Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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The Mapuche people demand respect for their rights
Fernando Valdivia Antisolis
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Indigenous representatives refuse to be deprived of their territories.

The municipality of Renaico in southern Chile was the site of the Second International Symposium called “Endogenous Mapuche Development,” a meeting of Mapuche representatives coming together under a mantle of sadness because of the assassination of José Quintriqueo, an activist for the return of the lands of his community, Galvarino, on Oct. 1 in the Ercilla area. Together with other Mapuche, Quintriqueo was inspecting the lake on the Nilpe Ranch, located about 3 miles south of Galvarino, when a tractor driver named José Cañete Paredes, who appeared to be receiving orders by radio, ran over him twice with his machine.

The symposium, held on Oct. 10-12, covered three main themes: the mechanisms of Mapuche institutions; language and education in society; and endogenous development towards self-management.

In the first workshop, several historians recounted the way in which the Chilean state appropriated land, systematically violating the agreements that had been established before and during the foundation of the Republic. Hernán Curiñir, President of the Mapuche Research and Development Association, which organized the event, recalled that “initially, our communities were enslaved during the Colonial period; only resistance obliged the invaders to sign agreements that, later, were disavowed by the state of Chile.”

After the War of the Pacific of 1879 in which the Alliance of Peru and Bolivia was defeated, the Chilean troops returning from the conflict were ordered to invade the Mapuche land “to force the few of us who survived the massacre to sign agreements reducing our territory, while our communities were recognized through so-called ‘mercy titles,’ that, in reality, were not recognized by the state.  This abusive appropriation is known as the Pacification of the Araucanians in the official history,” stated Curiñir.

As guest of honor, Magdalena Cajías, Consul General of Bolivia in Chile — with the rank of ambassador, given that both countries do not have diplomatic relations —, participated in the symposium. She said that the Mapuche struggles “are similar to those of our indigenous and original peoples in Bolivia.”

The Bolivian diplomatic representative was the recipient of courtesies and a certificate of recognition. Cajías expressed the desire of the Bolivian government that meetings of this nature increase in number “to make a reality of diplomacy among peoples that Bolivian President Evo Morales is encouraging.”

The Good Living
Fernando Huaiquil, mayor of Galvarino, who wore the red sash around his waist — a symbolic way of the Mapuche people to announce they are on a warpath —, joined other speakers in identifying large lumber companies of the region as the direct beneficiaries of state policies that is taking away with loopholes, one by one, the land from communities that refuse to be stripped. He rendered homage to “brother Quintriqueo, one of the many assassinated with impunity by the repressive state forces that exert extreme violence against anyone who dares to protest.”

The experiences of endogenous development demonstrate the abundant potential for communities to adopt their own ways of life, in harmony with the Good Living.

Abraham Araya, from the Araya Huiliñir community, said that since last year he has had a recurring dream that he interpreted according to the Mapuche way as a message from his ancestors: return to his community and fight for its historic right to the land. And he did so, leaving his professional work in Santiago. He talked about the measures taken to recover 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) within the framework of the laws of the Chilean state.

“Initially, there were legal judgments in our favor. We should be compensated for all the wealth that the Forestal Mininco lumber company has extracted,” he stated.

Continuing the community’s efforts, Araya announced the establishment of a cooperative that “offers to the community the possibilities and resources for endogenous development, restoring our own way of production and generating new jobs for people; among them, the cultivation of quinoa and [Andean] chili peppers as well as a wind energy park under community administration.”

On language and education, Jaime Quilaqueo, president of the Association of Teachers of the IX Region, considered that “the structural conditions of education in Chile, now privatized and dedicated to favor the rich to the detriment of the poor, are the number one obstacle to overcome in order that the intercultural-bilingual education proposals are transformed into effective transcultural practices; that is, that both cultures can dialogue in similar conditions.”

Education and Mapuche culture
The poet, Leonel Lienlaf, reminded the audience that “we belong to the territory,” and criticized the efforts of the state that, in the best of cases, teaches Mapudungun, the Mapuche language, in order to speak it but not reflect in it. He made mention of ancestral culture, affirming that ‘there is a mathematics that explains our efficient forms of exchange; an astronomy that amazes with its precision about the night sky of the seasons; a Mapuche botany that researches and studies the medicinal use of plants; and so on. One can find many examples.”

At the symposium, the Municipal Ballet of Renaico performed an artistic interpretation of a scene from the Conquest; the artist Eugenio Salas shared paintings of Mapuche mythology; Lienlaf — considered by the historian Vicente Painel, as “the highest expression of contemporary Mapuche poetry” — touched all present with his verses; meanwhile, Huaiquil announced that for the first time in recent history, a municipality has declared Mapudungun as the official language.

Huaiquil exercises his authority as the will of the people: the municipality assists more than 300 communities who want to recover their lands.  And he warns, showing his ancestral sash, that nothing will stop this struggle.

“We should unite to change the politics of the country in order that our rights be recognized,” he said. This unity has started to take shape and have substance based upon the community participation that made possible this meeting without any external financial support. —Latinamerica Press.


Art in service of the Mapuche cause was shown in a staging of the Renaico community youth ballet. (Photo: Mapuche Research and Development Association)
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