Arpilleras

Last weekend, I admired this arpillera in Ojai and couldn’t resist taking a photo of it.  Now, I wish I had brought it home with me.  Arpilleras are three-dimensional appliqué textiles sewn by folk artists in South America.  This particular tapestry was created in Peru; it depicts a happy day at the beach.  Ironically, the technique originated in Chile as a means for craftswomen to overcome their despair.

Chilean women first created arpilleras to earn much-needed income in the 1970s following Augusto Pinochet’s violent rise to power.  Pinochet’s policies encouraged women to embrace domestic life and discouraged them from being politically active.  However, Los Desaparecidos (The Disappeared) and the widespread poverty that ensued forced many women to seek employment outside their homes to support their families.  Raúl Silva Henríquez, the Archbishop of Santiago, enabled women to run arpilleras workshops in Roman Catholic churches, and facilitated the sale of finished tapestries abroad.  This grassroots enterprise evolved into a social movement as the artisans started documenting the harsh realities of their daily lives in the arpilleras they created.  Participating in arpilleras workshops empowered women to fight for social justice and political democracy in Chile.

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