Original Vicariate of Solidarity
The Vicariate of Solidarity, or the Vicariate for short, was an organization which began in 1976 after an ecumenical Pro Peace Committee (COPACHI) was dissolved due to pressures from General Pinochet. Under the protection of the Catholic Church, and more specifically the Archdiocese of Santiago, the Vicariate helped people whose human rights were abused by the dictatorship’s forces or policies. As the plaque next to the Vicariate’s original location in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago reads:
“From this location, the Vicariate of Solidarity promoted and defended the human rights of all who were in need (1976-1992), continuing the work of the Pro Peace Committee (1973-1975).”
The Vicariate’s focus was on protecting and promoting human rights, which they achieved through various Departments or sections that dealt with varied issues, from judicial and labor conflicts, to adult and children’s education, soup kitchens, and talleres (arpillera workshops), among others.
The Vicariate offered legal defense and protection for political prisoners of the dictatorship, free of charge and regardless of their religious background. The Vicariate also kept records on the victims of human rights violations under Pinochet’s dictatorship. These documents later became instrumental in the truth and justice work done by the Chilean Truth Commission following Chile’s return to democracy in 1992. Additionally, the Vicariate provided legal defense under its labor department to those who were dismissed from their jobs due to their political affiliations. They maintained ties with many labor unions to enforce equality and justice for Chilean workers.
Additionally, the Vicariate worked to support children whose basic access to food was hampered by the policies pursued by the dictatorship. They organized soup kitchens in parish churches where mothers and other volunteers would prepare meals using donated ingredients to feed the local children. These soup kitchens were set up at churches all around Santiago and its outskirts.
The Vicariate also created a Department of Solidarity Education in 1983 that worked to promote human rights through education. Its members created training programs and strategies to raise awareness regarding the place of human dignity in Chilean society. They collaborated with the other Vicariate departments to ensure that this mission also guided their work. The Department hoped to educate Chileans for “Social Peace, [which should be] based on truthful, just, fraternal and liberating relations that strengthen the full development of human life” and conscience, which is the basis for the full respect of human rights.
Chile’s Vicariate of Solidarity is arguably best known for its creation of talleres solidarios, which were workshops where women could sit together and create arpilleras. The Vicariate opened workshops all over Santiago and the southern region of Chile, providing support for tens of thousands of families. The Vicariate’s staff found a person who taught a first group of women to make arpilleras and asked them to represent images that expressed what they felt: most images were of daily life under the repressive regime. The arpilleras were then collected and exported for sale abroad, and the women received a share of the money, which could help their families survive during the dictatorship. Many families were in dire financial need due to either the parents’ loss of employment or the disappearance of husbands and fathers, making the Vicariate’s support instrumental for their survival. In addition to having a safe space to work on arpilleras, these workshops became a safe space to talk among each other about the struggles they faced. Themes varied from politically charged images to ones showing the daily life or financial struggles that became common throughout Chile.
The Vicariate’s many departments and organizations made it an essential part of Chile’s history. After the Vicariate of Solidarity closed its doors once Pinochet left power in 1992, it was transformed into an archive called the Foundation of Documentation and Archives of the Vicariate of Solidarity. To read more about the Foundation, follow these links:
 Most of the information on the Vicariate comes from the Vicariate’s own website. See Arzobispado de Santiago, Fundación de Documentación y Archivo de la Vicaría de la Solidaridad, www.vicariadelasolidaridad.cl [accessed February 14, 2019].
 Vicaría website, sections “Comité de Cooperación para la Paz en Chile, octubre 1973 - diciembre 1975” (http://www.vicariadelasolidaridad.cl/node/28) and “Vicaría de la Solidaridad, enero 1976 - diciembre 1992” (http://www.vicariadelasolidaridad.cl/node/7) [accessed February 14, 2019].
 Vicaría website, section “Vicaría en acción.”
 Vicaría website, section “Vicaría en acción,” subsection Departamento Educación Solidaria.
 Vicaría website, section “Vicaría en acción,” subsection Talleres solidarios.