Students living the struggle

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“Long live the students as the winds that roar when priests and the military regime gets too close.”

The Argentinian Mercedes Sosa, one of the most influential folkloric singers in Latin America, beautifully gave a voice to the Chilean composer Violeta Parra’s song “Me gustan los estudiantes” (I Like The Students).

Both express their gratitude and admiration to the students who take to the streets, who make seeking and fighting for social justice — la lucha (the struggle) — their priority.

This song was originally published in the late 1960’s, and it still resonates with students in 2015. Joining the fellow students who are mobilizing and reforming “la lucha” to the current needs of the people is both a privilege and a duty.

In 2011, Chilean students took to the streets demanding economically accessible public higher education. Student leaders such as Camila Vallejo were national headliners, and their voices echoed enough that in January of 2015, a reform in favor of the students was issued in the Chilean congress.

In 2012, many Mexicans mobilized against the newly elected President Peña Nieto and his party the PRI. The student movement #yosoy132 had a strong presence in the opposition and created an alliance between public and private universities in an attempt to make the student voice stronger. The movement was also responsible for making the opposition known internationally due to their activity in social media.

Thousands of students joined la lucha after the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico following a September 26 protest that ended in violence and the death three students as well as three other people. The movement to get justice for these students became worldwide news, but it was their fellow students who were the first ones to raise their voices and call the rest of the country to join and demand justice.

In October, 20,000 people marched in the commemoration of the student massacre of 1968 to highlight the injustice then and its resemblance to current events today.

Being in Chile for the past four months reminded me that I grew up listening to Mercedes Sosa and was raised among a student culture of political and social involvement, and that having students oppose what is dictated by archaic thoughts is the norm and not a particularly radical action.

This reality was blurred by the lack of a student movement in St. Louis and indifference towards demanding justice for the oppressed, the marginalized, and dissolving a patriarchy that devalues those who do not fit the norm.

As students, it is our duty to protest events such as the Michel Brown and Eric Garner cases, the frequent killings of transgender people and the lack of workers and farmers rights. We are currently building ourselves into who we want to be as adults, and we are constantly bombarded with information. We have the privilege of accessible dialogue with people who bring numerous points of intersection and points-of-view to the conversation.

Our ideas will never be as celebrated as they are now, and a lecture will be the biggest audience many will have to concurrently express their thoughts and call their peers to action.

Seeing fellow students demonstrate consciousness should give every Billiken pride; students leaving their comfort zone of privilege and fighting back are the norm in many countries, which makes it truly disappointing that this has not been the case for us.

Violeta Parra was able to compose such inspiring words because of her ability to capture the essence of student movements: hope, unity, progress and just a little bit of naiveté.