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… The 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.
We 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. In 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… The 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.
and 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.