Tacna – Arica

Border territory


Milagros Bedoya

Crossing borders is something I’ve experienced since I was a child. I remember knowing the process one had to go through; I had memorised what documents to bring, which forms to fill, when and how many times you would be asked for them. The sequence of events and the stages of the journey were very clear in my head.
Political borders are definitely fictions and they tell different stories, depending on where they are and the people they affect.

Defined by human human imposition and rarely rooted in an understanding of human and ecosystems, borders create an effect, physically, mentally and emotionally. I have the suspicion that my growing up near a political border made me sooner aware of my location in the world and my belonging to a group. In that sense, those early experiences have influenced the way in which I now move, cross borders, the ways in which I inhabit space.

The sense of location was also a product of my experience of distance, the feeling of being far away from the “centre.” In the case of the town I grew up in, Tacna, I experienced the attracting forces of the bigger Peruvian city to the north, where I was born, and of the modern city to the south, on the other side of the border, in Chile.

The notion of centre and periphery becomes palpable at a border. Resources seem to be scarce and attention is definitely scarcer. But that creates other types of advantages. Going under the radar, being untouched by the chaos and conflicts that afflicted the centres. And the possibility of connecting to what is supposed to be foreign; in this case, with Chile and a city called Arica.
The short distance between the two cities made it possible to access TV and radio signals from both sides and to be familiar with certain images, sounds, events, slang terms. And, evidently, commerce was one of the strongest forces behind the movement of bodies and goods. It is within these dynamics that one grows up, learns to relate, and shapes an identity and a sense of belonging.

If something remains constant in the midst of these flows and in the surroundings of that arbitrary borderline, it is the land. Our territory: the extension of sandy mountains and the patches of trees and vegetation that interrupt them. The lonely thin roads that cross the dessert, the distant rock mountains to the east and the proximity of the ocean to the west. Those shapes, colours, and sensations that formed a backdrop to our life and journeys are a visual and spatial frame; the signs of a language, of a sensible connection to the land.

The purpose is to explore this connection and to think how it can constitute a sensible language used and shared with this particular site. Tracing the political and physical processes that affect this land and the bodies that transit them, we’ll explore our relation to space, positioning strategies and reference points. With the help of images, sound, rhythm, palpitations, memories, history and stories, we will try to enunciate this language.