Punk’s Not Dead

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!!

Mike Sheffey
SIT: Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development
August-December 2012
Wofford College; Spartanburg, SC

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Back at my Vina home!

WOW. That was some two weeks! I’ve never been somewhere as beautiful. We went first to Temuco for maybe like four days to attend classes in the city (at a professor’s school place). We learned about the issues that the Mapuche people face, relating to the loss of culture, loss of land, struggles that Mapuche women face, organizations, actions in the past, actions going on right now and the protests in the cities, and a general overview of the history of the Mapuche pueblo.

Then we got to our homestays in Makewe (community outside of temuco.) Our host mom/gma (Mercedes) was a teacher of Mapuzungun but mroe on that later. There were two kids. Niko (11) and Marcel (seven year old crazy kid who plays soccer EVERY DAY and is so competitive). There were also a lot of family in and out of the house, and friends. Mercedes’ sister also lived with them. The house was great. We played with the kids a lot (cards, tick-tak-to, futbol(soccer), and all sorts of stuff, even just walked around the enormous farm with them for hours one day). I miss them so much they were so cool!

The food was great. Practically everything we ate was “de campo” or from the farm (eggs, chicken, etc). They even made their own bread (and a lot of it) every day! QUE RICO! It was super awesome.

Some people’s host family’s had no shower or no hot water, and a few of them went all six days without showering. We did, but hot water lasted like five seconds. I did shower twice though.

But the house was awesome. And our host mom was SOOOOO SMART! She’s an instructor of a community Mapuzungun class and knows so much about Mapuche music, culture and organizations.

When we went to the class, me and Nick hopped in their car and were then driven by a THIRTEEN year old (cousin of family) to the class, with our mother riding shotgun.

The class was in a “sede comunitaria” or community building, built for activities for the community. It was a different community then the one we were living in, but there was a sede in our community too. The class was mainly women and kids and while the class was super interesting, it was more interesting to talk to the president of that community. She is currently working on helping her community with outings, better water(deeper wells), more availability of resources etc. She (Carmen) was also super intelligent. Then we took “once” in the middle of class and had sopaipillas! They are way different in the south of Chile. More like a donut actually.

The house had chanchitos! (baby pigs) and cows and chickens! Sheep too! and so much land! It was cool to live out there. We even saw a rainbow, it was huge, and way prettier in the campo.

By the way, the family and friends all decided I looked like Justin Beiber. So my name became Michael Beiber. (I’ll just take it as a compliment and move on!)

Once we left those five nights without internet (was a nice break) we went to PUCON!!! so beautiful. Volcan Villarica (volcano) and lakes and mountains. Was a way tourist-y town, but it was so cool.

Our hotel was in cabins. Was so cool. We had a six person for me and Nick. And Nick left a night early for his project, so it was me in a cabin to myself the last night!

We went on a hike in El Cani which was so pretty. (CHECK THE FB for millions of pics!) We saw lagoons and lizards and cool Araucania trees on the hike. It was a sanctuary for those trees.

We also went to Ojos de Caburga! Waterfalls everywere. Of course I was the guy to first walk out on the rocks on the top of the waterfall (when in Chile… haha) and then everyone followed! It was beautiful (again, all pics are now on Facebook).

We went to some beaches on lakes and took a boat tour (cool pics of that as well)

In Temuco we went to a Hip Hop Mapuche show with a band called “Portavoz” and another called La Proleta Insurrecta (kind of had a Ska-ish vibe) I even skanked with Chileans! (dance for ska music).

The whole trip was soooo coool.

We had a cooking workshop for Mapuche food and went to a place where they spin sheeps wool and make stuff. Also a place that had bees for honey, beezewax, soaps etc.

VERY cool! they had a horse that was so friendly and so beautiful. !!! (pics —-> facebook)

In general it was an experience I will never forget!!!!

Sincerely yours,
That kid in Chile

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Hey guys, so….

Got to Temuco yesterday (way more south then Valpo/Vina del Mar) and I’m here for two weeks to study Los Mapuche. The Mapuche are an indigenous group of Chileans that pre-date the Spanish conquistadors. They live in communities/reservations but also have mixed into society. They are (similar to the US 🙁 ) often ignored or discriminated against. Our directors said that we were 2x foreign. Being from the US and from big cities. The directors themselves are foreign to the Mapuche, and they’re Chilean! Temuco is a city, but the Mapuche live in the surrounding areas away from the city. Tomorrow we go to Lago Budi and will study the Mapuche philosophy/world view/beliefs.

Today we learned a bit (basic words) of the Mapudungun language of the Mapuche. We had traditional Mapuche food for lunch; quinoa being used in almost every dish, with a honey-ish juice. It was great!

We then had a class on traditional instruments, music, what the music represents and how the instruments are played. We played txutxuka, pufulka, kull-kull, txompe, kultxun, kaskawuilla, and wada/waza. They were cool ( please google image because explaining these instruments is a bit difficult) (oh but a drum is a kultxun!) We learned some basic (and really really simple) step-dancing as well.

