Valparaiso Connections III

Copper Cable and History

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“Valparaiso Connections II” left us with these friendly Valparasians, if such a word can be used to describe residents of the city, chatting on Argentina Avenue.

It was Saturday, the happy occasion of the weekend street fair, kiosks sprouting like mushrooms, thinly attended this early morning.

We did not pause to wander, instead turned up a street known as Pedro Montt, named for a Chilean president of the early 2oth century.  Was we turned, monumental street sculpture, rising from the kiosks, caught my eye.

A creation of the great national artist Mario Irarrzabal, it invokes solidarity through the image of four thick copper cables twisted together to form one, the union that can happen to achieve bigger things.  Opened in 1995, crafted of iron, wood and copper, after Pinochet passed power to a new democratic constitution and still held office as a Senator, protected from extradition, in the National Congress located just to the west of the monument.

The imagery works on multiple levels.  Known as “Copper Cable Monument” or “Copper Column,” the monument also stands for Chilenización del cobre (Chileanization of copper), a movement began during the presidency of General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo.  Concluded in the presidency of Salvador Allende, the takeover of foreign owned mines lead to the isolation of Chile and was a component of the support of the USA, via the CIA, for the Pinochet 1973 Chilean coup d’état.  Pinochet retained state control of the mines in the face of strong popular support for the huge contribution to state coffers.  To this day CODELCO (in English National Copper Corporation of Chile) operates as a corporate entity.

As with our guide, Ricardo (“Valparaiso Departure I”) and the companions at the start of today’s post, Irarrzabal was profoundly affected by the Pinochet dictatorship.  Under its influence as well as the sculpture of Easter Island, the artist began work on monumental sculptures.  Pam and I visited one on the other side of the South America “cone,” Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Built from Brava beach at the height of the dictatorship, 1982, of concrete, steel rebar, mesh covered with a corrosion resistant coating, the artist title it “Man Emerging to Life.”  He was a young man at the time, the work built his reputation and he repeated the theme internationally as well as, in 1992, 1,181 miles away the “Hand of the Desert.”  At that time while Chile was emerging from the Pinochet dictatorship the palm as well as fingers are visible.  The “cone” of South American, Chile and Argentina, are encompassed by the left hand of the east, a right hand of the west.

Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

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