BLOG: Tallersol Cultural Centre: Memories of Resistance by Richard G. Smith
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Richard Smith originally trained as a chemist before a career in consumer product innovation took him all over the world, including three fantastic years living in Buenos Aires and many more working and travelling across the length and breadth of Latin America. Subsequently, he studied Spanish, French and History at the UK’s Open University and obtained an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Liverpool in 2016. His PhD, awarded in 2022 and also from Liverpool, concerned the student opposition to the Pinochet regime in Chile. As well as continuing with his doctoral research, he is part of a project exploring music and memory with Chilean exiles and former Chile Solidarity Campaign activists in Liverpool, and one digitising a collection of political posters in Santiago, Chile, which is the subject of this blog post.
Tallersol Cultural Centre: Memories of Resistance by Richard G. Smith
In 2018-19, I was in Chile researching the student opposition to the Pinochet dictatorship. An archivist I met had mentioned the Centro Cultural Tallersol in a fascinating conversation about how several culture centres had supported and coordinated the resistance in Santiago to the civil-military dictatorship over Chile between 1973 and 1990. A couple of months later, I met Antonio Kadima, one of the founders of Tallersol and its Director today. From my very first meeting at Tallersol, with its huge political library and vibrant community spaces, it was clear that the cache of posters, leaflets, bulletins, and other printed matter that Tallersol had produced under repressive military rule was a unique resource, and one that Kadima was keen to preserve and promote to raise the profile of the anti-Pinochet resistance.
In contrast to the human rights violations, mass demonstrations, and the transition to civilian rule in the mid-to-late 1980s, the cultural dimensions of grassroots opposition to the military in Chile, their strategies, tactics, and networks, are less well understood. Although there is growing interest in the cultural resistance to dictatorship in Latin America, the role of mural and graphic art production in Chile, despite providing a distinct visual identity to the anti-Pinochet resistance and to Chile Solidarity campaigns world-wide, has received less attention from scholars compared with, for example, music.
Tallersol was founded in Santiago in 1977 by a collective of artists and cultural and political activists who resisted military repression by creating space for creative freedom under the Pinochet dictatorship. The design, production, and distribution of the works was all done semi-clandestinely; security forces repeatedly raided the graphic workshop, and its members were internally exiled and tortured. Kadima estimates that in the early 1980s they were responsible for 50-60% of all the posters produced by the resistance in Santiago. They produced posters, pamphlets, and other material for a variety of groups, including: campaigns of human rights organisations (see Figure 1), political bodies (Figure 2), social movements in Santiago’s popular neighbourhoods (Figure 3), trades unions (Figure 4), religious groups (Figure 5), and others, as well as for a range of cultural events, including theatre (Figure 6), music (Figure 7) and poetry (Figure 8, 13). The posters were printed in colour and black-and-white by typography, screen printing, xylography (woodcut relief), and offset printing on paper of various weights, formats and sizes, such as letter, legal, double letter and double legal.
Figure 2: …adelante con todas las fuerzas de la historia / Step Forward with all the Forces of History. Poster of Miguel Enríquez, founder of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR, Revolutionary Left Movement), assassinated by the military regime in 1974. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1rr681b)
Figure 3: Por la vida / For Life. Poster urging popular mobilisation against hunger and repression, and ‘For Life.’ (ARK: ark:/21198/z11c66pq)
Figure 4: Los trabajadores de ascensores celebran el 1° de mayo / Elevator Workers Celebrate May 1st. Poster calling for elevator workers to commemorate International Workers' Day in 1982. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1672q12)
Figure 5: Festival una canción para Jesús / A Song for Jesus Festival. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1n346q7)
Figure 6: La fierecilla domá / The Taming of the Shrew. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1qr96x0)
Figure 7: Poster that promotes the musical event “A Nation called Latin America” by Grupo Aymara. (ARK: ark:/21198/z12g1z7f)
Figure 8: …ahora la poesía / ... now, poetry. Invitation to a poetry day at the Café del Cerro. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1bg6zs0)
Tallersol’s Memories of Resistance Archive contains over 9,000 printed items produced by the graphic workshop between 1973 and 1990, the heart of the collection being 6,000 or so posters. The archive is not only testament to a remarkable underground graphic workshop, but it also chronicles the intertwined network of popular, political, social, cultural, and religious groups that actively resisted the dictatorship, and details the opposition campaigns, positions, and activities of those groups as the dictatorship unfolded. During the last few years, we (that is, me, colleagues at the University of Liverpool, and members of the Tallersol collective) have been working together on a project within the Modern Endangered Archives Program (MEAP). MEAP is funded by Arcadia, a UK Charitable Fund that supports work to preserve endangered heritage, and is hosted by the University of California Los Angeles Library. It aims to digitise and make accessible vulnerable archives from the 20th and 21st centuries. MEAP funded us to create a catalogue and digitise an initial sample of 150 posters. Recently, UCLA Library has confirmed additional MEAP funding to catalogue, digitise and upload to their site the 6000 posters in the collection that date from 1973 to 1990; this work should be completed by early 2026.
