1 Famous Chilean Speaks in Michigan

This article is a Fake Flamenco exclusive. Find out the latest news on Chilean democracy. Thanks to Matthew Fletcher of Turtle Talk blog and professor at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor for announcing this exciting event on his website. He included the flier for Elisa Loncón Antileo’s “Reflections on Chile’s Constitutional Process and the Proposal for Pluri-Nationality made by Indigenous Peoples”. Due to his post, during spring break I had the honor of listening (on Zoom) to a talk given in Ann Arbor by Dr. Elisa Loncón, the first president of the 2021 Chilean Constitutional Convention.

In the introduction, I learned she is the founding professor of the Mapudungun Language Department at the University of Chile. Mapudungun is the language of the Mapuche Nation whose traditional lands are in what is today the south of Chile and Argentina. Dr. Loncón specializes in bilingual pedagogy; important for Native cultural and language preservation.

The Ann Arbor event began with the presentation of a human rights award to Dr. Loncón for her work on the Chilean constitution. She responded in English, “I belong to Mother Earth.” Her English is excellent and she gave her entire talk without an interpreter. As she began, Dr. Loncón raised a key point; the current Chilean constitution cannot serve democracy or the people because it was created by the Pinochet dictatorship.

Last year the Chilean Constitutional Congress formed a new magna carta document centered on economic and social equality. However, it was defeated in the plebiscite after a heavy campaign in the elite-owned media to discredit and tarnish it. In the past few days I’ve seen the same process online about this talk, quoting Dr. Loncón incorrectly as if she used inflammatory comparisons, in order to make her look radical. If saying that the Mapuche are human beings who deserve to be respected, conserve their territory, language and protect Mother Earth is revolutionary, I say, viva la revolución.

Elisa Loncón and Matthew Fletcher Photo: R. Cuningham over Zoom

Dr. Loncón stressed the importance of inclusive democracy. The current constitution from the dictatorship takes away social rights of regular Chileans and favors the elites. Its focus is on giving a few wealthy Chileans and international corporations free rein to make money rather than supporting a good life for all. In October 2019, a million Chileans took to the streets to protest the government and policies that keep the average person struggling financially. That movement created the possibilities of big changes, like the Constitutional Congress, for which 78% of Chileans voted yes in referendum.

One concept that the 2022 Constitution featured was pluri-nationality. That was new. In the Pinochet constitution, Dr. Loncón explained, Indigenous Nations were outside the constitution. No respect was shown to their cultures or world views. The tenets of pluri-nationality in Chile were to be autonomy, language rights, territorial autonomy, respect for identity, bilingual education, and to enact and enforce their own laws. For the Mapuche Nation this would include respect for women and respect for all life as well. Pluri-nationality is central for the Indigenous People to continue their cultures, languages and beliefs. Matthew Fletcher compared this concept of pluri-nationality to one we have in the United States; states rights.

The democracies of Bolivia, Ecuador and South Africa define their pluri-nationality. The constitutional congress representatives looked at their constitutions to learn about how to create pluri-nationality. See my 2021 article for more history on the Chilean Congress. In 2022, the painstakingly-crafted new Chilean constitution was defeated in a referendum.

There is no public media in Chile, the two main hubs are controlled by wealthy elites who spoke against the new Chilean magna carta. The newspapers and online media told Chileans they’d lose their house if they voted yes in the referendum. Loncón rightly called this a campaign of fear and lies. The Constitutional Congress was not given a media outlet to explain their work. 62% Chileans voted No. The referendum results were an enormous disappointment.

The process toward a new constitution resumes this year. In May 2023, Chileans will vote on some members of the new Constitutional Congress. The playing field has changed, however. The reserved special seats for Indigenous Nations are no longer part of the configuration. I’ve read that an “Expert Commission” appointed by the Chilean senate rather than voted in by the people is now in control. I believe that if these are the leading “representatives,” the window of opportunity for change may be over for Chile.

Is there pluri-nationality in your country? In the US, it seems to work fairly well in the separation of states rights.

¡Olé! –Rebecca

PS Working on your poem about an ocean creature? R

Elisa Loncón and Matthew Fletcher Photo: R. Cuningham (over Zoom)
Rebecca Cuningham

12 thoughts on “1 Famous Chilean Speaks in Michigan

  1. “inclusive democracy” – seems like that should be redundant. It’s too bad that it isn’t. Thank goodness for Dr. Loncon and everyone working on the behalf of Mother Earth and all her people. Thanks for a great post, Rebecca!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great article!
    What are the sources misquoting Dr. Loncón? Online versions of the elite media?
    I suspect that the issue of Native rights in the US is quite complicated …
    It would be interesting to read how pluri-nationality is working in Bolivia, Ecuador and South Africa.
    Wonder what can be done in Chile to create an alternative media source …
    The ‘expert commission’ does sound scary.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmmm, if the network of radio stations doesn’t already exist, this sounds like a huge undertaking. What is the name of your friend’s station? Results from a quick Google search in English (‘liberal communication networks in chile’)brought up several academic articles about Radio Tierra.
        What forms of communication were used to organize the Chilean protests? “According to Victor Villegas, a sociologist at Santiago’s Alberto Hurtado University, “it’s not a coincidence” that the movement began with high school students because “they have always driven Chilean social movements”. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/30/chile-protests-what-prompted-the-unrest

        Liked by 1 person

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