Chilean Arpilleras: A chapter of history written on cloth

Arpillera de adorno by Violeta Morales 1992

Decorative arpilleras reflect the idyllic tranquility of country life, Chile 1992

Arpilleras—colorfully enchanting patchwork images depicting daily life—you’ve probably seen them in crafts fairs in Chile and even in Peru. Maybe you’ve even bought some. They’re bright and cheerful, perfect little gifts and ideal for children’s rooms—but they didn’t start out that way. These colorful appliques–arpilleras de adorno (decorative arpilleras)–were born of a much darker past.

Today is September 11, el Once de Septiembre, the first one of great historical import, although for the rest of the world, that has largely been eclipsed by the more recent version in the US. But in Chile, “el Once” marks the anniversary of the 1973 military coup, el golpeor pronunciamiento—militar, depending on your perspective. And whatever that perspective is, one thing is certain. September 11, 1973 changed the life of everyone in Chile.

Arpillera de denuncia Anita Rojas, 1991

Families of the Detained and Disappeared protest before the Supreme Court demanding to know where their loved ones are ¿Dónde Están? and Truth and Justice. (Anita Rojas)

A state of martial law was declared and dissenters were rounded up. Some were questioned and released, some imprisoned and tortured, some exiled, and some—the desaparecidos (the disappeared)—were just never heard from again. Most—though certainly not all—were men, and many left dependent women and children behind with no means of support.

Arpillera de denuncia, Violeta Morales 1992

One of the original and most typical arpillera designs. The empty chair with a question mark represents the absence of a loved one and the uncertainty of his whereabouts or return. The black and white picture on the wall represents the ¿Dónde Está? photos the relatives of the disappeared wear on their chests demanding to know "Where is he?" (Violeta Morales)

The Catholic Church stepped in and formed the Vicaría de la Solidaridad and set about helping these women resolve their basic legal, financial, and emotional problems. One of the many things to come out of that organization were workshops that both helped women develop ways of earning money from home while still being able to take care of their children. It also provided a space for them to share information and express their jangled emotions. One of the outcomes of these workshops was the arpillera.

Arpillera de denuncia. Encadenamiento. Gala Torres

Encadenamiento. Enchainment. Protesters would chain themselves to the gates of Congress demanding information about their missing or imprisoned loved ones. (Gala Torres)

Arpillera (pronounced ahr-pee-YAIR-ah) literally means burlap, and in this context it refers to a design appliquéd on burlap. Violeta Parra, the famous Chilean singer, folklorist, and artist, is often credited as the original arpillerista, although hers (like the famous Isla Negra arpilleras) are heavily embroidered and not appliqued. They may indeed have inspired the arpillera that grew out of the Vicaría, but they are in no way the same. The Vicaría met with groups of women in their own neighborhoods and gradually, the patchwork arpillera developed in its own distinctive style with bits and scraps of cloth and other found materials cut and arranged and sewn and and embroidered to depict a bit of life as they knew it.

Arpillera de denuncia. Violeta Morales

The worst part was waiting, not knowing, wondering. As their techniques developed, the women drew upon other cultural references—paintings, songs, poetry—to help tell their story. Notice the B&W "¿Dónde Está?" photo on the wall. Also, this represents Chile through the mountains and the sea, although there are few places in the country where both are visible at the same time. (Violeta Morales)

These arpilleras began to tell a story, to leave a history, a testimony in cloth, of what the women were experiencing. It was an emotional release, and for many it was a way of expressing what they could not bring their voices to say.

As they pieced their stories together—often working late at night and by candle light so they wouldn’t be caught and charged with subversive activities—something amazing happened. The Vicaría began to sell them to foreigners who smuggled them out of the country, and these patchwork messages began to travel the world, telling the stories of people whose words could not be spoken or written. As these women perfected their craft, their needles and thread, scraps of cloth and bits of yarn became powerful language-independent tools with which to tell their tales.

Arpillera de denuncia ¿Dónde Etán?

¿Dónde Están? Where are they? Families place black & white photos of missing loved ones on placards held high. Photos were an important symbol in that they attested to the lives of those who the government denied existed.

