(17-18) Las Aradas

The students work on a real-time project benefiting communities of survivors to mass massacres in the 80’s in El Salvador, who acquired the land of Las Aradas, where hundreds of people gather annually for one night and one day to commemorate the events. This project is about archicture grounded in memory, infrastructure, landscape, economy, construction techniques, social involvement in central america.

Las Aradas – memorial for a massacre site in El Salvador

Massacres on the civil population occurred in the 1980’s in El Salvador, before and during the civil war that lasted from 1980 until 1992. Populations were killed because of their supposed support to the different factions of the guerilla that were active during these years.

The region that interest us particularly is Chalatenango, and more specifically the area around San Jose las Flores. In may 1980, a number of people, estimated 600, died at a place known as Las Aradas, next to the river Rio Sumpul marking the border with Honduras, in a joint operation by the army of both countries.

To this days, only a few of these violent events are being recognized. 37 years later, the local communities still struggle for this recognition and for a proper remembrance of what happened.

In August 2017, several communities formalized a non-profit organization in order to empower their voice and action. Amongst other actions, the communities acquired the land of Las Aradas, where hundreds of people gather annually for one night and one day to commemorate the events. Their aim is to develop the site in order to improve accessibility, sheltering for the commemoration days, a memorial, and a better access to the river. Nowadays, in order to access the site, a rough 3-4 hours walk is necessary, including river crossings.

The global process on memory is being followed by A. Grzyb from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, in the framework of her research work. UWO is part of this memorial project. The project is also supported by CRIPDES, Asociación para el desarrollo de El Salvador.

This project may have an impact on the opportunity to develop the infrastructure (a road?), maybe to locate a family to live on site, which, in return has an impact on the economic activity on site (agriculture, access, etc.) In addition, the communities and the government are thinking about developing the region economically through “historic tourism”

Beyond this local project, it may be interesting to consider also smaller sites, which are now out of the scope, in order to integrate the project in a larger reflection.

In January 2018, a first meeting with the communities is being planned in order to discuss the  context and ambitions of the project.

In this first phase, we will need to help the communities in the definition of the project. What are the limits of the project,  how do we anticipate broader economical/social considerations on site, broaden the reflection on the nature of a memorial, embed its construction in the local reality, explore material possibilities, address project on the scale the landscape. This will take the form of the observation of site and surrounding, references, sketches, design strategies, etc. in order to support the participation of the involved people.


Timing to be confirmed/precised. january 2018 : preliminary meeting with the association, defining orientations. this covers the preliminary work of the thesis. may 14th : commemoration day in Las Aradas ; autumn 2018 : design proposals to the association ; 2019-2020 : construction, depending on funding

Some knowledge of spanish is recommended in order to communicate in El Salvador

Costs in El Salvador are not very significant. Travel expense is. The possibility of funding needs to be investigated.

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