Sunday, 24 August 2008

Museums of Memory

Recent articles on the ESMA have got me thinking about the various museums and commemorative sites that have been set up throughout Latin America to remember the periods of dictatorship and civil conflict. A quick search reveals that there are more than I was aware of; more than can be dealt with in one post, other than in a basic list. So, to start with, the museums that I do have some prior knowledge/personal experience of:

The ESMA itself is a museum-in-progress; the process of getting hold of the site - which is basically the most meaningful in Argentina for survivors of state terrorism, with the possible exception of the Plaza de Mayo - took years and is documented here. In brief, the government gave over the site for the creation of a museum in 2004. As far as I understand, the ESMA is now open to the public and is functioning as a cultural centre, but not yet as a fully-equipped museum. (I stood outside the ESMA in early 2004 and took the photo above, but at that time it was still used by the Navy and I couldn't go in.)

In Lima, Peru, the photographic exhibition Yuyanapaq (Para recordar/for remembering) organised at the behest of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has found a permanent home on the sixth floor of the Museo de la Nacion. This is a really important exhibition which owes its existence to the hard work of curators Mayu Mohanna and Nancy Chappell.

Also in Peru is the Museo de la Memoria in Ayacucho. The small town of Ayacucho (also called Huamanga) now has a certain quiet charm which almost makes it hard to believe it was the violent heartland of the Shining Path. The brave relatives of Anfasep, who have all lost family members in the conflict, have set up a small but very valuable museum. The tourist information in the main square can direct you to it, or take a mototaxi. There is no set entry fee, but they ask for donations, and really, it is worth giving generously.

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