We then played palin (spanish word for it) which is basically a derivative of lacrosse/field hockey with wooden sticks carved like hockey sticks and a wooden ball. (Traditional Mapuche sport). Was super fun and un poco peligroso.

That’s my update for now, will try to be better about this whole blogging thing as time goes on!
Pics to come eventually, but my internet is SOOOOOOO slow here.

Oh, and I have to make a post about the student protest I went to a while back as well!

So much to do!

Miss you all!

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Been a while…

Ok guys, it’s been way too long since I posted. Just been crazy busy.

So I’ve gone back to the dunes again with people, gone to Santiago twice, visited Laguna Verde (Gotta go back with better weather) went to La Fonda (Las Ramadas) during the Fiesta’s Patrias, gone to some various other places, interviewed people that work at ferrias and at Caleta Portales (fishing place), seen La Moneda in person, and entirely planned out my ISP (Independent Study Project) for November. And that barely scratches the surface of what I’ve been up to.


My ISP is (i’d post the full proposal but it’s entirely in Spanish) about punk music as a source for social change and a critique of the traditional Chilean Identity in post-military dictatorship Chile. I will go to several shows and interview people in bands and audience members about chile, identity, the music scene here, etc. and will do an ethnographic exploratory research paper and presentation on the subject. Can’t wait!

The Ramada’s was fun, had some chicha, a traditional chilean drink, and terremotos! Laguna Verde was like a hidden secret beach kind of place, but the weather wasn’t too great so I’m wanting to go back during my ISP.

Seeing La Moneda was amazing. I’ve seen so much footage of the bombings there and it was cool to go to a place with that much history. And the night before we went out with some Chileans and I was so impressed with my spanish ability! Fun times!

I am going to try to update this a few times in the next few days as I look back through my pics and remember things I did, because it’s been so long since I blogged! Sorry about that.

Until Next Time!

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video post about music

i move too much, the video has lag. but it’s really cool, promise!

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been a while

Ok so… I have no idea how to put the last week and a half into a post. But I’ll try!

My family here is awesome. Good Food, fun times, crazy dog, weird discussions. We had an entire discussion around the different uses of the “F” bomb. My host dad is very interested in everything related to the good ol’ MERICA. But i eat soooo much. So much bread. Every day.

I go to a building cleverly labeled “Casa SIT.” But there will be a new Casa SIT starting next week because they just acquired a newer building. It’s still on the metro route, just in Valparaiso, not Recreo.

Which leads me to the metro. I LOVE the metro. it’s so easy, and new to the city (2005 mas o menos) and is clean and calm and fast. i love the metro. i take it practically everywhere and use a collectivo at nights to get back home. Micros are more tough to navigate.

We went to the dunes in Concon a few days ago. I swear, if i could just stay there forever i would. THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL. (pics on facebook, as usual)

Then we went to the restaurant that my host brother works at and had some super legit empenadas. they were delicious.

My Spanish is getting better, i can get by pretty well. I think i just need some review in grammar and vocabulary. Its tough.

And i just wrote an essay for class that was OK…

We’ve gone in a lot of ascensors, or basically elevators on the sides of hills, like you see in the movies. I have taken so many kick butt pictures. (FB)

And because this is a super liberal program, we are being heavily immersed in everything related to their culture. Yesterday, we went to a fishing port and had to talk to random people and fisherman about their lives and work and the problems they face with commercial fishing and fish shortages. It was muy interesante.

Now i have a six day weekend because of the patria. It’s like their equivalent of fourth of July. Mucho carete (parties, like fiestas)

Oh and two days ago there were protests because of the September 11 remembrance of the dictatorship. (Pinochet) My family talked a lot about them, and i wanted to go to the marches, but i didn’t. I wrote my essay instead. There will be more protests to see here coming up, i’m sure. And one got really violent in Santiago and a police officer was killed. Crazy stuff.

I miss my family, friends, and girlfriend. But i love it here. Nervous for my independent study project. But its great. Me encanta Chile.

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Been a few days

Ok so friday night, I met Diego, my “hermano” or brother in the family I am staying in. We went out as a big group with other people in my program to meet the family members. It was fun and surprisingly not as hard as I thought it would be to communicate. A lot of question and answers and a lot of “Si”s or “No”s, but in general it was great. Then yesterday, I ate breakfast at the hotel before meeting the rest of my family.

Cece (Cecilia) is the duena of the house, the mom, but also the person that does almost everything. The house has many family members and friends that live in it, but my “Homestay” is with here immediate family. Which is:

Patricio (Pato..Patro… something nickname like that) is the dad. He’s really interested in everything about me and asks me tons of questions.

Diego is a 21 year old son and the first person I met in the family. He knows un pequito English, which helps a lot.

Barbara is the 19 year old daughter, who also knows a little English because she babysits for an American family. If we hit a wall in conversation, she is good for helping translate a word or two.

And Adrian is the thirtysome year old brother who lives here because he hurt his leg and is in a cast. But in Chile, it’s OK that people live with their families that long. He has a son, who’s name is difficult to pronounce, but I’m working on it.

