After a long week of being sick and using up various rolls of toilet paper, I’m finally starting to feel better. With the beginning of fall here (since the seasons are flipped in the Southern Hemisphere), everyone’s getting sick, including myself. By this point, the flu has made its way around to pretty much everyone in my program.
This weekend I went on a an obligatory trip through my study-abroad program, IFSA-Butler, in which we went to the south of Chile. It is in this region that the majority of the indigenous population lives, the Mapuche. Unlike many other indigenous groups in Latin America, the Mapuche weren’t completely wiped out by the Spanish. In fact, the Chilean state was more of a threat to the Mapuche way of life after a long period of semi-harmony under the Spanish crown. After an especially brutal period of repression under the military dictatorship of Pinochet, the Mapuche people are finally revitalizing their language and culture, raising the newest generation of proud Mapuche.
Slightly pessimistically, I had originally thought that this trip through my program would be a little rushed and trite, as pre-planned trips with a set itinerary often are. However, for this trip, that stereotype did not hold true. From spending the night next to the fire in a traditional ruca (the houses made of straw historically used by the Mapuche) to ziplining across rivers, I enjoyed every second of this trip.
The best part of southern Chile is, by far, the scenery. The south of Chile is incredibly beautiful and totally distinct from Valparaíso. It’s definitely more rural and, by extension, infinitely more peaceful than the bustle of Valpo. In many ways, the south of Chile actually reminds me of my hometown, York, PA, in that both are full of lots of greenery and covered in rolling hills. However, down in the southern Chile, there are a lot more mountains, which is definitely a plus for me as a self-proclaimed hiking fanatic.
I’m continuously amazed by how diverse Chile is as a country, both geographically and culturally. Of course, this makes sense when considering its almost comically elongated shape, but I never realized just how diverse it was until traveling around a little more. Where I was, in the south of Chile, there’s a lot more greenery and mountains and is a little less arid than some other parts of Chile. In contrast, in the north of Chile, it’s mostly desert–the Atacama desert, to be specific. Even between Santiago and Valparaíso, two cities that are both in central Chile (more or less), there are various differences. For example, Santiago is consistently warmer and sunnier than Valparaíso, which is a city that is chronically cloudy, even at the beach! There’s always a strong, chilly breeze in Valpo–the price one has to pay for living on the coast.
Overall, this trip to the south of Chile, to the Araucania, has left me incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have been given. Chile is such a beautiful country, and I’m reminded that there’s so much to see beyond my little bubble in Valpo.