Peace & Justice Monuments
Monday’s Monument: Bury the Hatchet, San Antonio, TX

Monday’s Monument: Bury the Hatchet, San Antonio, TX

This engraved stone is embedded in the pavement in front of the Bexar County Court House in Main Plaza / Plaza de las Islas. It says: Captain Toribio de Urrutia and Fray Santa Ana now determined to do their best to establish a permanent and lasting peace with the...

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Since May 2015, every Monday morning I have been posting a little essay about a peace or social justice monument. For more than a decade, ever since the peaceCENTER was contracted by a national peace & human rights group to develop a workshop exploring strategies for creating memorials about acts of violence and injustice that did not glorify the bloodshed, we have pondered the relationship between the landscape and civic memory.

“I would rather take care of the stomachs of the living
than the glory of the departed in the form of monuments.”

Alfred Nobel

As we showcase these monuments we hope you will join us in this exploration. For now, we’re concentrating on publicly accessible outdoor works. Some are grassroots and homespun; others, more complicated in their funding and execution. They all have a story to tell and we can learn from all of them.

Monday’s Monument: Healing Hands, Ennis, Ireland

Monday’s Monument: Healing Hands, Ennis, Ireland

The limestone sculpture of two humans hands by Shane Gilmore were placed on the grounds of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in May, 2008. The hands were dedicated to several concepts as shown on the plaques below the sculpture:  Hands sculptured by Shane Gilmore Hands...

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Monday’s Monument: Handspan, Wanganui, New Zealand

Monday’s Monument: Handspan, Wanganui, New Zealand

Handspan is a large work of art, almost 20 meters in diameter, which rises in a double spiraled pathway to a height of about 3 meters with walls on each side, covered with some 4,000 terracotta hand casts made from hand prints of community members of all ages (from 3...

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Monday’s Monument: Hand of Peace, Walnut Creek, California

Monday’s Monument: Hand of Peace, Walnut Creek, California

“Hand of Peace” by Benjamin Bufano, is made of copper, mosaic and stained glass. The 30-foot-tall open-hand figure has stained glass around the fingers and a mural in the middle of the palm featuring a group of children. Above them, an inscription reads, “The children...

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Monday’s Monument: Hand of Peace, Barnard’s Green, England

Monday’s Monument: Hand of Peace, Barnard’s Green, England

Rose Garrard was commissioned in 1998 to create this sculpture to draw attention to an existing commemorative stone on a war memorial site in Barnard’s Green, which was neglected and regularly vandalized. She researched and developed the designs in consultation with...

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Monday’s Monument: A Grande Mão, São Paulo, Brazil

Monday’s Monument: A Grande Mão, São Paulo, Brazil

"The Big Hand" was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1989 as the focal point of the the Latin America Memorial (in Portuguese, Memorial da América Latina), a cultural, political and leisure complex. This large hand is perhaps a nod to his mentor Corbusier’s open...

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Monday’s Monument: MexikoPlatz, Vienna, Austria

Monday’s Monument: MexikoPlatz, Vienna, Austria

In 1956 Vienna renamed Erzherzog-Karl-Platz (Archduke Karl Square) as MexikoPlatz, and erected this memorial commemorating Mexico's condemnation of the Anschluss (Nazi annexation of Austria to make a “Greater Germany”) in March, of 1938, the only country in the League...

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Monday’s Monument: Justice, Winnipeg, Canada

Monday’s Monument: Justice, Winnipeg, Canada

Created by local artist Gordon Reeve, the work was one of four public art pieces commissioned as part of the building of the new Law Courts in 1984. Consisting of three ribs or legs, the sculpture is topped by three long arms, each taking a different serpentine form....

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Monday’s Monument: Letelier-Moffitt Monument, Washington, DC

Monday’s Monument: Letelier-Moffitt Monument, Washington, DC

On September 21, 1976, on Sheridan Circle, a car driven by Orlando Letelier, an outspoken opponent of Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet, exploded The explosion killed Letelier and his passenger and colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt. It was caused by a remote...

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Monday’s Monument: Monumento de la Paz, Caracas, Venezuela

Monday’s Monument: Monumento de la Paz, Caracas, Venezuela

The Monument for Peace was erected by Dr. Farid Mattar in 1963 as an ecological monument and a tribute to recycling. Constructed only with stones and leftovers from construction sites all over the city of Caracas, each stone was placed, according to Mattar’s own...

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MONUMENT (n.)

late 13c., “a sepulchre,” from Old French monument “grave, tomb, monument,” and directly from Latin monumentum “a monument, memorial structure, statue; votive offering; tomb; memorial record,” literally “something that reminds,” from monere “to admonish, warn, advice,” from PIE *moneyo-, suffixed (causative) form of root *men- (1) “to think.” Sense of “structure or edifice to commemorate a notable person, action, or event” first attested c. 1600.

Ten Questions to Ask at a Historic Site

In his book Lies Across America, Professor James Loewen posed these ten questions to ask at a historic site.

1. When did this location become a historic site? (When was the marker or monument put up? Or the house interpreted?) How did that time differ from ours? From the time of the event or person interpreted?

2. Who sponsored it? representing which participant groups’s point of view? What was their position in the social structure when the event occurred? When the site went “up”?

3. What were the sponsor’s motives? What were their ideological needs and social purposes? What were their values?

4. What is the intended audience for the site? What values were they trying to leave for us, today? What does the site ask us to go and do or think about?

5. Did the sponsors have government support? At what level? Who was ruling the government at the time? What ideological arguments were used to get the government acquiescence?

6. Who is left out? What points of view go largely unheard? How would the story differ if a different group told it? Another political party? Race? Sex? Class? Religious group?

7. Are there problematic (insulting, degrading) words or symbols that would not be used today, or by other groups?

8. How is the site used today? Do traditional rituals continue to connect today’s public to it? Or is it ignored? Why?

9. Is the presentation accurate? What actually happened? What historical sources tell of the event, people, or period commemorated at this site?

10. How does the site fit in with others that treat the same era? Or subject? What other people lived ad events happened then but are not commemorated? Why?

Want to learn more about monuments? Check out my bookshelf.

Ready to Kill

by Carl Sandburg (Chicago Poems, 1916)

TEN minutes now I have been looking at this.
I have gone by here before and wondered about it.
This is a bronze memorial of a famous general
Riding horseback with a flag and a sword and a revolver on him.
I want to smash the whole thing into a pile of junk to be hauled away to the scrap yard.
I put it straight to you,
After the farmer, the miner, the shop man, the factory hand, the fireman and the teamster,
Have all been remembered with bronze memorials,
Shaping them on the job of getting all of us
Something to eat and something to wear,
When they stack a few silhouettes
Against the sky
Here in the park,
And show the real huskies that are doing the work of the world, and feeding people instead of butchering them,
Then maybe I will stand here
And look easy at this general of the army holding a flag in the air,
And riding like hell on horseback
Ready to kill anybody that gets in his way,
Ready to run the red blood and slush the bowels of men all over the sweet new grass of the prairie.

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