I’ve been here for about five weeks now, and have loved the chance to learn about how truly unique Chile is. This country is the homeland of great musicians, such as Violeta Parra, who transformed Chilean music so radically that the band Los Jaivas is free to use alternative melodies and Ana Tijoux has a grandmother to inspire her while she adds political flare to her rapping. Chile is also the patria of poet Pablo Neruda and author Isabel Allende, whose works have earned them international acclaim and shaped world literature.
In addition to cultural figures, Chile has many diverse landscapes due to its lengthy and slender form. With the most arid desert in the world to the north, the famous Patagonia to the south, and the Andes to geographically separate it from Argentina, Chile enjoys an exceptional ecological diversity. I haven’t been able to travel much so far (homework…), but I hope to change that soon. However, here’s a picture from Punto de Lobos I took while spending a weekend in Pichilemu.
As shown on the cédula to the right, I’m now a registered foreigner of Viña del Mar, meaning that I’ve completed all the paperwork and am settled into life as a student in Valparaíso, la Joya del Pacífico. I’m currently taking five classes: Tourism, Cultural Anthropology, Chilean Culture and Communication, Art and Society of Pre-hispanic Chile, and a fitness class. In addition, I’ve been able to join an intramural rock climbing group and start volunteering with a conversational English night-class. From what I’ve been told, this is a fairly typical amount of credits and activities to be involved in as an estudiante de intercambio.
I’ve come to really enjoy my Chilean Culture and Communication class in particular. Learning about the historical context of Chile has undoubtedly enhanced experiences of reading the political graffiti on the walls, hearing the folkloric music performances on the metro, and observing the ships that graze the port waters of the Océano Pacífico. The beauties of this nation are outstanding, and this class helps me understand the complex history that continues to shape it.
As we approach September I know I’ll be visited by a flashback that marks my generation. A flashback of my mother’s tears that morning and a small television screen depicting two burning buildings; a symbol I didn’t understand at the time. However, citizens of the U.S. are not the only ones to have September 11 flashbacks. Chile remembers the coup d’état of 1973, when the U.S. was involved in the violent overthrow of their democratically elected, leftist government. I encourage you to take at least five minutes to google the forty-year-old Chilean September 11 and the overthrow of Salvador Allende. For those of you who speak Spanish or have heard the history before, the new television series Chile: Las Imágenes Prohibidas offers first-hand accounts of Chile’s time under la dictadura that followed. It’s a reminder that what might seem like petty politics from a distance is missing children and broken families up close—something we should never forget.
As always, thank you for reading. It makes my day when someone takes the time to read an update on life and a couple of thoughts. Gracias por el apoyo, un abrazo fuerte desde Chile.
-Austin Vander Wel