Tapestries Of Hope is a fabulous book written by the award winning author and professor Marjorie Agosin. Agosin mentions in her book that she was born in Chile to a biochemist professor in the school of medicine at the University of Chile and had to left Chile in the early stages of the military coup. Marjorie and her parents arrived to the United States in 1974 not knowing the language and culture, which Marjorie explains created a since of exile even though her family had voluntary left Chile. She eventually learned English and was admitted to the University of Georgia in 1976 where she earned a B.A. and a M.A. at the University of Indiana in 1977 followed by a Ph.D. in 1982 from the same university.
Marjorie Agosin in currently a Professor of Spanish at Wellesley College where she teaches courses in Spanish language and Latin American literature and has been part of the faculty since 1982. Most recently she received the Letras de Oro 1995 prize for poetry, which was presented by Spain’s Ministry of Culture and the North-South Center of the University of Miami. The Letras de Oro recognizes both her creativity as an author and the importance of Spanish language in the United States today. Marjorie has also received other prizes, which include 1995 Latino Literature Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Latin American Writers Institute for her book Toward the Splendid City (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue, 1994) and in 1988 Marjorie received a Good Neighbor Award at the 31st annual awards celebration hosted by the Northeastern Region of The National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Of all her books I choose to read Tapestries Of Hope not only because it tells part of the story of Chile’s military brutality and human rights violations but also because it presents the forms in which the women of Chile had to transcend from being housewives with no political voice to activist, artist and head of households. Marjorie presents the story of the political and personal art that has become to be known as arpilleria. Arpilleria was born “into a desolate and muffled period in Chilean culture, when citizens spoke in hushed voices,” afraid of being abducted by the military to be torture and disappeared (Agosin 12). Women began to create art pieces by sewing scraps of cloth that depicted the stories of their lives and of the family members that had being abducted by the military. The Arpilleria was also a form of making and keeping history alive. This art pieces then were sold in local and foreign markets in order to sustain themselves and their families. Many of the Chilean women that became arpilleras financially depended on their husbands and sons yet the military was abducting many men leaving the women alone.
Marjorie explains that the arpilleras even though they did not contain words it was the “powerful and explicit images [that] describe emblematic events in the life of the nation” that became a unity among the women and a form of activism (Agosin 12). Many of the arpilleria workshops took place in the church since it was the only institution that the military was not allowed to touch. Thus the church also became a “safe haven” for the women to freely talk about their feelings and the many questions that they had. Another part of the book that I found fascinating was the explanation about how women began to play a wider role in the political terrain due to the extreme attitudes of machismo that the military held. Therefore women were not seeing as a threat but only men, this gave women the opportunity to gather and seek questions.
Although it has been over thirty years since the horrific events of Chile’s military coup and the arpilleria movement is slowly dying, the now old women who started this movement are still grounded in seeking answers and the truth about what happened to their loved ones. The Chilean government had decided to give amnesty to many of the military individuals that took part of the military coup and human rights violations, yet the women are not willing to allow this and will continue to protest and seek the truth. And though after all this years the new Chilean generation seeks to forget the horrific events of the 70’s as Marjorie quotes “the collective memory of any nation clings to the experience of the past, without which there can be no vision of the future” (Agosin 40).
I really enjoy reading this book and found it to be a very emotional testimony of the role the women played in the anti Pinochet military movement. The only issue that I had with this book was the form way it was organized, and it eventually became repetitive. Yet I believe that this book contributes to broader academic issues that include the tribute of historical events, political organizations and forms of political movements.