In 1991, Violeta Morales told me:

For us an arpillera is an open book…a blank page on which we can write to the world…and tell of everything that is happening in this country…”

In the early days, the work was always anonymous. They would never dare to sign their names.The materials were often cut from old clothes and bits of found objects–even their own hair–were woven into the designs. By the time I arrived in 1991, the danger had passed, new materials and brightly colored fabrics were available, and many did in fact write their first names on the back, along with the year, AFDD (Agrupación de los Familiares de los Detenidos Desaparecidos), and sometimes more information. Now, so many years later, I have chosen to include their full names here, to give these wonderful women the full credit they are due but never sought for themselves.

Arpillera de denuncia

With time, bodies of the missing began turning up, and the families looked to the ever-present mountains and wondered what awful secrets they guarded within. (Violeta Morales)

For me, September 11 is a day of reflection. I was not present for either of the September 11th horrors–neither “el Once” in 1973 nor “911” in 2001–but I live in Chile. And although the tragedy of the events that occurred in my home country 9 years ago shakes me to my roots, in many ways I have been touched more deeply by the “Original Once.”

Arpillera de denuncia. Violeta Morales. Cueca Sola

La Cueca Sola. Another subgroup of the AFDD (Agrupación de los Familiares de los Detenidos-Desaparecidos) was the Conjunto Folklórico. This group of women invoked folklore as another means of telling their tale. In this case, one woman dances the Cueca, Chile's national dance--a courtship dance--alone. The question naturally arises, "but where's her partner?" That is her question precisely. (Violeta Morales)

Today I am remembering the long hours I spent sitting and sipping tea with the arpilleristas. I am thinking of Violeta Morales, and Anita Rojas, and Doris Meninconi, and Inelia Hermosilla, and Gala Torres, among others, all members of the AFDD, who  showed me their work and patiently explained the symbolism of the different elements, many of which need no explanation at all.

Arpillera de denuncia. Violeta Morales

A less traditional arpillera that depicts the plight of the children who were left parentless and the indifference of those who would not see them.(Violeta Morales)

Also related: Last year I wrote about “The Original September 11” and the experience of attending the 20th anniversary memorial.

**UPDATE March 2011:
This article started receiving a lot of hits in early 2011, and I’m very curious about why! If you are working on a project, or coming to this site doing research, or are taking a course on the subject, please let me know! I’d love to hear what you’re doing! You can either leave a comment below or write to me at cachandochile (a) gmail . com (you know, with the real @ and no spaces of course… just trying to fool the spam machines!)


98 responses to “Chilean Arpilleras: A chapter of history written on cloth

  1. Cueca Sola is one of the saddest things of September 11th. It´s a sad date and a turning point in the history of both your country and mine. In both cases, the best we can do is to learn all that we can about the facts that leaded to those events, and work hard, so they never happen again.

  2. Pingback: The Original 911: Once de Septiembre in Chile | Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  3. I agree Marmo. How strange that the same day marks two major turning points in the history of the world–and in the two countries I love most.
    Para que nunca más… in either of them!

  4. There´s a song, by Los Tres, that has a powerful line about detenidos desaparecidos, “con mi voz de plata haré temblar… Romper los cristales, llorar y esperar… Y en tu cama brillará, el Sol que no volverá”.
    I wrote something about it last month:

  5. Chilean Arpilleras – What an amazing story and so sad…
    I have just found VIOLETA PARRA – Gracias a la vida ( Thanks to life) ORIGINAL version here:

    Like fado you can feel the sadness…
    This is one of the most interesting and informative blog posts I have read!! It must have taken you absolutely ages to research, write and then photograph the Arpilleras.
    Thank you!

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  7. Hi Piglet- Yes, Violeta Parra is very important in the Chilean mindset. In fact, this morning’s paper had an article on how to define “Chilean music” and asked a number of key figures in music today who was most important in the history, and of course her name appears in terms of popular music. And her song Gracias a la Vida is known and loved by all. Interesting to equate it with fado… there’s not much relationship between fado and Chilean music, but in her case, you may be on to something…
    With respect to the arpilleras, yes, I spent 3 years with these women in the early 1990s doing research for my Masters and PhD. Obviously, what appears here is a drop in the bucket.

