Having been forced to call free presidential elections on 14 December 1989, Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet was finally removed from power, bringing to an end 16 years of military rule. Pinochet had taken the presidency in 1973 following a US-backed coup d’état, which deposed the elected socialist government of Salvador Allende and established a junta in its place.
The restoration of democracy in Chile also enabled the artistic collective Brigada Ramona Parra (BRP) to come out of hiding. The group had been founded by young communist artists in 1968 and for five years had covered Santiago’s streets with colourful murals campaigning for radical social change.
Following the 1973 coup BRP activists were arrested and their murals were painted over by the military government. Although not defeated, the artists were driven underground, continuing to paint secretly in defiance of Pinochet’s regime. The danger of being caught meant large murals were impossible, so the artists instead created a tag: a letter R within a circle with a star next to it. The R stood for resistance, the circle for unity, and the star as a symbol of the BRP.
Since their liberation, the BRP artists have once again brightened the streets of Chile with murals championing contemporary causes including indigenous rights and educational reform.
This wonderful story is told more extensively in Gideon Long’s report on the BBC News website: The Chilean Muralists Who Defied Pinochet.
Image: BRP mural honouring Jecar Nehgme, a left-wing activist shot dead by Pinochet’s forces in 1989 and one of the last victims of the junta.