I attended the 2017 Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program for the postsecondary faculty members/administrators that aimed to help participants learn about how recent societal reforms and social movements in Chile have been influenced by the social, economic, political, religious, and ethnic contexts of Chile. My focus was on human rights violations committed under the Pinochet regime and Chile’s recent efforts to bring justice to the victims of the horrific crimes. Before attending the program, as an instructor who teaches a human rights course, I had read/heard about the Pinochet regime’s horrific violation of human rights; yet a visit to sites such as Villa Grimaldi and Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (The Museum of Memory and Human Rights) distressed me to the core. I felt the excruciating pains the Pinochet regime caused on Chileans and disdain it exhibited for humanity. As a country that boasted two Nobel laureates in literature, Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1971), some of Chileans’ poems powerfully captured the despicable horror endured by the country under siege by the Pinochet military dictatorship for almost twenty years. I still use those poems when I teach in class about human rights violations in Chile under the Pinochet regime.
Besides working on our projects, we had the privilege of living in and learning about Chile as a country by seeing firsthand how they lived, how they interacted with each other, what lifestyle they had, and so on. We cheered for Chile when its soccer team played against Germany in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Final. Some of us were invited to attend the opening gala of an exhibition, Earth Movements: Art and Nature, at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (The Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts). We sat among Chilean opera enthusiasts watching Verdi’s Rigoletto at Teatro Municipal de Santiago. We rode a packed subway train during rush hour in Santiago. We took a walking tour in Valparaiso that was known for street arts. Coming from Hawai‘i where Gemini North, one of the two Gemini telescopes, is located, I was privileged to see Gemini South in La Serena, although it was from afar. We hiked the Moon Valley and saw flamingos from afar in Lagunas del Salar.
It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I would like to thank everybody in the Fulbright Commission in Chile and in the U.S. Department of Education for their tireless efforts to make our visit and stay as productive and comfortable as possible and give special thanks to our cohort who made the visit extremely fun and memorable.
Su-Mi Lee – Fulbright to Chile 2017