  8. Such an interesting post, Peg! I had actually never seen any of these.

  9. Hi Annje- I’m not surprised that you haven’t seen the political ones–in fact, you would have been far more likely to have seen them outside of Chile than in, but surely you’ve seen the decorative ones?

  10. @Marmo-I left a comment on your blog about that song (He Barrido el Sol). Interesting analysis, but it IS pretty cryptic! I hadn’t given the meaning much thought before because honestly, I often don’t get the words to songs (same problem in English, curiously enough), so I tend to listen to the sound more than the meaning… but even reading the words to this one, I’m not sure I would have/could have come up with the same interpretation.
    There are other songs that have a much closer/clearer relationship: They Dance Alone (Sting), or La Cigarra (Mercedes Sosa), just to name a couple…

  11. Totalmente de acuerdo, sólo es una teoría en realidad, hay gente a favor y otros en contra. Lamentablemente, no he podido encontrar tu comentario =(.
    They Dance Alone encuadra perfectamente con este tema, en realidad.

  12. @Marmo- ¿no quedó mi comentario? ¡Pucha! merecía un premio pulitzer! No, en serio, lo vi anoche y juraba que dejé comentario ahí y por eso no volví a comentar acá…
    Sting tiene mucho que ver con mi primera llegada a Chile, fíjate… tema para otro momento…

  13. Me enorgullecería tener un comentario tuyo, pero no, no quedó. Eso de Sting suena muy interesante, ojalá aproveches el impulso y escribas algo al respecto.

  14. Pucha, ahora me siento peor! No sé qué hice que no quedara! y lo de Sting, sí, para otro momento!

  15. Thank you for this post. I’ve always thought arpilleras are such a beautiful and moving part of Chile’s history…. I had no idea you researched them! I did some research in college on the arpilleras as a social movement, and also used it as a case study in my thesis on women’s empowerment through social movements in Latin America. But it always seems like a lot of people aren’t aware of the history behind the arpilleras, so it’s definitely a good topic for your series on chilenidad!

  16. Again, your story amazes and moves me. The arpilleras are beautiful – partly because they tell a story and have such meaning to their creators. If you keep creating stories, I’ll keep reading. Thanks Peg.

  17. beautiful and compelling. thank you.

  18. @Kristen- Thanks. Yes, arpilleras are fascinating and absolutely part of women’s empowerment, although I often had arguments with professors and colleagues because I insisted that these were not representative of a feminist movement… but then that’s another long story!
    Marjorie Agosin wrote at least one book on them, and I know of at least a couple other theses (masters and PhDs done on them), but at least when I was researching, there wasn’t a lot published. Today the arpilleristas are gone, and who knows what has happened to the thousands that once circled the world!

  19. @Barb- thanks for being such a faithful reader! I’ll show you the arpilleras sometime. In fact, I bet Ronnie (as a quilter) would also appreciate them.
    And don’t worry, I don’t see myself running out of stories to tell any time soon! 😉
    @Alinda- thank you!

  20. Hi Margaret
    This is the first time I see your blog and I think its beautiful. I don’t know why but I know less of Chile than foreigner people, even if I live here my whole life. Its very shameful, but I am happy to find sites like yours, showing history and culture “as is”, with a refreshing eclectical point of view.
    I am tryng to do same at my blog
    with daily life things in Chile. I complete my blog with links from another international blogs about Chile. I hope to not offend you if I link you in my blog. If I do, please tell me and I will fix it.

    Muchos Saludos y Gracias por tener un blog tan bueno!

  21. Hi Francisca! Thanks- glad you like the blog, and I’m looking forward to reading more of yours too! My husband and I really love Valpo and are always looking for new information about Chile’s this unique and intriguing city! Of course you can link to Cachando Chile–that’s what it’s all about! Muchos Saludos para ti y nos estaremos leyendo!

  22. Hi, I live in Punta Arenas but am visiting Santiago in 2 weeks. Do you know of an easily accessible place there where I could pick up a few arpilleras at a decent price? Thanks!


  23. Hi Crissa-
    I doubt you could find any arpilleras de denuncia anymore but the decorative style should still be available. My guess is that your best bet would be at the Crafts Village at Los Dominicos… Does anyone else know?

