Category: Creating Citizenship

Educating the “Good Citizen”: Memory in postwar Guatemala

On my many field trips, I tell Guatemalan teens I’m interested in how they learn about the 36-year conflicto armado (armed conflict). I then study their faces. If not baffled, they avert their eyes and share refrains passed on by many adults in their lives: “We have no historical memory,” or “In Guatemala, there is no historical consciousness.” School teachers say, occasionally with concern, “We don’t talk about that here,” …

The Rub: Against the Proud Grain of Chile’s History

Brace yourself as you enter the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago de Chile. Galleries of missing people will glare back at your glance, from a wall so enormous the collective calamity exceeds the span of your vision. The photographed faces float over funerary candles in the above ground altar, and another subterranean crypt designed by Alfredo Jaar shows an eerie nothing at first. …

Historical Footprints: Changing How We Teach Colombia’s Violent Past

George Santayana’s well-known dictum, “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” reminds us why it is important to learn history. But what does this really mean? What aspects of the past must we remember? Who chooses them? How do we remember them? Can this understanding really change our attitudes and behaviors? Are we truly capable of avoiding the mistakes of the past? …

A New Museum for Independence: Renovating Memories

This is a very short story of how a small museum in Colombia underwent a profound process of change and renovation, tackling sensitive and controversial issues of memory in recent Colombian history. The independence of Colombia is celebrated every July 20, because on that day in 1810, a group of creoles (children of Spaniards born in America) started a fight with a Spaniard who refused to lend them a flower vase. …

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