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Posts Tagged ‘Chile’

Mapuche, the people of life

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

By Gonzalo Garcés
Translated by AJ McDougall

Mapuche CeremonyThe Mapuche, are a people originally from the south of Latin America, whose name means “people or persons of the earth”, and whose worldview has been intimately connected to the natural environment. It is said that “Mapu à‘uke”, or Mother Nature, has given the Mapuche culture and society the knowledge they possess. This knowledge is transmitted through conversation in sacred places of the natural world linking Mapuche to the earth and to family.

SnakeEvery part of the natural world, including human beings and the dead, possess a spirit. Amongst them there are caring and guiding spirits of nature. For example, stones and serpents have an important role in the Mapuche way of life. Even now, the Mapuche ask permission to pass through certain places that are considered sacred. On such occasions, the Mapuche people take time to appreciate these places and ask for the protection of the earth and their families, as part of their attempts to overcome the unfortunate realities for their people.

The sacred places, such as the paliwe and the nguillatuwe, are spaces where the Mapuche pray, give thanks, and share with the spirits their desire to see them respected and to see the Mapuche culture survive.

The history of the Mapuche people is a history full of battles in defense of the earth. These battles have continued for more than 500 years, since the attempted takeover of the area by the Inka and the Spanish, and later the battles against the genocide attempts of Chilean and Argentinean governments at the end of the 19th Century. These attempts have not ceased, and Mapuche FarmlandChile and Argentina have increased their efforts to transform their culture into spitting images of Western society. Big business has also appeared on the scene. These businesses have claimed — and continue to claim — to those same governments that Mapuche land would be better utilised through the development of economic projects such as single-crop forestation. Yet they do so without planning nor providing for the harmful effects on both human and environmental health.

Historically a system of private property did not exist on “Mapuche territory”. There weren’t any fences nor were there extensive plantations of single-crop forestation like that which exists today, but instead the people were free to roam. They could take freely whatever was needed for the continued sustenance of Mapu à‘uke.

Mapuche DanceThe Chilean government has, throughout history, pushed through “social integration policies” which have attempted to destroy the unique customs of the Mapuche people, and in this way the Mapuche social organisation has been twisted and modified through the imposition of unknown and destructive social models. These politicians, who are not part of the Mapuche culture or way of life, do not understand or value the traditional lifestyles of the Mapuche people, instead imposing new lifestyles upon them.

This is but a brief snapshot of the relationship the Mapuche people have with the state and big business.

There currently exists a situation which is worrying. Seven Mapuche political prisoners are on a hunger strike that has recently reached 42 days. The strikers are our Mapuche peà±i (brothers) and lamgnen (sister). They are striking for: the freedom of all Mapuche political prisoners throughout various Chilean jails; demilitarisation and an end to the oppression of various roaming Mapuche communities so that they can exercise their political and territorial rights; and an end to the political-judicial conspiracies against Mapuche organisers and leaders.

Mapuche ManTo speak of Mapuche political prisoners, and to speak of their ethnic, political, and territorial demands, has been criminalised by the Chilean government, placing the interests of big business over and above those of the Mapuche communities involved. Because of these events, Chile has received international condemnation and many recommendations to end the criminalization of the Mapuche people. One such recommendation came from the UN’s Rodolfo Stavenhagen.

Mapuche men and women are not the violent people they are made out to be by the government through their utilisation of the media. The continued struggle of our Mapuche brothers and sisters tells us that they are not ready to renounce that which is most precious and beautiful to them: the earth, la mapu.


You can find more information on how to support the Mapuche cause at:

You can sign a petition to President Michelle Bachelet and the Chilean Government led by at

Gonzalo Garcés is from Chile and is an Oxfam International Youth Partner. He recently attended Kaleidescope in Sydney, check out Pip Bennett’s article on her experience at this event.

All photos are from www.mapuche-nation.org

Viviendo en un mundo de “Spanglish” porque soy una Peru Zelandesa: living in a Spanglish world because I am a Peru Zealander

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Hey everyone,

I am back, and I am well, confused. I keep telling people stuff in Spanish, including the people who cannot say anything except si… Anyway, I thought that maybe I should analyse my trip with a top 5’ format.