  24. I am requesting permission to use some images of these arpilleras in a book that I am writing entitled Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World. In it, I enlist fibre work as metaphor and manifestation of harmonious relationship to self, others, and the larger world. I would use the photographs in a chapter on tapestries, ways in which people tell their individual and collective stories in fibre.

    May I use the images? I would need a high resolution version. Please advise of any fees involved. I would, of course, cite your website as source and the individual artist, if that information is available.

    Peace Fibres will be self published through Integral Press. I anticipate printing in early 2011, with an initial run of 1200.

    Thanks for considering my request. I look forward to your response.

    Karen Lohn

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it’s the only thing that ever has…” – Margaret Mead

  25. Hi Karen- Thank you for your interest in arpilleras and everything they represent. Your project sounds wonderful, and of course I would love to have the arpilleras included. Tapestries are, by their very nature, great storytellers that move beyond language, and often beyond time and culture. I would not consider a fee for this project; it is an honor to be able to do one more thing for these women who were so gracious in sharing their stories with me. I will contact you directly about getting the high res images to you and am looking forward to hearing more about your project!

  26. Pingback: Seni Perca – Arpillera « matakamerad

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  28. Hi Margaret, I m chilena now in California for a while and was exiled for many years. I have of course known of the arpilleras from the years of the dictatorship. I am now interested in finding out more about this once so powerful form of artwork and how their reason to come alive is being ignored nowadays. There are still so many stories to be told and now the arpilleras depict beautiful landscapes so they have gone from an artform to being objects of decoration. Do you have any insights on this? Have you talked to any of the women in the Agrupacion Detenidos Desaparecidos recently?
    I would appreciate any comments or links you may have to help me understand the reason for the switch in content.

  29. Hola Hedy- Thanks for writing. Yes, this is such a powerful medium and took a message without words around the world. However, I have not seen any arpilleras in more than 10 years. In fact, I recently taught a course on using images in editing and the subject of cross-cultural messages came up and I showed the students (post-graduates) the arpilleras and, although nearly all were Chilean, no one admitted to having seen them before.
    I have not talked with anyone from the AFDD in many years, although the group still exists. I see Viviana Díaz on the news from time to time. Most of the women I knew, however, have since passed away, and I have no real contacts there anymore.
    Regarding the shift in content–there were always different reasons for making arpilleras. Arpilleras de denuncia were made for just that–as testimonials to an experience, whereas the decorative arpilleras are a carft-art expression that often brings in much needed money to a household without having any political intentions.
    Quite a few people have contacted me over the years, so I know people are doing research on the topic. I would love to have people leave their links here so there is more exchange on this fascinating topic!

  30. Good morning!
    I learned about arpillera’s through my church in upstate New York, and we created one out of felt with our youth that allowed them to express their feelings about what was important to them in our community. I am embarking on a similar project with my middle school students, and discovered this web site in the process of researching how to explain the history of the art form.

  31. Hi Pam-
    Buenos días! A church in Upstate NY? Can I ask which one? I’m from Syracuse! Would love to know more about where you are and which church / middle school! (such a small world!)
    There’s a new book you might like to see called Peace Fibres by Karen Lohn that has lots of interesting information and projects about all kinds of textile arts. you can see more at
    I’d also be very happy to offer whatever help I can…

  32. Hello, I contacted someone in Chile and was told that the women are still making arpilleras in the communities, now they are mostly decorative and tell stories of daily family life. They are available to the public, so this artform that started as a clandestine scream for justice is now a source of income for many women coops in the poblaciones. I am interested in learning about other fiber artwork and their stories around the world.

  33. Hi Hedy- yes, the decorative kind are around–they make them in Perú and elsewhere as well–but I haven’t seen an arpillera de denuncia in many, many years. For other fiber artwork, see Karen Lohn’s book, which I commented on to Pam yesterday.

  34. Hi! I am a senior in college and I am doing my thesis, making my own art for a final show, based off of traditional Latin American fiber techniques. I am making a slideshow for my teacher to show her what my art is based off of and was wondering about the history of arpilleras. I didn’t know any of this before I read your post. Thank you, so well written and informative – brought tears to my eyes.