The mom and her friend Loren invited me to the store yesterday. In Chile there are “ferrias” (fairs) that have a ton of venders in a lot and sell fruits and vegetables, like the farmers market in Greensboro, but way more chaotic and crazy. It was funny because they have “aydartes” or helpers that can carry your bags for you for a tip. It was crazy.

There are also Mercados ,or markets, that sell fruits, vegetables, flowers, bread, and other things. They are local, but more like small mom and pop stores.

Then there is a supermercado called “Lider.” I found out that it is actually associated with Walmart, which is pretty crazy. Walmart must be taking over the world. the supermarket was basically a walmart, but unlike in the states, every checkout lane was open. And it was a zoo. I went to the mercado and ferria yesterday, and the supermercado today.

The city is so hectic, with micros, collectivos (cars that behave like the buses, with routes, etc) and taxis.

Here they have breakfast (desayuno), lunch (almuerzo)(biggest meal of the day), and a snack-like meal around five or six called “once”(ohn-se). Sometimes they have dinner, but it’s rare. And every time I think I’m done with a meal, they just keep bringing more food, or in today’s case, icecream.

Tomorrow I have a Spanish placement test that is in the form of a discussion. It’s gonna be hard, but I guess it’s ok if I’m put in a lower class if I need it.

Adrian’s son likes mexican wresting, luchadores, and has a mask of his favorite wrestler. His dad enjoys politics and discussions on history. It was hard explaining things like why the US was in the Middle-east or deep philosophical discussions on politics and economy.

It’s all so new and crazy to me. I miss everyone a lot, but I’m glad I got to talk to my parents and Katie on Skype. It helps to hear English on occasion, because it takes SOOOOO much focus and is mentally exhausting to communicate only in Spanish, though I’m sure it will get easier in time.

And on a side-note, I hope that I will eventually be allowed to set up the hot water myself, because right now I am supposed to tell Cece whenever I am going to take a shower, and I feel like an annoyance. But she doesn’t want me to turn it on myself or light the gas thing. I don’t know.

Tonight Diego will be around, so maybe I’ll hang with him. He’s fun because he has a little bit of English under his belt.

The family seems to like me, and are simultaneously learning from me as I am from them. It’s pretty cool.

Until next time,


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Official Homestay Is In Vina Del Mar!

Vina and Valpo are practically the same city, so some of us have homestays in Valpo and others in Vina. My homestay is near a girl in my program so we’ll probably travel together to class. Today we have THE DROPOFF.

The dropoff is where they give us a list of things to find and a list of things to discuss with locals and then just drop us downtown in Valpo. We have to navigate our way to certain places and then back to the hotel. I am luckily paired with Alex, a girl who knows a decent amount of Spanish, so it should be fun!

We went to the International Police, kind of the Chilean FBI yesterday to be registered in their database, and soon we will get our Chilean ID’s. Its a tough process studying here. We walked around the town and rode the “micros” (buses) for the first time, muy divertido!

Sorry for the short nature of these first few posts, but I haven’t had mucho tiempo para escribir. It’s been so busy here with this orientation stuff. In a week or two my posts will be longer because I will be in a homestay.

I successfully spoke enough spanish to ask about and then buy a Red Bull yesterday, and we have seen a few bars and had a few cervezas the past few nights. The coast is beautiful! The hotel is rad. And I will work on getting more pictures of the city, though I’m in no rush since I’ll be living here. The pics will most likely be on facebook since wordpress is weird.

Later Skaters.

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Day One!

Been a long day. A very long day. We got to the airport and the reality that there are only two other guys in this program set in. The girls are nice, but it’s definitely a trip lacking in testosterone. Nick and Aiden seem cool so far though. We went out after lunch to see the city.

We went to this old castle kind of museum, and I was hit up for money from a gypsy woman who put leaves in my pockets and wanted me to open my wallet for her. No thank you! Was difficult to figure that out in Spanish, but I basically just walked away. Great first interaction haha.

Then we went downtown in Vina Del Mar and walked around some shops. We saw a mime performing in the streets, a didgeridoo player and a one armed juggler. Very crazy and active city, it’s awesome! And people skate everywhere…despite the less than ideal concrete and brick sidewalks.

We stick out like a sore thumb right now, but hopefully as our language and communication skills improve, we’ll fit in more.

We’re at this hotel for five days for “Orientation” and then we we’ll be put in home stays. Gotta keep working on Spanish because this is harder than I thought. But there are some great people in this program and some skilled Spanish speakers, so I’ll be alright!

Oh and I need batteries, but I got a power adapter!

Until later, Peace!

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At the hotel in Vina Del Mar!

This will be a brief post but I thought I’d check in on you guys. I just got to my hotel in Vina del Mar. We had a late lunch and are now gonna go out to the city to explore and check out the sites. Not too much to post about yet.

Everything has been in Spanish, which is a little tough but I’m getting by so far. Internet works, but I need to get outlet adapters, mine adapters are the wrong ones.

I miss my family and girlfriend but so far this has been great. The flights weren’t bad at all, and I slept a lot! Oh, and ATL airport is HUGE!

Thanks for reading!

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