Inside the Milberg Gallery: the ongoing struggle for social justice in Chile

The following is the second in a series of inside looks at the current exhibition in Princeton University Library’s Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library, “Records of Resistance: Documenting Global Activism 1933 to 2021.” Curated by Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, Ellen Ambrosone, Will Clements, David Hollander, and Gabrielle Winkler, this new exhibition captures continuity and change in practices of protest and activism in diverse geographic contexts and around issues that may be particular to an area or of universal concern. 

The following is authored by Fernando Acosta-Rodriguez, Librarian for Latin American Studies, Latino Studies, and Iberian Peninsular Studies.

On Sunday, September 4, 2022, a substantial majority of Chileans voted against the adoption of a new constitution for their country, which sought to introduce profound social changes across broad areas of social and political life, including transformative expansions of ecological, gender, and indigenous rights. The proposed constitution had been drafted by more than 150 representatives from all walks of life elected in 2020 to draft a document that would replace the current one, a system of laws rooted in the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship that brutally ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990. 

The decision to draft a new constitution, which had been overwhelmingly approved in 2020 by 78% of voters, was the response of Chile’s political class to the Estallido Social (social outburst) of 2019, a series of nation-wide mass protests that went on steadily for months and made painfully visible the deep social discontent of broad sectors of Chilean society. 

 Many struggles, a single heart, 2019-2020

At left: No abandonamos la calle. La primera línea dando cara a la historia (We are not abandoning the streets. The front-line confronting history), 2019-2020. Poster. Artist unknown. At right: Muchas luchas, un mismo corazón (Many struggles, a single heart), 2019-2020. Poster. Artist unknown. From the Latin American Ephemera Collection.

Princeton University Library’s new exhibit, “Records of Resistance: Documenting Global Activism 1933 to 2021,” displays, among items from other parts of the world and time periods, a selection of photographs, prints, and posters documenting expressions of resistance that appeared in Santiago, Chile during the early months of 2019. Many of the pieces form part of Princeton’s Latin American Ephemera Collection, a vast and steadily growing archive of pamphlets, brochures, flyers, posters, and other printed materials created since the last quarter of the 20th century by a wide array of social activists, non-governmental organizations, governments, and other types of organizations across Latin America. The ephemera pieces included in the exhibit evoke the wide ranging nature of the social demands that surfaced during the protests of 2019 as more people, representing increasingly broader sectors of society, joined them. 

One of the most striking posters in the exhibit, Por un cambio medular! Una nueva constitución (For a fundamental change! A new constitution), encapsulates both the general sense of anger and frustration felt by many in Chile, as well as specific grievances towards distinct aspects of the existing economic and political model. 

For a fundamental change! A new constitution, 2019-2020.  Poster. Artist unknown. Latin American Ephemera Collection

Por un cambio medular! Una nueva constitución (For a fundamental change! A new constitution), 2019-2020. Poster. Artist unknown. Latin American Ephemera Collection.

Also included in the exhibit are several photographs of the Estallido Social that provide context to the prints and posters. The photographs are part of the Colección Archivo Fotográfico de la Protesta en Chile 2019, a collection of digital photographs compiled by Princeton graduate students Alejandro Martínez Rodríguez (Spanish & Portuguese) and Camila Reyes Alé (Architecture).

 Camila Reyes Alé

Exterior wall of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM), Santiago, Chile. December 18, 2019. Photographer: Camila Reyes Alé

The photographs document visual expressions of resistance that appeared during the early months of the protests, from graffiti to larger-scale interventions and performances, many of which subsequently modified or destroyed. 

The exhibition will run from September 7 through December 11, 2022. It is open daily, Mon-Fri from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Guided tours are available. Please note Princeton University's current visitors policy.

Published September 22, 2022

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications