From the 1950s to the 1980s, the military dictatorships that ran many countries in Central and Latin America also operated nefarious strategies to silence dissent by kidnapping, torturing, and murdering tens of thousands of people who were said to have simply "disappeared." After 1976 inArgentina, the official crimes became such a fact of life that Argentineans coined a new noun, Los Desaparecidos. In a ritual of love and memory facing down power, Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo demonstrated every Thursday at 3:30 P.M. in downtown Buenos Aires. These women marched in front of the presidential palace holding up pictures of their loved ones-a testament to the potency of so many silenced faces.
From October 20, 2007, to January 20, 2008, a cadre of Santa Fe institutions focuses the lens of art upon that history. The Disappeared Collaborative Project, joining those eight institutions and with Lannan Foundation at the organizational helm, borrows a traveling exhibition curated by Laurel Reuter of the North Dakota Museum of Art, for its titular show, Los Desaparecidos, at SITE Santa Fe. That main event hosts works by 27 artists from seven countries in Latin America-Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Venezuela. (See thedisappearedsantafe.org for more information.)
Printmaker and book illustrator Antonio Frasconi, from Uruguay, brings a floor-toceiling visual installation to the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in memory of 5,000 disappeared Uruguayans. At the Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA), Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz's Breath project is an installation in which images of faces materialize when viewers breathe onto steel plates. Guatemalan photographer Luis Gonzáles Palma has said he hopes that his photographs (exhibited at the Lannan Foundation Gallery and curated by Janet Russek and David Scheinbaum) "will somehow stress and express the invisible." And Colombian artist Juan Manuel Echavarría's Mouths of Ash (Bocas de Ceniza) frame the issue at the Santa Fe Art Institute-which also hosts artists workshops on the theme in November and December.
The other organizations are the Documentary Studies Program and the Marion Center for Photographic Arts, both at the College of Santa Fe, and the National Hispanic Cultural Center, in Albuquerque. The Restless Cinema, a film series at CCA,probes the repercussions of political oppression in Latin America. For Patina Gallery, I curated Lost & Found 2: Missing in Plain Sight, an investigation into what goes unseen in our "tricultural" town. Calling to mind an old spiritual of American slavery, art is testament that what once was lost can be found.