Student, Professor Take Research to Chile to Study Country's Psychological Impact From Conflict

While sitting in her “Readings in Spanish Literature” class last spring, NWU student Lexie Zoucha got an idea.

Her literature class was discussing how Spain was recuperating the memories of the Spanish Civil War under the Francisco Franco Regime. Zoucha was familiar with a similar situation in Chile where residents were still seeking reconciliation from the regime of General Augusto Pinochet, one of the most controversial figures in Chile’s history.

 Having spent a semester in Chile, Zoucha knew the stories of Pinochet’s rule marked by severe human rights violations. Discussions in her Spanish literature class led her to wonder how people in Chile were dealing with their feelings left after conflict.

 Zoucha turned to her Spanish professor Catherine Nelson. Together they submitted a proposal and received funds from the Student Faculty Collaborative Research Fund, which sent them to Chile last month to further study those particular feelings referred to as “collective memory.”

 “I think the best part was being able to see this from so many different viewpoints,” said Zoucha who collected people’s divided opinions regarding the Pinochet Regime. “It really opened my eyes to some biases I may have had going into the project.”

Nelson and Zoucha also made several trips to the National Library, participated in a human rights walking tour, visited a general cemetery where many were buried during the Pinochet Regime, and visited the Villa Grimaldi, a former torture center that is now a memorial.

“It was important to experience it to have a better understanding,” said Nelson.

 Zoucha, a senior Spanish and information systems major, is using the information she gathered in Chile for her senior research project. Zoucha hopes the experience will also help toward her goal of someday working for an international company that focuses on United States and Latin American relations.

Zoucha and Nelson aren’t the only ones benefitting from the international research experience. Zoucha is currently helping Nelson teach a Liberal Arts Seminar for first-year students. The seminar focuses on collective memory, using examples from Chile, Germany, Spain and South Africa.

“I completely looked at things in a different light, really absorbed all of my surroundings,” Zoucha said of her experience. “It was incredible.”