Date of this Version
Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
Most historians locate the beginning of the Chilean military government after the coup d’etat, which overthrew democratically elected President Salvador Allende, on September 11, 1973. However, I would like to focus on the ideological background that preceded this era through the investigation of arpilleras and their relationship to Western academic institutions in the making and writing of history—more specifically, to the University of Chicago as the “Ideological State Apparatus” responsible for the implementation of neoliberalism in Chile.
Arpilleras are patchwork-based textiles of narrative imagery, made with a technique of applique and embroidery on a burlap background. They are produced in many countries of Latin America with a variety of narratives. For this paper, I will be focusing on Chilean arpilleras that were made by the family members (mostly mothers, daughters, and sisters) of those disappeared and murdered by Augusto Pinochet’s right-wing dictatorship in Chile.
The fact that arpilleras were created as a reaction to an ideological genocide makes them political in their inception. The events that created these specific embroideries are the same events that led to the disappearance of the dictatorship’s political foes. Although the bodies of the victims have not yet been found, the arpilleras—often made from the clothes of the disappeared—continue to point at their perpetrators even when appropriated and capitalized on, thus maintaining their gesture of resistance.