  35. Hi Anabessie- good luck with your thesis project. I’m a out of date on the bibliography, but there’s plenty of material out there on arpilleras. There are even some documentary films.
    You might also want to check out Violeta Parra’s arpilleras–she was an important Chilean folksinger who made embroidered pieces on arpillera (which is burlap). Her intent and result were quite different, but since you’re looking at Latin American fiber arts, it could add another dimension. A selection of her work is currently on display at the Centro Cultural la Moneda here in Santiago:
    If you’re still looking for MORE fiber art, you could also check out the work done in Chiloé (a collection of islands in southern Chile). They spin, dye, weave, and knit in a particular style, and their rugs are quite distinctive. There has been considerable work done with respect to identity and their craft. You could start with this blog on las Tejedoras de Chiloé:
    I’ve also suggested Karen Lohn’s book Peace Fibres (the link is a couple comments back).
    All the best on your project!!

  36. Hey!
    I am so happy I am stumbling upon your blog. I lived in Chile on exchange when I was in high school and became enamored with it’s culture. I am currently an aspiring Spanish teacher. Would I be able to use these images to do an analysis for my lesson plan on la vida cotidiana 1973? Please let me know! And wonderful blog de todos modos!

  37. So happy to have found you!
    Decided to do a research paper on the Arpilleras and your site is a great place to start.
    Do you have a suggestion for any books on the subject?
    Jo 🙂

  38. Hello.
    Happy International Women’s Day.
    My name is Heather and I am a social work student at Wilfrid Laurier University. We are hosting a potluck lunch event with an activity of making an arpillera. We also have arranged for three guest speakers, one of the speakers is a will help guide us in our work in “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”
    I have visited your website for research purposes.

  39. Sounds wonderful Heather–would love to hear how it turns out!

  40. Since you wanted to know, I had to read this article for a college class on Latin Protest Art. Both the article and the class have been very interesting!

  41. Thanks–this article has been getting a lot of readers lately and I’ve been curious to know where they’re coming from. Glad to know there’s renewed interest in the topic of arpilleras. Your course sounds amazing. Does it include graffiti too? (There’s excellent graf in Chile, as well as in Argentina and Brazil.) How about performance art? Street theater was very big in Chile during the dictatorship, as was the cueca sola, of course…

  42. My class so far has covered the New Argentine Cinema, Latin protest music from the ’70s, and poetry from the Generations of ’27 and ’36. We will also be learning about murals and theater later on!

  43. Excellent! There’s certainly plenty of material to draw on! BTW- there are several graffiti posts here in the blog–it’s one of my favorite topics!

  44. FYI Exhibition Opening at the National Hispanic Cultural Center
    Enjoy your blog. Hope you find time to post again soon. Missing Chile (país) in NM.

  45. hello. I live in New Zealand & have 2 arpilleras given as gifts from my aunt. have enjoyed learning more information from here but I have a question. On my pieces there is a small pocket stitched onto the back of the work with a small piece of paper handwritten in a language I do not know. Would anyone be able to tell me what it reads if I posted it here?

  46. Hi Maree. The language must surely be Spanish, and yes, please post the message here! My understanding is that the women who made the arpilleras would include messages and sometimes their names in those little pockets. I’d love to know what yours says!

  47. We learned about the Arpilleras in my spanish class this semester in Florida. Very moving, art has a way of reminding people of history and events we hope will never be repeated.

  48. Absolutely Sarah. And at the time they were created, they served to tell people about what was happening at that very moment in time.
    Thanks for writing!

  49. There is a wonderful exhibit of arperillas called Stitching Resistance at the National Hispanic Culture Center now. I do not know how long it will be there.

  50. Thanks Donna- Sounds great! Where is the National Hispanic Culture Center? (city & country?)

  51. Margaret, sorry! Albuquerque, New Mexico USA

  52. Thanks Donna–wish I could get there to see it, but hope lots of people will!

  53. Margaret, the exhibit is part of a collection owned by a woman in New York. Wish I could remember her name — no doubt they will be shown elsewhere.

  54. Just checked–and as I thought, it’s Marjorie Agosín, a Chilean woman who teaches at Wellsley College.
    Here’s the link to the exhibit:
    Thanks again for the heads up on this! Going to post it to the FB page.

