Elisa Loncón, member of the Mapuche Nation, was elected president the opening day of the Chilean Constitutional Congress 4 July! The second round in the process of choosing their leader, 96 of the 155 candidates voted for her. The Mapuche are the largest indigenous minority in Chile. The choice for Loncón’s leadership is a significant symbol of a desire to turn away from colonialism and the male dominated political system in the new Chilean constitution. [Hola, la versión en castellano está aquí.)
Elisa Loncón is an academic and a political activist. She is 58, and is a professor at the University of Chile Department of Education. Her research includes Syntax, Sociolinguistics and Morphology. Loncón is one of the foremost linguists in Chile. She is developing education materials in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language, for primary and secondary schools. Loncón teaches Mapudungun at the University. She is trilingual in Mapudungun, Spanish and English. As part of the cultural organizations Ad Mapu and Aukiñ Wallmapu Ngulam (Council of All the Lands), Loncón helped create the Mapuche flag in 1992. The flag is called the Wenufoye; Cinnamon Bark of Heaven. Cinnamon is sacred to the Mapuche.
Loncón’s mission is to fight colonialism, racism and sexism within Chile through participating in the Congressional Congress. Loncón comes from a family that has worked against injustice for generations. A great-grandfather fought against the Chilean invasion of the Mapuche ancestral lands of Araucanía. Her maternal grandfather was imprisoned for working for land reform during the Pinochet era. Loncón’s family lives in Lefweluan, which is near Traiguén in Southern Chile.
As a child she walked or rode the bus to travel the 8K to school each day, where she was the only indigenous student. Loncón persisted despite poverty, food insecurity, and prejudice. After graduation, she studied in Mexico, Holland and Chile, and earned two doctorates. She is inspiring as the President of the Chilean Constitutional Congress. In rewriting the Constitution from a pluralistic, multinational perspective, Loncón may lead Chile toward economic and social justice, and indigenous sovereignty. Twenty years after I lived in Chile for a year, that hopeful forecast is heartening to witness, even from afar. Gender parity and minority inclusion have been key in Chile’s process to recapture democracy. New structures of governance are emerging that could improve life across the Americas. I can’t wait to see what the next 9 months will bring. Now if the Executive Secretary of the gathering could get the microphones to work…
What are you celebrating this week?
¡Olé, Presidenta! –Rebecca