Cultural Resistance

Cultural Resistance
   Acts of cultural resistance are expressions of solidarity and nonviolent protest. During the “dirty wars” in South America, protest literature and films were dominant examples of cultural resistance. In other instances, cultural resistance took the form, literally, of preserving culture. In Bolivia, Werner Guttentag, a German Jewish émigré, was a leading publisher and the owner of a network of bookstores called “Los amigros del libro.” During the country’s various military regimes, his wares were confiscated and burned, he and his employees were detained and questioned, and he was pressured to promote a book favored by the military. Once, when he refused to remove “subversive” material from his personal library, the military removed all books with red covers. Nevertheless, Guttentag persisted in publishing and publicizing Bolivian writers.
   Media bans and censorship moved the production of literature and film underground. To survive, works had to be either allegorical enough to escape the censors or produced in exile. A notable exception was the film La batalla de Chile: la lucha de un pueblo sin armas. 2. El golpe del estado (The Battle of Chile: The Struggle of an Unarmed People. 2. The Coup), made in Chile in the direct aftermath of the military coup of 11 September 1973. But Patricio Guzmán, the producer and director, paid a heavy price, as did the four members of his film crew. All were detained by security forces, and one member, the cameraman Jorge Muller-Silva, disappeared.
   Yet there were other forms of expression not as easy to control— for example, music, clothing, murals, graffiti, and improvised street theater. In Argentina, where many of the victims were young people, rock nacional, or national rock, developed into a social movement with a mass following. The movement’s pioneers were Charly García and Nito Mestre. Rock concerts were something more than musical events. They were a means of challenging the values of the dictatorship. In place of violence, authoritarianism, and silence, rock offered peace, freedom, and participation. Within the pages of the thousands of fan magazines spawned by the movement (many of them underground), young people could communicate with one another by way of letters. Many commented on how secure they felt at concerts, confident that no harm could come to them in such large crowds. In Chile, the funeral of prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda became a symbol of formalized protest. Another was the performance of songs by traditional folk artists such as Violeta Parra, whose work was embodied in the movement Nueva Cancíon Chilena (New Chilean Song) of the 1960s and 1970s, work later reaffirmed in demonstrations against the regime of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. In 1984, a few days before the anniversary of the coup of 11 September 1973, many paused at noon to sing Parra’s “Thanks to Life” in a declaration of remembrance.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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