  55. Back in the 1980’s I returned to university to study Women’s Studies and Sociology. During this time the university had several displays and sales of arpillers. I was moved by their social and political significance as well as their beauty, and over time I ended up buying a dozen of them and have them still. Thank you for your blog and the important research you’ve done. I had no idea so many people were interested.

  56. Hi Hope- thanks for writing. I too am amazed at the resurgence of interest in arpilleras lately. There was not much response when I first wrote this piece, but in the last year or two many, many people have read it and contacted me. I am very pleased to learn that many schools–high school and college–are teaching about arpilleras in Spanish classes, Latin American studies, and Women’s studies. It’s encouraging to know that people really do take an interest in what these amazing women have done. They would have been very pleased and proud.

  57. Muchas gracias por tu trabajo! I’m cobbling together a project which more or less deals with music, policy, and censorship in Latin America and came across a reference to arpilleras (and wasn’t even a reference to Violeta Parra!) in background reading. Since you mention having done research on this subject, I’d love to know of any texts that were of particular help to you.
    Saludos desde Berlín!

  58. Hi Margaret. Nice review on the arpilleras!
    I would just like to say that Sep 11th is very meaningful date in Chilean history, way beyond the 73′. In 1541, an indigenous army of 8,000 recruits invaded Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura (Now Santiago de Chile) and completely destroyed it. In 1924, Carlos Ibañez del Campo takes over the Chilean presidence through a military coup. In 1973 it was Augusto Pinochet. Finally, in 1980, the new (and current) constitution got approved. Coincidence?

  59. Hi Charisma–interesting project you’re working on! BTW, Violeta Parra’s arpilleras, as well as those made by the women in Isla Negra, have little (if anything) to do with those made by the women in the Vicaría de la Solidaridad. My serious academic work on this topic was long ago, so I don’t have a current bibliography, but you can check for works by Marjorie Agosín, the most prolific writer on arpilleras. You could also look for work by Jaqueline Adams, a sociologist who is most likely to include a good reference section in her work. Good luck

  60. Hi J. Thanks for writing. I never realized that Sept 11 had so much significance in Chilean history! I was curious and just checked and it seems the 1924 coup was slated for the 11th, but was narrowly avoided.
    The 1541 Michimalonco story is pretty exciting history… maybe I should write THAT up for Cachando Chile!
    And you’re right… sure doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence…

  61. Pingback: En la Clase: “Stitching Truth: Chilean Arpilleras in the Classroom” (part 1 of 2) | Vamos a Leer

  62. Olá,
    meu interesse aqui é por causa da Arteterapia, e este é um dos recursos que usamos para expressar o que sentimos.
    Muito agradecida,
    Celeste Carneiro

  63. I collected Arpilleras while I was in university. I have over a dozen exquisite pieces. I’m inquiring about a place where they can be displayed properly and appreciated for the important historical storey they tell. You can e-mail me at:

  64. Pingback: South America: Mostly confidence and hope | lanock

  65. Hi Margaret,
    I’ve just come across this article as I’m beginning research for my PHD on Chilean diaspora and development looking specifically at Chilean exiles in the UK. I had never heard of arpilleras before so this is a fascinating insight for me. I’d love to talk to you more at length about my research if you wouldn’t mind.

  66. Hi Chantal. Great topic. And sure, send me an email (cachandochile (a) gmail dot com).

  67. Pingback: En la Clase: Stitching Resistance through Chilean Arpilleras | Vamos a Leer

  68. I’m teaching a class on Latin American Culture this semester. I lived in Santiago from 1977 to 1979 teaching at Colegio Andacollo. We have talked a lot about Chile in the class and we watched the movie Missing. Tomorrow, I’m bringing a 10 peso coin and an arpiera to class. The coin is a protest because someone hammered Liberty’s chains back together. The arpiera was purchased at the feira at the end of Avenida Cumming on Sunday just before I was returning to the U.S. . It says “Derecho de Volver.” I will also bring the class to this website tomorrow. Thank you.

