Making Social Change Through Theater During a Year in South America
Last autumn, Andres “Fluffy” Aguilar ’19 embarked on an extensive year of study abroad in the Southern Hemisphere. Aguilar, a Gilman Scholarship recipient, spent his junior year studying all across South America, from comparative education studies in Chile and Argentina, to youth popular culture and youth media studies in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Located in what Aguilar calls “the heart of Managua,” the campus was a prime location for discovering Nicaraguan culture. Aguilar, an interdisciplinary concentration major, urges Hamilton students abroad to “be open, flexible, adaptable, and enjoy your time. It goes by quickly as much as it feels like a lifetime while you’re there.”
Major: Interdisciplinary Concentration
Hometown: San Bernardino, Calif.
High School: Arroyo Valley High School
The central location also meant that Aguilar found himself in the middle of the renewed Nicaraguan revolutionary movement in 2018. “That drastically changed my project,” he recalled. Aguilar and fellow students watched busloads of Nicaraguan students arriving in Managua to protest, and Aguilar had the opportunity to join in the movement. “We were trying our best to spread the awareness in the U.S. of what was really happening in Nicaragua.”
Unfortunately, massive protests in the capital city were countered with violence from Nicaraguan security forces, and Aguilar’s final quarter abroad was expedited to Costa Rica. The activism and courage he witnessed gave Aguilar new perspectives for his Nicaraguan theater project. His work is inspired by Nicaragua’s cyclical political violence, but also young Nicaraguans’ push for peace. His project will soon be published by the School for International Training. Aguilar says “I picked up on what was happening [for Nicaraguans] day to day; what are the issues they are confronting? Each character in the play represents one of those key aspects of [Nicaraguan] society.”
Aguilar continued to engage with activism during his time in Chile, where he was again astonished by the lack of freedom to protest publicly. Observing Chileans demonstrating despite harsh government crackdowns, Fluffy was astonished by the will of the people to continue their movement. “In the U.S. we have these freedoms, so when I saw that… I was really taken aback.” “I definitely had to address the biggest issues; economic status, LGBT rights, the education system,” Aguilar said.
Even though we do have these different identities, we can share something in common in theater.
Minimal opportunities for Chilean public school students to study theater disappointed Aguilar. He said, “I wanted to use the play to show people that different identities exist, but they don’t necessarily have a voice. That was the essence of the play: giving everyone a voice and seeing where they’re coming from,” said Aguilar. “Theater can be such a strong community,” Aguilar noted, “but it’s also a luxury.”
Now, Aguilar is back on the Hill ready to bookend his Hamilton career, but understanding his experience in South America is still a work in progress. “I’m still processing,” Aguilar said. His advice to Hamilton students going abroad? “Be willing to do things alone. While I was in Argentina, every day I would just jump on the metro and go somewhere in Buenos Aires. I ended up [going] everywhere!” Aguilar’s summary of his year abroad in five words: “A life-changing, transformative experience.”
Read about Aguilar’s published Independent Study Project.