Home Institution

Brandeis University

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Chile: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


This paper is a case study of an urban tribe in Chile called “Visual,” and specifically members of the tribe who live and/or attend events in Viña del Mar. Urban tribes have different connotations for different people, but for Visuales, the term signifies adherence, in whatever capacity desired, to certain codes and styles and a bond with a small group of tribe members. This particular urban tribe adapted its style from Japan, where a similar movement gained popularity in the 1990s. The members, like those in Chile, did not have a particular ideology but focused on music and extravagant aesthetic and adherence to detail. Likewise in Chile, tribe members follow carefully Japanese styles including hairstyles, makeup and clothing, especially those of their favorite pop, rock and heavy metal artists. For some, it is important to imitate exactly the dress and manners of those artists or their favorite anime or characters from Japanese television shows or comics. The research focused on interviewing Visual members between the ages of 16 and 21who spend time in a galleria in Viña del Mar on the weekends and other members who attend events and parties in the region. An anthropologist, journalist and youth event organizer also offered outside perspectives on the tribe. The research objective was to determine how much of a tribe member’s identity is shaped by their participation in the tribe and how this occurs, what it means to be a part of the tribe, what sorts of bonds exist between tribe members and how members negotiate questions of sexuality and other types of experimentation. While the tribe members often appear dangerous or very secretive to outsiders, they actually fit perfectly into the context of their society. As globalization speeds up the movement of ideas, things and people, these youth become caught in the middle and form a desire to differentiate themselves from the rest of their society and maintain interpersonal bonds that seem to get lost in a culture based on mass communication. The youth look toward a culture very exotic from their own, yet based very much on consumerism, to create a world slightly apart from the demands of their parents and schools. Their rebellion is a natural instinct for people of this age, who simply want to form groups of close-knit friends with whom they can share their newfound passion. They develop an interplay between looking for something different and/or an escape from familial or psychological problems and finding in the tribe acceptance and freedom of expression. They become so passionate about a style that is so different that they end up uniting in the face of discrimination and supporting each other in experimentation of any kind.


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Article Location