A personal journey: my search for part of my roots (Part 5)

You can also enjoy reading Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Lee este artículo en español.


If the mapuche culture values respect so much, why is there such a struggle between the chileans and the mapuche? Why does the so called “mapuche conflict” exist?

First, I think it is helpful to put things into a context. This supposedly war-like situation only happens in a restricted area, near Temuco, and is not a general mapuche uprising.

There is a concept in mapuche culture called ad mapu. In a rough translation, it could be called the customs of the land. It refers to the shared customs amongst all mapuches, but also to the particular customs of a lof1, customs that are to be respected when you travel to that particular lof.

That gives each lof a sense of cultural independence. And another mapuche concept goes hand in hand with the ad mapu: the concept of kidu ngünewün. You see, we, the wingka2 believe generally that the mapuche people fight for their land, or for their freedom. Something along those lines. But the mapuche concept of freedom is not the wingka concept of freedom.

Kidu ngünewün does not mean freedom. It means self government. Self government, on a personal level and on a general level. You are born free. You can do whatever you want. But to take that freedom to a next level, you’ve got to be able to self govern yourself.

So, if a lof begins hostile actions, it is not out of spite, but the result of a meditated decision. You might agree or not, but it is their decision and so you’ve got to respect it.

I respect it, even though I don’t share it. I don’t share it because I’ve never believed in violence, but I respect it.

I think there is another point, and a very important one, that’s usually left out of the debate. There is an economic factor that is very convenient to the farmers: as part of the solution to the problem, the chilean state buys land from them, at a higher price than the market price. So, for them the existence of the conflict is very lucrative.

And that sheds light into the responsibility of the chilean state. In the 1880’s, the chilean state launched the so called “Pacificación de la araucanía”. In mapudungun it’s called the Füta malon, the big war. The area that is now called Araucanía was independent from the chilean state, and its independence had been previously recognized in letters sent from the ‘founding father’, Bernardo O’Higgins, to the mapuche longkos of the area. But after the successful saltpetre war, the chilean state had a standing army, arms and a territory to the south, rich in natural resources, but that cut the country in two parts (Chiloé island, to the south, was chilean). And so it invaded, destroying the independence, the economy and the lives of thousands of mapuche. The argentinian government did the same, at the same time, in what they call the “Conquista del desierto”.

Simultaneously, the chilean state was negotiating with farmers in Germany to come and settle this “empty” land. They were assured that they would have fertile soil available and, although hard work was required, they would meet success.

It was not their fault, either. They, and their descendants, would live in sacked land, but they would not know.

The chilean state made mistakes, great mistakes, and there have been not enough reparation. The land titles exist, in an office in Temuco that has been tried to set fire on several times, but the legal proof of who were the owners of the land exists and is clearly demarcated.

It’s the lack of will, and the ignorance, of every government and of the chilean people that keep this violence happening.

It’s not the mapuche conflict: it’s the chilean conflict.

This is necessarily described in very broad strokes. The conflict is a subject with many sides, many points of view and many people involved. It can’t and shouldn’t be treated lightly. In fact, treating it lightly has only resulted in deepening it. But this view, my view, I think is shared by many people. There are a lot of things I haven’t written about: are the mapuche prisoners political prisoners? Have they had a fair trial? I do not know the answer to those questions. They have not been part of my journey yet.

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