Preserving Memory: Interview with Verónika Sánchez Ulloa
Arpilleras & Their Significance
Arpilleras are a type of artwork that is made from used burlap sacks that once contained grains and coffee beans. They have different materials handstitched onto them, bringing to life and preserving the emotions and devasting events that occurred in Chile. From the early 1970s to 1990, many Chilean women created beautiful tapestries depicting the horrid events that encapsulated their daily life and the emotional suffering they endured. Arpilleras allowed family members to voice their emotions during a time when their own safety was not guaranteed, silently denouncing the actions and drawing attention to the topic.
Many of these women created arpilleras to address the emotional pain they endured personally when their family members or loved ones were killed or kidnapped by Pinochet's government. What started as a quiet way for Chilean women to express themselves through the regime became the symbol of women's protest against the dictatorship. The arpilleras were a tangible way for women to preserve the memory of los desaparecidos, the disappeared people, and the brutality they endured as well as the other hardships of daily life that were largely attributed to Pinochet's rule. The recording of these hardships was an act of protest in and of itself. It also gave women the power to accurately depict history and not let the oppressive government lie not only to their own citizens, but also to the global community, about the horrid human rights violations that took place.
Flip through the media carousel below to see a selection of arpilleras from our collection.
In the interview below, we meet Verónika Sánchez Ulloa, a conservationist for the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile, Santiago. Verónica is also responsible for the preservation, maintenance, and distribution of both Chilean and international arpilleras in the museum's collection. She discusses her personal connection with the arpilleras since she was introduced to them, gives detailed accounts of daily events Chileans endured, shares their impact on Chile's national identity as a result of the tumultuous time of the 1970's and 80's, and the empowered voice arpilleras gave women across the country.
Working with arpilleras is important to her and the Museum of Memory because it reminds the country of the oppressive Pinochet regime and the deplorable attacks on human rights Pinochet committed against his own people. Arpilleras are not just works of art, they are freeze frames in history that display the public's response and efforts in obtaining the truth about citizens that were disappeared by their own government. By preserving arpilleras, she is also preserving the memory of both the challenges families faced and the defiant and courageous demeanor exemplified by those same families.