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Art in the Open A powerful, revolutionary salute to continental solidarity


THE Latin America Memorial is a cultural, political and leisure complex, inaugurated in 1989 as a centre for the integration of the continent. Its architecture is by Oscar Niemeyer.

It houses a permanent collection of art on display in- and outdoors and a library of over 30,000 titles, and holds numerous exhibitions, conferences, debates and all manner of performances.

In the middle of its central “public square” there is a more than seven-metres-tall modernist concrete sculpture of an open hand with a vermilion red “stigmata” wound cut into the middle of the palm, shaped like the Central and South American continents, including Cuba.

The allusion to crucifixion is as obvious and multifarious as it is true in the literal sense and will resonate powerfully with ordinary oppressed people of the continents, particularly those nurtured on liberation theology, Marxism or the legacy of many anti-imperialist struggles from Jose Marti and Fidel Castro to Jacobo Arbenz, Salvador Allende, Che Guevara, the Sandinistas and Brasil’s own Carlos Prestes or Joao Goulart.

Niemeyer, a life-long communist, knew his historical materialism inside out and the agitprop character of the nearly flat, rudimentarily-shaped hand with its “pop-art” aesthetics makes it, and its message, eye-catching indeed.

The image itself, an inversion of David Alfaro Siqueiros’ 1947 Our Image (Nuestra Imagen), no longer belongs to a faceless eternal beggar: it now represents a continent that may be injured but is aware of its sovereign place in history and determined to forge its own destiny in the face of continuing struggles against intruding imperialism.

It is Niemeyer’s “J’Accuse” right in the face of all Western plunderers and their numerous servile local henchmen.

The risen “Mao Grande” (Big Hand) – as it’s called - powerfully salutes a new, revolutionary consciousness embodying the heartfelt cry of “Presente!” inherited from the Cuban revolution.

“Sweat, blood and poverty marked the history of Latin America so it’s disjointed and oppressed. Now it is urgent to readjust into a mono-block, untouchable, able to make it independent and happy,” Niemeyer said at the inauguration.

The nearly flat pedestal at the foot of the sculpture bears an edifying inscription by Orestes Quercia, governor of Sao Paulo at the time: “The sentiment of the Latin American unity and the threshold of a new time. The organisational effort to eliminate the oppression of the powerful and build a bigger and more just destination is the solemn commitment of all of us.”

Obviously a sentiment Joao Bolsonaro or his cohorts couldn’t care less about, much like usurpers of the same ilk in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras or Paraguay.



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