  69. Hi George. Wow, those were some interesting times to be living in Chile. Have you been back since? I’m sure it’s a very different place today. I’ve certainly seen plenty of changes in the 22 years I’ve been here. I’m glad you’re teaching about Chile’s past–it’s important–but I always think it’s equally important to talk about Chile today. There are still plenty of issues that provide insights and points for reflection and discussion. I’d love to hear how your class goes!

  70. Thanks for the wonderful info on the history of the Arpilleras, Margaret! I am a high school art teacher. I took a workshop and began making my own version of an Arpillera at an art conference a few years ago. I’m preparing to teach a lesson to my students on Arpilleras and have them create their own. I started the lesson yesterday by sharing a few facts about the work of Grandma Moses. Now I’m diving into the Chilean folk art! Our emphasis will be on the design principle of pattern.

  71. Thanks for writing Carey. I hope your students enjoy the project. It’s an excellent opportunity to teach them about the power of art and artistic expression, especially when the traditional/formal means of expression are closed to the “speaker”. Hopefully you can get your students to attempt to express an idea in their pieces (rather than something simply decorative). All the best…

  72. Pingback: What I Learned Today » Blog Archive » Craftivism and DIY politics

  73. Thank you for your article and pictures. The Arpilleras are another example that the human dignity cannot be silence by bullets.

  74. Very informative article. I’m researching the topic for my Spanish class. Thank you for the history lesson! The works of art are beautiful.

  75. Pingback: Storytelling Through Textiles | art for housewives

  76. I enjoyed your post. I have been learning and presenting about the arpilleristas for a number of years. Are you aware of Facing History and Ourselves “Making History Series”? “Stitching Truth: Women’s Protest Art in Pinochet’s Chile” is available through the website in both English and Spanish. My husband was a Fulbright scholar in Santiago July through December 2013. We felt so fortunate to be in Chile for all the activities related to the 40th anniversary of the coup. The Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos was a place we returned to often including on September 11th. We also had the opportunity to interview Judge Guzman. Truly an amazing country!

  77. I started collecting Arpilleras from Chile in the 1980’s when I was in University. The ApilIeras are both political and dosmestic in content. love the pieces and would welcome an opportunity to display them in public so others can see and appreciate them. I live in Toronto and wonder if anyone has a contact name to see if this is possible.
    Hope Gaum

  78. There is a Facing History office in Toronto-they may have ideas. How many do you have?
    Facing History and Ourselves
    @Centre for Social Innovation
    215 Spadina Avenue
    Suite #170
    Toronto, Ontario M5T 2C7
    Fax: 416-979-3936
    Do you have images of them you would be willing to share? Do you know the story behind them? You might be interested in the recent anthology: Stitching Resistance:Women, Creativity, and Fiber Arts which was published by Solis Press in 2014 and edited by Marjorie Agosin.

  79. I have 15 Aprilleras and a collection of cards,and other related articles I bought around the same time back in the 1980’s. Several of the Arpilleras are quite large. Yes, I know the history and have studied that period of political upheaval in Chile. I would be willing to share the images. However, I
    don’t have the expertise to photograph the entire collection and send it along. I will contact The Facing History Office in Toronto.
    Thank you for the information.

  80. Hi,
    I’ve called the Facing History Office in Toronto and left a message with my phone #. Thanks again.

  81. Thanks Savlanute and Hope! Many people have contacted me over the years about arpilleras, and my guess is that people will now want to contact you too, Hope.

  82. Pingback: Using a Needle and Thread, Women Sew the Darker Side of Dam Construction in Brazil · Global Voices

  83. Pingback: Arpilleras: Usando agulha e linha, mulheres costuram o lado negro da construção de barragens no Brasil · Global Voices em Português

  84. Dear Margaret
    I am writing to ask for permission to share printed colour copies of your arpilleras photos here in an informal evening liturgy here at St James.s Church, Piccadilly, London. we are a central London Anglican church with a liberal outlook and a concern for social justice
    One a month we hold an evening service involving some aspects of Creative Arts to help inform our faith and spirituality.
    On Sunday 6 September we will be marking the International Day of the Disappeared in our morning Eucharist service, followed by a workshop run by the Red Cross in the afternoon. Having come across your website, I am devising an informal evening service reflecting on the arpilleras movement, the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church and the way in which these handicrafts became a tool for activism and political protest. We will be using the Sting song “They Dance Alone” for a period of reflection and hope to invite those attending to contribute to making a very simple arpillera of our own (which may be rather basic because of time constraints – perhaps glued rather than stitched)to reflect something of the concerns and disappeared people all over the world that we will have heard, and thought and prayed about that day.
    You can visit our website at:
    Many thanks for the inspiration I have found here.

