SANTIAGO – One week ago, Centro Arte Alameda was destroyed by fire. Since then, it has received support from the local cinematic industry and the Minister of Culture. It is now being rebuilt.
During the last major protest of 2019, two blocks away from Plaza Italia and nearly 5,000 protesters, the Centro Arte Alameda was set ablaze. Luckily, no one was injured and firefighters were able to prevent the flames from spreading, but not before they consumed the 38-year-old cinema, causing internal collapse.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated by firefighters and prosecutors. According to witnesses, the blaze was caused by a tear gas canister that landed on the roof of the building. The Carabineros (Chile’s national police force) blame Molotov cocktails thrown by protesters.
For its part, the Art Center completely rejects the idea that it was Molotov cocktails. The center’s director, Roser Fort, said that it was hit by three tear gas canisters. She also said that the center had never previously been hit by a Molotov cocktail, whereas it had been affected by “at least 70” tear gas canisters since the social crisis started on Oct. 18.
After the fire, a wave of support flooded Centro Arte Alameda, and the center is now focused on rebuilding. Thanks to social media, it has managed to recruit volunteers to help clear out the debris, as well as an architect, Fernando Guarello. It is expected to reopen in six to eight months.
Centro Arte Alameda: Symbol of Rebellion
Since the beginning of the protests on Oct. 18, Centro Arte Alameda has been the only local business at ground zero that has not closed its doors, even operating as a first aid station during major protests. Its role in the social revolution isn’t that surprising given its origins.
The Cine Arte Alameda first opened in 1981, where it quickly cemented itself as a meeting ground for cinephiles during the dictatorship and as a beacon of rebellion. This was accomplished by showing Charlie Chaplin’s movie, “The Great Dictator,” as well as the works of Fellini, Bergman, and Tarkovsky.
When the building was later purchased by businessman Mario Alvo Hassan, he created a space that would focus on helping Chilean culture. The result was the Centro Arte Alameda, which includes the old movie theater, a gallery, and a stage where they present live music events.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.