The Tallersol collection aids researchers in a variety of ways. First, appreciating the Centro Cultural’s role in Santiago’s overlapping networks of social and human rights movements helps us to understand the grassroots opposition in Chile from 1973 and onwards. The grassroots opposition is challenging for us historians to research due to the relative scarcity of archival records. Organisations were often ephemeral in nature and operating in very dangerous conditions made it difficult to produce and distribute material, to say nothing of preserving or archiving it. Second, even in just the 150 posters out of 6000 that have been catalogued and digitised to date, we can develop insights into many topics. These include: cultural production under the military dictatorship; artistic and cultural life in Chile under Pinochet; the political, social, and human rights movements active during that time; Kadima and his collaborators’ perspectives on the anti-dictatorship cultural resistance; campaigns on disappearances and other human rights violations (Figure 9); women’s (Figure 10) and indigenous rights (Figure 11) under the regime; youth resistance (Figure 12); counterculture (Figure 13); and international solidarity (Figure 14). The collection facilitates our investigation into and visualisation of grassroots opposition to authoritarianism in Latin America, allowing us to make connections between past and present forms of cultural resistance.
Figure 9: ¡Basta de represión! / Libertad para el pueblo / Enough Repression! Poster denouncing the arrest of Jecar Nehgme of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR, Revolutionary Left Movement) and the Movimiento Democrático Popular (MDP, Democratic Popular Movement), assassinated during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1wm5q7w)
Figure 10: Día Internacional de la Mujer 1980 / International Women's Day 1980. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1cs0454)
Figure 11: El Pueblo Mapuche / The Mapuche People. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1hj0vvm)
Figure 12: Contra la disciplina militar la desobediencia estudiantil es un derecho / Against Military Discipline, Student Disobedience is a Right. High school students’ protest poster against military discipline. (ARK: ark:/21198/z18d462d)
Figure 13: Me cago en el V centenario / I Shit on the Fifth Centenary. Poster showing a Mapuche woman protesting the celebration of "The Discovery of the Americas." (ARK: ark:/21198/z1h4628m)
Figure 14: Solidaridad con los pueblos de centroamerica / Solidarity with the People of Central America. Poster commissioned by the Chilean Nicaraguan Cultural Institute. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1dg120n)
The posters provide significant insights into the nature of grassroots resistance in the dictatorship era, and the close involvement of Kadima and his co-workers means that the online Memories of Resistance Archive provides a unique perspective on the conditions under which the posters were created, as well as how the political context informed artistic choices. The archive celebrates its collaborators and, in its designs and production processes, illustrates the ingenuity of its creators, who worked underground to communicate the message of unflinching opposition to military dictatorship.
Tallersol produced the posters under the Pinochet regime, and did so with the paper, inks and printing equipment they were able to obtain. The fiftieth anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile is in 2023, and the original posters are becoming increasingly fragile as time passes. The digital images of the posters offer the opportunity to study this fascinating material without having to access and handle the original posters in Santiago. All MEAP digital archives, including the Memories of Resistance Archive, are hosted by the UCLA Library Digital Collections, which can be accessed at https://digital.library.ucla.edu (see Figure 15). On the left side of the page, under Collections, select Modern Endangered Archives Program (see Figure 16). Typing ‘Tallersol’ into the search box brings up the 150 posters (see Figure 17). Individual posters and their metadata can then be selected by clicking on the title (see Figure 18). Search terms and key words can also be used on the site, and it is best to do so within the Tallersol collection to avoid searching the entire database. Here, the search term “Jara” brings up three posters concerning the murdered singer-songwriter Víctor Jara, and one other connected with someone else of the same surname (see Figure 19).
Figure 15: homepage of the UCLA Library Digital Collections
Figure 16: The UCLA Library MEAP Collections.
Figure 17: First page of Tallersol posters.
Figure 18: The first poster - 1° Ciclo de conferencias sobre sexualidad humana / 1st Cycle of Lectures on Human Sexuality and other supporting metadata like artist, date, and language. (ARK: ark:/21198/z1qk1t2g)
Figure 19: Using the search term “Jara” in the Tallersol archive.
All MEAP documents are open access, see: https://meap.library.ucla.edu/about. When using any images from the Memories of Resistance archive, please acknowledge copyright ownership and that the digital capture of the images was supported by the Modern Endangered Archives Program at the UCLA Library with funding from Arcadia. All images are ©Tallersol and no commercial use is permitted.
The archive contains one of the largest and most important collections of graphic art recording the resistance counterculture under authoritarianism. It is unique, with no equal in Chile. Tallersol was the most productive graphic workshop in Santiago and the most enduring, as it continues its campaigns to memorialise resistance to the dictatorship today. Tallersol was and remains extremely well connected, collaborating with popular groups in Santiago’s shantytowns, cultural centres, human rights organisations, such as the families of political prisoners and disappeared detainees and anti-torture campaigners, and religious, cultural and political activists. The archive records this network of opposition to repression, its campaigns, victories, and the tremendous variety of anti-dictatorship events staged from 1973 to 1989.
 All images are ©Tallersol. Digital capture of the images was supported by the Modern Endangered Archives Program (MEAP) at the UCLA Library with funding from Arcadia.
 Archival Resource Keys (ARKs) are stable references for archival objects, see: https://arks.org. If you put the ARK in the UCLA Library Digital Collections search box, you will be taken to the appropriate webpage.
 The physical posters are not currently easily accessible due to recent unplanned changes to their storage arrangements.