For the Missing and Other Victims
Uruguay memorializes two crimes against humanity.
By Jimena Martignoni
If recalling terrible past events is not easy, then neither
is it at all easy to create a memorial that calls up the collective memory of
such events. The creation process has to shape a place that is sensitive to the
needs of the bereaved and others affected by those events and respectful of the
landscape in which it is set. In Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city, two
memorials recall historic events that have scarred one of the local communities
and the entire nation.
At 68,040 square miles (slightly smaller than the state of
Washington), Uruguay is the third-smallest country in South America, with more
than half of its population living in Montevideo. The most prominent feature of
this 204-square-mile city is the presence of the Río de la Plata, the widest
river in the world, extending alongside it. The rambla, a pink granite promenade built along the waterfront in the
1940s, gives people a place to walk, jog, fish, or relax; the city stands
across a main road that runs adjacent to the rambla. Both memorials have an
important relationship with this river.
The Holocaust Memorial
The Jewish community in Uruguay is currently no larger than
1 percent of its total population but is nevertheless a significant social
segment, especially in Montevideo.
The idea for a memorial to the Holocaust in Montevideo was
born in a local Jewish commission that, after getting the approval of Uruguayan
President Luis Alberto Lacalle in 1993, raised the funds for the construction
and called for a national competition. The site was ceded by the city
government through a public resolution.
The winning project was created by the team of architects
Fernando Fabiano, Gaston Boero, and Sylvia Perossio and landscape designer
Carlos Pellegrino. Their design was chosen mainly for its natural integration
into the riverfront landscape. Margarita Montañez, an architect who’s in charge
of the preservation of Montevideo’s historic gardens and is one of the founders
(in 2005) of the Uruguayan Association of Landscape Architects, says that the
best aspect of this memorial is the subtle integration with the preexisting
elements of the landscape. “It subordinates to the water horizon line and
integrates into the space of the rambla [promenade], while generating a new
walking itinerary for people,” she explains.
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