Emblematic Memory and the Peruvian Memoryscape

The war between leftist revolutionaries and the Peruvian state (1980-2000) left approximately 69,000 dead and disappeared, the vast majority of which were indigenous peasants from the Andes. These absent bodies are nevertheless present today and conjure painful and conflicting memories among survivors, relatives of victims, and the citizenry at large. This paper looks at the dynamics of key memorial sites, monuments, and cultural objects in the city of Lima that engage the issue of memory in the aftermath of a violent, traumatic past. The purpose of the paper is to outline the current memoryscape in Lima and its implications. In particular, I will examine the LUM (Lugar de la Memoria, la Reconciliación y la Inclusión Social), the memorial site El ojo que llora, and a collection of retablos (an Andean form of folk art) housed in Lima.

A key concept in my approach is “emblematic memory,” which refers not to individual memories of lived experience, but to the frameworks that organize meanings, counter-memories, and memory selection operations (Steve Stern). Building on this concept, I situate the aforementioned memory sites and objects in dialogue with specific emblematic memory frameworks about the war in Peru and its aftermath, specifically “memory as rupture,” “memory as entrapment,” and “memory as awakening.” Finally, I explore the extent to which these sites and objects have contributed to the emergence of a community memory and Human Rights in the city.

I am part of an organized panel. The panel is entitled: Citizenship and the City: Re-Defining Belonging in Urban Latin America" and the organizers are Catalina Esguerra and Silvina Yi.


  • Spanish American Studies