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Chilean Artist Burns $500 Million of Student 'Debt Papers' in Attempt to Rid World of 'Debtors'

Natasha Hakimi Zapata
Assistant Editor and Poetry Editor
Natasha Hakimi Zapata is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Latin American Literature at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. She also holds a Creative Writing M.F.A. from Boston University and both a…
Natasha Hakimi Zapata

“This is my act of love for you,” activist Francisco Tapia, aka Papas Fritas, tells students of the Universidad del Mar in a YouTube video that’s gone viral.

His act was to burn, piece by piece, piles of stolen papers that documented student debt plaguing Chileans. Calling it his work of art, Tapia tells his audience in the video posted May 12, “It’s over, it’s finished. 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.”

Though many of us would probably love to do something similar to student debt records in the U.S., turns out Tapia’s act of love may not have had the effect he’d hoped.

The Independent:

[Tapia] confessed [in his YouTube video that] he destroyed the papers without the knowledge of the students during a takeover at the university demanding free higher education.

According to the video’s description, Mr Tapia was at the protests when he hatched the plan to wipe the student debt by stealing the papers. It goes on to say that he wanted to create a work of art to reflect the problem of student debt plaguing the nation.

While his act of defiance will have brought smile to those now debt-free students, it will be difficult for the university to recoup the losses and the higher institution may have to individually sue students to get the get the debt repaid.

There have been protests in Chile since 2011 calling for reform of the university system and for free high-quality education. It was hoped the newly-elected president, Michelle Bachelet, would be bring reform, after a campaign promising drastic change to the education system.

Read more

Below is Tapia’s YouTube declaration, in Spanish:

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

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