So this will probably be my last travel blog post. This has been the greatest experience of my life. Working on a language I love in a country that speaks it has forced me to learn more in these three months about Spanish than I have ever learned in classes. The people here are so friendly, and Chile is honestly a gorgeous country. There is so much to do and see that I definitely want to come back.
For the past month I have been working on what has to at least be the hardest Spanish project, if not the hardest project in general, of my life. We have had a month to do an exploratory research project on basically anything relating to culture, human rights, cultural movements, identity, or anything we’ve at least touched on in our seminars. For me the choice was obvious: PUNK. If you don’t know anything about me, I kind of have a thing for punk, the music, the subculture, and the history. And Chile, a crazily consumerist culture was bound to have a subculture oozing with angst against the mainstream. What I found was more than I could have imagined. Punks, or ‘Punkies’ as they identify, have a huge subculture here, especially in Santiago (which is where, in hindsight, I should have done my project… since almost all of my interviews were there). This culture was developed during the 1980’s and early 1990’s during the later years of and the years shortly after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet: a far right leader that in 1973 pushed a military coup over the recently popularly elected socialist Salvador Allende. What followed was a series of extreme tactics used to target intellectualism, free-thinkers, leftists, and anyone who appeared as a threat to the system that was developing. Many of them “disappeared” during the military regime.
During this time, a counterculture movement started, in an illegal and underground nature, which would later develop into Chile’s own ‘Punk’ scene. Inspired by The Ramones the Sex Pistols of England, and the DIY ethic of American punk and hardcore, the scene flourished during the final years of the dictatorship. It spoke a message of anti-consumerism, anti-police corruption, and anti-government. One band, Fiskales Ad-Hok, took the lead in that time and helped construct a scene of youth who were fed up with the status quo, the injustice, and the seemingly apathetic nature of many more wealthy and conservative people of Chile.
My project, fundamentally, aimed to analyze how the punk scene functions today, and how this counter-cultural movement and the people involved identify in modern Chile, 22 years after the fall of the Dictatorship.
What I found was that, similar to other punk scenes, the scene in Chile works to force it’s following to act out, speak out, and do something. Its primary focus is, according to the interviews I gathered, independence, in every sense of the world. The DIY ethic persists and focuses them to not only self-produce and self-generate everything within the scene, but also through this perpetuates a tendency to create your own identity. The independence goes further to apply to everything. It makes people question what they are told; question authority. And through this questioning they develop into individuals who don’t believe anything they’re told, but rather believe things they want to believe, learned first-hand, and drawn from self-made conclusions.
The themes they sing about are almost the same as when the movement began: corruption, power, greed, anger, love, education, protests, and daily-life as a result of a problematic society, the police, freedom, expression, and independence. Money and power play a huge role in the church and the government, which unlike the states, are connected and shouldn’t be. They sing about that too.
The reason they love punk is the reason I love punk. Because society is not perfect and if there is nobody bringing focus to the problems of society, nobody speaking out (through music, protest, action, etc.) than nothing will change and society will not progress. And at least in my opinion, tolerance and justice have a long way to go. Especially in a society that, while rich with culture and beauty, has a long way to go in terms of equality, and expression.
This research project, of now over 45 pages, is more than I could have imagined and something I’m proud I got to investigate. I couldn’t be any happier that I chose the SIT: Study Abroad program in Valparaiso, Chile.
I hope all of my blogs (sorry there weren’t more) have been informative, entertaining and fun. Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to see you all soon back in the states!!
SIT: Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development
Wofford College; Spartanburg, SC