Jacob Surface ’11 – Twice in the past two weeks I have awoken to screams here in Chile. When that happens in Latin America, a couple of thoughts jump to mind: 1) Is this another earthquake? Well, my bed/room doesn’t seem to be shaking so I guess not. 2) Is this a military coup? Well I don’t hear tanks, planes, or guns so hopefully not… 3) Is there a soccer game? YES, in fact it is the World Cup which explains why the entire city is going mad. Even as I write I can hear the honking, yelling, and chaotic celebratory sounds of Chile’s latest win. The pride for the Roja (red) is ubiquitous in Chile as school and workplace alike are postponed for people to watch the games. Meanwhile, I am preparing to head off to that all too forgotten segment of study abroad – class.
As the semester is drawing to a close here I want to talk a bit about my favorite class so far. My Latin American history course has been one of the most interesting courses I have had the chance to take while in Chile. While some of the reading material is review from other political science/history courses I have had (which I appreciate with comps a semester away), the classroom dynamic has been very rewarding. With Chile, France, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and of course the US represented in a small group of 15 students, class conversations from populism and democracy to social inequality and military coups have been extremely well informed with so many experiences represented. I just finished my final essay for the class and was able to squeeze in some Pevehouse between the likes of Tilly and Huntington (just ask Dr. Vasquez about his International Politics course last fall and civil-military relations).
In other news, my running is going quite well now. I took fourth in my last road race, a charity event to benefit victims of the earthquake. I got 25th in a much bigger race a few weeks ago in an inland town about an hour away. Running is a great way to get to know an area and the fitness increases the chance that you can get out of sketchy situations in a jiffy if need be.
Speaking of sketchy situations, our program took a human rights tour through the capital of Santiago a week ago. We visited the General Cemetery and saw the monument to Allende as well as the one to the Disappeared Victims of the coup. We then had a guided tour of Villa Grimaldi, a former summer resort area that was converted to a torture/detention center as Pinochet sought out members of the armed leftist movement (MIR). Unfortunately such issues have only became a public discourse in Chile after Pinochet’s embarrassing extradition to Spain in 1998 when a six-hour window between diplomatic immunities allowed authorities to detain him while seeking back surgery in England. Even now Chileans are not very open on the topic.
Some friends and I stayed behind in the city that evening for a nice dinner and a self-guided walking tour of the Bellavista neighborhood, the more bohemian sector of the city. The next morning we awoke and ascended Cerro San Cristobal in the municipal park to gain a fantastic view of the city from above and of the Andes in the distance. Later we walked through the central market and through the historic government district, finishing up in front of La Moneda, the presidential palace whose image was made famous during the 1973 bombing of the building by junta forces.
I also recently took a trip to Easter Island. That’s right, the place with the big stone head statues or Moai! It was incredible to see everything up close. My trusty travel team and I explored the island, the lava tube caves formerly used as storage and shelter by the builders of the Moai, and experienced the native Rapa Nui culture. It was a very beautiful place to say the least. Nothing says paradise like finishing a 10-mile run on a white sand beach surrounded by Moai and palm trees.
Now only a few more weeks of the semester stand between me and a trip north through Bolivia and Peru and then back to sunny Crawfordsville.