Students Meet with Activists, Government Leaders on Trip to Chile

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Have you ever wished that you could hear multiple sides of a political dispute when reading the news rather than just the one covered by a particular media source or promoted by a spokesperson? What would it be like to listen to the unedited viewpoints of the news-making people themselves? This summer, 13 Agnes Scott students had the chance to find out. 

students in Chile
The students, whose majors ranged from the expected political science to the more unusual studio art, spent three weeks in Chile on a Global Awareness trip, a short-term study abroad program led by Agnes Scott faculty. Juan Allende, professor emeritus of political science at Agnes Scott, and Jennifer Cannady, assistant dean of the college, organized the trip.

“The variety of [students’] interests served to make the class really rich. Everybody had something a little bit different to bring to the table,” Cannady said.

Though the trip was primarily focused on Chilean politics, Ana Cristina Archilla ’13, an English literature-creative writing major and aspiring lawyer, said she was particularly excited to tour the three houses of Pablo Neruda, a Nobel-Prize winning poet and diplomat. She said she sees Neruda as a role model, not just because of his poetry, but also because of his political career. Archilla said that knowing more about Neruda’s life makes reading his work even richer and more personally inspirational.

Human rights, globalization and democratization in Chile were the themes of the trip, and the group was able to speak with activists representing a variety of social justice movements within the country, as well as Chilean officials who address these issues at the governmental level. The group met with the founder of a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group; women’s rights activists attempting to end domestic violence; student leaders protesting the cost of university education; Catholic and Protestant workers helping Peruvian immigrants find employment; and indigenous leaders fighting to protect their way of life.

The group visited many urban areas, such as Santiago, Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Temuco, but were able to spend some time in the countryside as well. Archilla said that seeing the rural areas provided her with a fuller understanding of Chile as a country. 

“When you’re in Santiago, you think that’s what Chile is. But Chile is more than the city. I was happy to have the privilege of learning in different regions,” she said.

A new development in the Global Awareness tour provided the group with an unheard of opportunity for dialogue with indigenous Chilean leaders and activists. Some of the Mapuche women, who live mainly in south-central Chile, shared breakfast and stories with students in a ruka, or traditional community center. They talked about their struggles and achievements, including their work with the fair trade movement, efforts to teach urban Mapuche youth about their heritage and fights to keep the logging and hydroelectric industries from taking their land. 

“It was very unusual. I can’t think of any tourists who have had that kind of opportunity,” Cannady said. “The unique nature of Global Awareness is that you see things you would never see if you were a tourist.”

Agnes Scott College educates women to think deeply, live honorably and engage the intellectual and social challenges of their times. Students are drawn to Agnes Scott by its excellent academic reputation, exceptional faculty and metropolitan Atlanta location—offering myriad social, cultural and experiential learning opportunities. This highly selective liberal arts college is known for its diverse and dynamic intellectual community. Through SUMMIT, it provides every student, regardless of major, with an individualized course of study and co-curricular experiences that develop leadership abilities and understanding of complex global dynamics.