friend every day and I put information in their emails – it probably bores them to tears but it helps me remember things I’ve learnt/seen during the day and works a bit like a diary where I can look things up later. Oh, and the fact that I take hundreds of photos keeps events in order and acts as a prompt later to my memory.

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