  85. Yes! Absolutely yes… and thank you! The Sting song you mention is what led me to Chile. There’s a film called The Dance of Hope that starts with that song and then moves on to talk about disappearance and the women who dance the Cueca Sola (the dance he sang about). The film is hard to find, but it would be wonderful for your event. Many of the women in that group (Conjunto Folklórico) also made arpilleras. Good luck with your event, and thank you for your interest!

  86. Hola
    My name is Poul van Bremen and I was looking up “arpilleras” on google this morning and here I am. What I have to tell is the following. I was member of the Chili Kommitee Nederland as a volunteer from 1974 on. Yes in september 1974 and not in 1973 because then I was working in the far away Wicklow Mountains in Ireland. As a volunteer of the Kommitee there was a moment that I got the responsability of getting arpilleras to sell them at manifestations. In that way I traveled to Gent, Belgium in order to get them and I fixed the price on 25 guilders a piece. Just now I looked up the interesting article about the arpilleras I know so well and am grateful that there is a public that is interested in the story about them. I live in México now, so hasta lluego desde 0axaca.
    January 20, 2016

  87. Thank you so much for writing Poul! This is the first time I’ve had direct contact with anyone on the European side of the finished pieces. How long were you involved with the Kommitee? And do you still have any of the arpilleras you came across in the early days? If so, I would love to see some pictures!
    And yes, thankfully there is much interest in arpilleras these days, judging by the response this article has received over the years, although most of the women who made them are no longer with us.

  88. Hello, I started collecting Arpilleras in University. In fact the Textile Museum of Canada (in Toronto) is putting on an exhibit of textiles and will be using six of my beautiful arpilleras. I’m thrilled that people will get to see these wonderful pieces; both lovely to look at and also pieces of an important historical time.

    Hope Gaum

  89. Thanks Hope! Please let us know the details about that exhibit! I bet there are quite a few who have responded here that would love to see it! (myself included!)

  90. Reblogged this on Story Twigs the Imagination! and commented:
    Thank you. I write a blog about storytelling and stumbled across the Children of Silence and the Arperilla Movement in Chile. Please may I link to this blog post. Kind Regards, Meg Philp Storyteller

  91. Pingback: El papel de las Arpilleras en el Derrocamiento de Pinochet en Chile – En los dos lados del Atlántico

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  93. Hola, soy pariente de Anita Rojas , hice muchas Arpilleras con ella y aun las hago en su memoria , y sigo preguntando .
    Alfredo Rojas Castañeda .

  94. Hola Raquel-Muchas gracias por escribir. Me acuerdo bien a la Anita, una señora muy dige. ¿Usted aún hace arpilleras? Hay gente que me escribe a veces preguntando si alguien aún lo haga. Pensé que no quedó nadie ya…
    Y hoy, el 11 de septiembre, seguimos preguntando… ¿Dónde Están?

  95. Buenas tardes, encontré tu articulo muy interesante . Estoy recogiendo informacion para nuestro taller textil; existe un renacer del hacer arpilleras en nuestro país , de aquellas arpilleras que retratan el dolor de un pueblo; las otras , las decorativas ( o contra arpilleras ) son ampliamente difundidas . estan las arpilleras de Lo hermida , de Pudahuel y especialemente Memorarte Arpilleras urbanas ( proyeto muy interesante )

  96. Muchas gracias por escribir Jacqueline. Me gustaría saber más sobre su taller textil! Parece muy interesante. Si están en Santiago (o cerca) estaría encantada mostrarles las arpilleras que tengo.

  97. Thank you for this article. I included a link to it in a post on my blog. It’s part of a series on William T. Cavanaugh’s book about Chile during the Pinochet years: Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ. This is a link to my post:

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