A Monument to the Departed and Detained
By Maestro Gilbert C. Correa, Monuments Toolkit Project
Over the course of these past sixteen months, the Monuments Toolkit team has been analyzing, documenting and categorizing an array of monuments. One type is “Monuments of Reconciliation.” Monuments of reconciliation are monuments that recognize trauma from a painful historical event. These are monuments that also pay homage to the victims of dictatorships like the Memorial del Detenido, Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Político (Spanish: Memorial of the Detained, Disappeared and the Politically Executed). This blog post is dedicated to the Memorial of the Detained, Disappeared and the Politically Executed.
Front view of the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Político in Santiago, Chile.
The Memorial of the Detained, Disappeared and the Politically Executed is a commemorative wall near the entrance to Santiago General Cemetery in Santiago, Chile. It honors the 3,000 people who were either murdered or disappeared after the 1973 Chilean coup d’état. The names are inscribed on the long, tall marble wall. The list of detainees and the disappeared appear on the left wing, and the names of executed politicians on the right wing. In the center is carved the name of former Chilean president, Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens (1970-1973). Two statues can be seen in front of the memorial, made by Francisco Gacitúa: the face of a man and that of a woman with closed eyes. The stated identities of newly discovered remains change from “disappeared” to “deceased” when they are delivered to the wall. Visitors frequently stop by the memorial, which has pleas for government action, pictures and flower bouquets heaped up at the base.
It was built in marble. A verse from Canto a su amor desaparecido, (Spanish: Chant to his disappeared love) by poet Raúl Zurita, reads on its front:
“All my love is here and it has stuck to the rocks, the sea, the mountains…”
The Undersecretary of the Interior, Belisario Velasco, assigned artists Claudio di Girolamo, Nemesio Antúnez and Francisco Gacitúa to design and construct it. The memorial was inaugurated on 26th February 1994. It is the most well-known historical site in Chile (Walkowitz, 202).
Front view of the names and engravings of the Memorial del Detenido Desaparecido y del Ejecutado Político in Santiago, Chile.
La dictadura militar chilena (Spanish: The Chilean Military Dictatorship) was an oppressive and authoritarian regime that lasted seventeen years from 11th September 1973, to 11th March 1990. It began with the toppling of then Chilean president, Salvador Guillermo Allende Gossens, and his socialist administration, who had been democratically elected, on 11th September 1973, by a military coup d’état—supported by the United States—led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. General Pinochet commanded a military junta that dominated the nation. His military justified seizing control as a result of Allende’s poor administration who was faulted for the economic crisis and several internal conflicts like union strikes. The “national reconstruction” was the dictatorship’s supposed stated goal (Devine, 168-174).
Photograph of Chilean Military Junta (circa 1973)
This government was distinguished by its systematic repression of political parties and an unprecedented level of persecution of dissidents in all Chilean history (British Broadcasting Corporation, 2009). In total, the administration tortured tens of thousands of prisoners, killed or disappeared over 3.000 people and exiled an estimated 200.000 Chileans (Wright, 57-65). Chile’s political and economic life is still being impacted by the dictatorship. When Christian-Democrat candidate Patricio Aylwin was elected in 1990, the military rule came to an official end. Even though the junta itself had lost power, the military continued to be unaccountable to civilians for a number of years (Angell, 1990).
Photograph of Chilean Dictator, Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (circa 1986).
The Memorial is under the auspices of the Chilean government. More specifically, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Patrimony. Experts in the field of historic preservation continue to aid the communities affected by the dictatorship. According to Arq. Katherine Moya Farias, who works with the families whose relatives were imprisoned in the Tres y Cuatro Álamos concentration camp by the regime, states:
Little or nothing has been done to carry out a true policy of symbolic reparation through these spaces, as is the case in neighboring countries such as Argentina. If it weren’t for the community, venues like Tres y Cuatro Álamos would be forgotten (Correa, 2022).
The work continues and the efforts to make the government more proactive in the creation of policy and laws that benefit the affected communities by the dictatorship continue.
Image at Top
Credit: Uri Rosenheck (2004). “Conmemoración de los desaparecidos en Chile el 11 de septiembre de 2004.” September 11, 2004, Santiago, Chile. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Angell, Alan and Benny Pollack (1990). “The Chilean Elections of 1989”. Bulletin of Latin American Research. Society for Latin American Studies. 9 (1): 1–23. doi:10.2307/3338214. JSTOR 3338214.
British Broadcasting Corporation News (2009). “Country profile: Chile.” British Broadcasting Corporation News. 16 December 2009. Accessed 30 April 2023.
Correa, Gilbert (2022). “Interview with Katherine Moya Farías.” Monuments Toolkit Project, World Heritage USA/U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites. 13 September 2022.
Devine, Jack and Peter Kornbluh (2014). “Showdown in Santiago: What Really Happened in Chile?” Foreign Affairs 93. 168-174.
Walkowitz, Daniel J. and Lisa Maya Knauer (2004). “Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space.” Duke University Press. p. 202. ISBN 0-8223-8634-8.
Wright, T.C. and R. Oñate (2005). “Chilean Diaspora.” Featured in Ember, M.; Ember, C.R.; Skoggard, I. (eds.), Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World, vol. II, pp. 57–65
Featured photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons (2009). Memorial wall [photograph]. Accessed 24 April 2023.
Featured photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons (2008). Names and funerary urns [photograph]. Accessed 24 April 2023.
Featured photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons (1986). La Junta Militar de Gobierno [photograph]. Accessed 25 April 2023.
Featured photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons (1986). El general Augusto Pinochet, líder de la dictadura militar, durante un discurso [photograph]. Accessed 25 April 2023.