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Rememoration Space – Chacabuco's Saltpeter Office & Prison Camp

Part 2 Project 2013
Francisco Javier Cruz Padilla
University of Chile, Chile
The constant frenzy of economic process and technological advances of the actual life, make us believe that the conditions to remember are unnecessary. Those, committed with a forgotten past and a blinded present society, were relegated by instant satisfaction and future desire. In this sense, Why to remember? What to remember?

Based on the documentary “Nostalgia for the Light” of Patricio Guzmán (2010) and understanding our unfavourable social memory context, it’s necessary to break the oblivion´s tendency through two particular historical events of Chilean history. While both are completely different, they have shared, in this case, a physical space: The Atacama Desert.

In first place, the saltpeter industry-urban history. From 1830 to 1940, located in one of the most inhospitable places for human life, reach its splendour and boom through the exploration of thousands of men who were forced to live in the desert, generating an industry and a way of life that was absolutely unique and which meant the desert spaces being adapted and transformed into populated towns and villages. Today, if a few of them are important tourist landmarks, the percentage is minimum. The ruins have become fossils through the desert waiting for their disappearance between looting, theft and human destruction. The graveyards, abandoned, some of them desecrated and damaged, keeps those anonymous who died alone in the immensity of the desert.

In second place, the history of Pinochet dictatorship. From 1973 to 1990, thousands of Chilean people have suffered from arbitrary arrests, torture, killings of relative and disappearances in all the country. Many of them, until today, are still missing. Understanding that was a national reality, many of them were killed in the desert and their whereabouts are still unknown. The constant efforts by some people for hide those violations of human rights, have made a conditioned oblivion, “as if nothing had happened”. An unfortunately reality, which undoubtedly has to be transformed and give value for the social comprehension.

The project pretends to consolidate Chacabuco´s Saltpeter Office -witness and testimony of both realities- as a memory place. In this way, transform it into an active agent for the process of social memory construction, in an unfavourable context. In this sense, the project after all, pretends to be a Rememoration Space in a society that forgets and needs to search in their past to face the future.


Francisco Javier Cruz Padilla


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