For this post, I start by noting that I am not Peruvian and I have no desire to mess in that sovereign nation’s affairs. I write from the perspective of a cultural heritage professional. This is my review of El Lugar de la Memoria, la Tolerancia y la Inclusión Social (The Space of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion), located in Lima, Peru.
The Space serves as a museum, cultural center, place of reconciliation and reflection on the Shining Path’s reign of terror in Peru from the 1980s through 2000. Here are some of my takeaways:
- The presentation is impressive throughout the three floors of The Space. The story is told principally through panel text and image displays along with a substantive but not overwhelming distribution of video stations. My three-hour visit allowed a sufficient amount of time to view and absorb most of the exhibits. My Spanish is good enough to understand all that I was reading. I assumed, as always, that a museum has its own point of view that excludes other perspectives. However, when I asked my Peruvian hosts about the potential bias, they believed the presentation was representative of multiple perspectives. In fact, the very creation of the museum was eclipsed by several years of controversy to maximize inclusion.
- The Space contains many of the hallmarks of other “museum of conscious” type of venues such as the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. For example, visitors pick up small booklets that contain information about the lives of those assassinated or disappeared over the twenty-year period. A memory board allows visitors to comment directly about specific individuals or the relatives of the disappeared. Large flat screen displays feature the oral histories of individuals impacted by the Shining Path activities. The second floor leads to a spacious reflection area. The third floor includes a gallery of contemporary artwork on the period along with walls of mementos brought by families of the disappeared.
A departure from similar museums I have visited is a free admission to The Space, making the venue accessible to anyone who is able to get to Lima. I was struck as well that although the museum very effectively tells the story of Shining Path, contextualized within the poverty and oppression of rural Peru, quite clearly, the focus of the venue is as a place of reflection and reconciliation for Peruvians.
I found the experience of visiting the museum quite humbling. I learned another part of the story of the rural Quechua village where I spend a portion of my summers of late. I had always known that the community was founded in part based on attempts to escape the Shining Path war, but The Space helped me to better understand and appreciate the lives of my Peruvian friends in both the Andes and Lima.
If in Lima, The Space of Memory, Tolerance, and Social Inclusion is definitely worth the visit for both the story and method of the telling.