Great news from Chile; the Mapuche Nation won back rights to their lands near Lake Neltume in the south. Lake Neltume is east of Valdivia, near the border with Argentina. In 1989, under the Pinochet dictatorship, these lands were “rented” to businesses for 99 years at a cost of $118 a year ($84,000 Chilean pesos) without Mapuche permission. December 24, a Valdivia court ruled unanimously for the 6 acres to be returned to its rightful owners.
Who are the members of Mapuche Nation? For 2000 years, they were the primary people in what is now southern Argentina and Chile. The etymology of their name is pertinent; the first half, “mapu” means land, the second half “che” means people, thus they are “people of the land.” Several tribes in the southern cone shared this same culture and language, called Mapudungun. Even when the Spanish invaders arrived in 1541, the Mapuche fought hard and well to retain their lands and customs. The Spanish were unable to defeat them. In the Quillín Treaty of 1641, the Spanish treated their adversary as a sovereign nation. They agreed that south of the Bío Bío River was Mapuche territory. The pact did not mean the Spanish kept their word or respected the tenets they agreed upon, however. An additional 17 treaties mended broken fences along the way.
For 250 years the Mapuche were successful at preserving their culture, language and sovereign nation status. In 1810 after Chilean independence, they were pressured again, this time to assimilate or starve as they were attacked with superior firepower. The Chileans sought to sequester their lands for agriculture and force their conversion to Christianity. In 1885, the Mapuche were defeated, massacred, and those who survived were forced from their lands into the city. Mapuche children were kidnapped and taken to be servants for Spanish families. This was not the end to harsh treatment for this Nation. Their resistance to the Pinochet Dictatorship was met with brutal force in the 1970s. But the First Peoples of southern Chile are brave, tenacious, and dedicated. They continue to use every means at their disposal; court cases, international organizations, and protests to call attention to their plight.
The most far reaching achievements of the current ruling is that it treats the Mapuche as a Nation and recognizes that land is key to their culture. 379 years after this term of self-determination was applied in 1641, it is good to see it back again, Nation of People of the Land. May all First Nations of the Americas know such respect. ¡Olé! –Rebecca
First article published on this ruling in English, only on Fake Flamenco.
What are your thoughts on this watershed decision?