Controversy at the Memory Museum

27 August 2017

Last week prominent sociologist Guillermo Nugent was asked to leave his position as the director of the Lugar de la Memoria Tolerancia e Inclusión Social (LUM). After 10 months in charge and having achieved its prominent space in Lima’s cultural landscape, Nugent became the latest victim of the battles for memory being waged in Peru.

The immediate reason was a temporary exhibit, curated by Karen Bernedo, and entitled Visual Resistance (Resistencia Visual), focusing on the events that shaped Peru in 1992. The year is particularly relevant due to President Alberto Fujimori’s ‘self coup’ (or ‘autogolpe’) in April of that year, as well as the killing of Maria Elena Moyano, the bombing by Sendero Luminoso of the Calle Tarata in Miraflores , the disappearance of the students at La Cantuta University, the killings in the Barrios Altos by the Colina group and the capture of Abimael Guzmán.

According to Fuerza Popular congressman Francisco Petrozzi, the exhibition (which remains open) was one-sided, this because it included events not strictly linked to 1992 such as the forced sterilisation of women and the use of slogans such as ‘Fujimori Never Again’. Petrozzi chairs the parliamentary commission on culture. He sent an angry tweet saying this was an unfair portrayal of the period.

Bernedo denies that exhibition attempts to be a historical reconstruction of the year, but instead to show the art that the events of 1992 inspired. Culture Minister Salvador del Solar went to see the exhibit with his main adviser, Denise Ledgard (a previous director of the museum); together they decided that there was a lack of balance and that given the current climate of political polarisation this was unacceptable.

When Nugent was asked to present alternatives and then refused, he was asked to leave his post. The backlash from the human rights community has been intense with accusations of censorship. The minister maintains that, as the exhibit remains open, this is not the case, but that he was no longer confident that Nugent was the best person to lead the project.

The issue continued to have repercussions throughout last week with fears that the museum’s mission will be affected in future because of self-censorship. It remains unclear who will replace Nugent. While the minister has survived the wrath of the pro-Fujimori bloc in Congress, leading lights in the human rights community are calling for his resignation.

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