Ushuaia Prison

World Monuments Watch
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

1998 World Monuments Watch

Although the 600 convicts that occupied the 380 cells in the Ushuaia prison up until its closure in 1947 were not exactly town citizens, their work was integral to the daily life of the city beyond the formidable walls. Public works projects and houses were often built by prison labor, which also supplied the southern Argentine town with such staples as firewood, bread, and electrical power; prisoners and citizens relied on each other. Given the prison's prominent site in town, its restoration would be the key impetus for overall local development. The presidio is defined by a central ward from which radiate five cellblock spokes. One of the wings has housed a maritime museum, but the plan is for the prison to become a revenue-generating cultural center, a goal that remains distant unless emergency maintenance is done. Windows need to be reglazed and portions of the corrugated metal roof replaced to make the building watertight. Once these repairs are addressed the prison's transformation into a cultural center can proceed.

Since the Watch

Following the 1998 Watch, the leaking roof was sealed, windows were replaced, and damaged interiors were repaired. Today the prison houses the Museo Marítimo y del Presidio, dedicated to the maritime history of Tierra del Fuego, the building's own history as a prison, and the history and biology of Antarctica. The museum, working in conjunction with Ushuaia’s Department of Culture and Education, has created an outreach program with interactive programs designed specifically for schoolchildren, and organizes an annual student competition that centers on the life and work of General José de San Martín. In 2014, a documentary film titled La Cárcel del Fin del Mundo was created to tell the story of the prison and its historical significance for the town of Ushuaia. November 2014

Last updated: August 2017.

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