In an impassioned YouTube video yesterday, Chilean artist Francisco Tapia, aka “Papas Fritas,” admitted to burning over $500 million worth of debt papers belonging to the students of the Universidad del Mar during a student takeover of the school. Tapia explained his actions to the Santiago Times:
You don’t have to pay another peso [of your student loan debt]. We have to lose our fear, our fear of being thought of as criminals because we’re poor. I am just like you, living a shitty life, and I live it day by day — this is my act of love for you.
College education isn’t cheap in Chile, with families paying 75% of tuition out of pocket, in comparison to 40% in the US, according to Huffington Post. New president Michele Bachelet promised to make higher education in Chile free, in response to widespread protests last year. But her promise has yet to be fulfilled, and over the last few weeks protests have sprung up again, sometimes leading to violence.
Tapia may not have ended student debt in Chile, but the university will now have to endure a long and costly process to get their money back, individually suing each student who owes them. If nothing else, it’s a powerful symbolic gesture towards the impermanence of the things that bind us.
More work by Francisco Tapia is viewable on his website.