It’s Sunday night, and I’m sitting at home, and the only thing I can hear outside my window is a million car horns honking. Why? Because La U (Universidad de Chile Futbol Team) just won the championship game, and people are now lost in the ecstasy of victory. This moment of utter bliss, however, greatly contrasts with the rest of current happenings in Santiago these days. In the last two weeks, there have been continuous marches against the building of dams in the Patagonia (!Patagonia Sin Represas!). Additionally, we’re witnessing the start of massive national student protests, which have become part of my everyday life here.
On June 1, 40,000 university and high school students (including myself!) entered the streets and marched to the front of the ministry of education to demand better financing of public universities and better overall quality of education. Since then, almost all public universities have been on strike (meaning no classes), and many are considering entering toma, which means the students take over the school, not allowing professors and administrators to enter, and spend all day AND night in the university. As a private university, Alberto Hurtado (where I’m interning) has not officially decided to enter the national strike, but I have a feeling that by the end of this week it will be doing the same.
As a student from Mount Holyoke, a college nationally ranked #9 for “school runs like butter,” the idea of having to go on strike for weeks just to receive a high quality education still shocks me. Through many conversations with mis companeros (classmates) in the conversation groups I host, and informally during lunch and class breaks, students tell me stories about the limitations and struggles for their education, which begin with being limited in their choice of a major because their high school didn’t prepare them well enough for the PSU (Chilean version of the SAT), to having all their classwork strictly tied to a numerical grade, and to not feeling like their voices are heard in major decision-making processes. During these conversations, I constantly remember how truly grateful I am for my Mount Holyoke liberal arts education that lets me choose what I want to be passionate about, gives me access to faculty and staff who truly support me (and all my fellow students), and that is a welcoming and inclusive community for all. I feel deeply for these students, and I am trying support them as an ally during these times of hope for change.
Fortunately, my internship position has offered me a grand opportunity to talk about these issues in the conversation groups I have with fourth-year students. In light of the current political events at universities around the country, and the students’ and my shared interest in critical pedagogy, we’ve decided to use these times to run a series of dialogues about teaching and social change. Our last two topics have been “Why is it important to learn English?” and “Teachers as political subjects.” In this space, students and I can challenge the status quo and seek strategies that they can use in the classroom to support what they, and all the students of Chile, are asking for: the right for all students to have equal access to a quality education!
Entries tagged with: "hilarypollan"
Greetings from Santiago on this chilly winter morning!
My tenth day in Santiago has just arrived, and with the time that’s passed, I must say that this travel experience is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Why exactly is it so different from other adventures? Because as I’m returning for the third time to Santiago, the things I do here are mostly things I’ve done before. Yes…there have been some minor changes here and there (like the new Montreal Bagel shop that opened up a block from my apartment!). For the most part, however, coming back to my life here has been a subtle adjustment, and a very warm welcome. It has been such a joy to walk back into friends' homes to join them for once (the daily evening snack/dinner eaten after work), and to return to my favorite cafes and bookstores, and in general to just walk around a city that feels in some sense like my own. I’ve realized in the past days that Santiago is now my home. It is where I find myself wanting to invest time and energy into my relationships, the politics, and in understanding ways to help Santiago flourish and grow!
Something that always continues to surprise is how hard Chilean’s work, and for such long hours. Alejandra, my mom here, has to be at work at 7:20 am and often does not get home until 10 pm. Professors at Universidad de Alberto Hurtado often work as more or less “freelance” professors, teaching classes at two to three different universities. My friend Mario has classes at his public university from 4:30-7:30 pm on Saturdays, a time most of us would consider personal time. Their schedule is long and tiring; I often worry about the emotional health of Santiaguino’s, as their urban lives can cause so much stress.
Yet, what I’ve found to be the saving grace of my friends’ exhausting and intensive lives is sharing long Sunday lunches together every week. After my first week here, I too was able to share lunch. At 2 pm on Sunday, our extremely close family friends, Rosario (a fascinating feminist community-radio producer for Radio Tierra) and Feña (her daugher), arrived at our home. We ate a delicious lunch with dessert and coffee and talked about our weeks, politics, and the rights of mothers. We talked for hours and hours, until we decided to get competitive by playing their favorite card game, Carioca. By the time we finished the game (I got second place!), the sun had set and the cold arrived, and it was time for once. A few more friends joined us for tea, sandwiches, and more conversation (and even some singing), and before we knew it, it was 9 pm and time for everyone to prepare for bed and the coming week. I love the long Sunday lunches, and I look forward to them every week, and miss this valuable communal and familial time dearly when back in the United States, as it is truly an energizing, relaxing, and beautiful gathering! As my friend always says, con esos me alimento, meaning: with them (family lunches) I feed myself, both physically and (more importantly) emotionally.
Salud to the Sunday Lunch!
Bienvenidos a todos! My name is Hilary Pollan. I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina, and am entering my senior year at Mount Holyoke. I’m majoring in sociology, with a particular interest in the sociology of education. I am also a sustainable development Nexus minor.
For the next few months, I will be returning for the third time to Santiago, Chile, where I will be teaching English at the Universidad de Alberto Hurtado, as well as doing independent research on self-identified libratory educators and their perceived roles in Chile’s education system.
I spent my semester abroad in Santiago on a “Comparative Education and Social Change” program and am fascinated by the many challenges facing Chile’s education system. During this time, I was also introduced to the educational theorist Paulo Freire, who is my hero and my lead inspiration for both my teaching and research this winter.
Apart from the classroom and research, probably what I’m most excited about for my return to Santiago is staying with my wonderful, hippy host parents, visiting with all my adopted-Chilean cousins and my boyfriend, long Sunday family lunches, speaking Spanish, dancing Cumbia and Salsa, and absorbing (and occasionally participating in) all the radical political and student life in Santiago!