Things I will miss about Peru
1. The people… my families, the girls, my workmates, my friends, the randoms in the street who wanted to talk to me because of a reason other than the colour of my skin.
2. The fact that people do not have to get toasted to have a good night out dancing, and the fact that dancing is such a big and wonderful part of the culture.
3. The pride Peruvians have in their country and (against all odds) their soccer team.
4. Being tall
5. Eating rice with chicken, rice with potatoes, rice with beef, rice with turkey, rice with locro, rice with …..

Questions that need to be asked
1. Why can’t the Peruvians and Chileans start getting on and sending each other nice cards or something?
The war of the Pacific is a sorry history, but the English benefited more from this war than the Peruvians and the Chileans put together (through the deals that they made with the nitrate producing areas). Pisco ORIGINATED in Peru in a place called Pisco, but the Chileans also grow it because Chile was part of the viceroy of Peru which means that Chile also has a claim to it- it is a shared history thing, like Oz and NZ share rugby. The Chileans also have good grape growing land. It is the national drink of both countries and that is ok. Maybe a Chilean business owns the electricity in Peru but I bet that only a small percentage of them benefit from it. Lan said that Lima was dirty and dangerous, but I bet that there are parts of Santiago are as well. The shantytowns and poor areas are the subtext of all Latin-American towns regardless of their sizes.
2. How does wearing bare feet make you catch a cold? Does bacteria enter through the feet?
3. What does Coca Cola not cure? Why do doctors write prescriptions for it? I cannot wait to tell my dentist this!
4. What is sexy about a 30 year old who a) cannot wash his clothes b) has his mum clean his room c) thinks he is sexy? Why is being a female and single regarded as a terminal disease?
5. What’s with the rice addiction?
6. On the Rigi, they are trying to make it harder to pass by spending money on it. Why? Why don’t they do it the Peruvian way….? spend no money on it for years so that it gradually forms potholes, and cracks then it is harder to pass and costs no one a cent.

Main activities in Chincha
1. Walk around the Plaza de Armas and say hi to everyone.
2. Invent phrases that mock the Spanish accent… these do not need to make sense in any way shape of form. They only have to have lots of these letters: c, s, z.
3. Go out dancing at night… in one of the 2 discos only on Saturdays.
4. Learn to dance like a chicken…. the dances of the black people in Peru- the majority of whom live in Chincha!
5. Eat chicken with potato chips or Chinese food, or Willies Pizza or ice pudding.

Countries I am supposedly from
1. The United States… don’t all white people come from there? Is New Zealand a state close to Texas?
2. Germany… maybe it is for the colouring.
3. Chile… I do not have a Chilean accent. In fact my Peruvian slang makes the Chileans laugh lots because I speak like a Peruvian and Peruvians are supposed to have to have darker skin than Chileans… I don’t!
4. Argentina… Because I can speak Spanish so I must come from a Spanish speaking country and Argentines are ‘white’
5. England… well that is genetically true. And my surname is English.

1. I voted for Bush (I have been abused for this. I always say my country has no president and they assume it is a dictatorship)
2. I am always carrying a lot of money. I had a plastic bag with toilet paper in it and some idiot grabbed it off me.
3. I always need to take a taxi… I cannot walk or catch buses.
4. There are heaps of them but I am not
5. Sharing them

Things that I did in Chincha
1. Learned heaps in my work
2. Made heaps of lifelong friendships
3. Learned some Spanish that only Chichanos say…asul madre….
4. Made a Pavlova
5. Got my shoe stuck in a hole in the street

What one can admire about my girls
1. Their shear resilience after they have had and are having such difficult times in their lives.
2. Their ability to trust and love someone who cannot understand much of the language that they talk.
3. Their beautiful smiles.
4. The fact that most of them are focused on educating themselves despite all that they have been through.
5. The way they dance.

Why I loved my work so much
1. I have enjoyed teaching the girls and getting to know and love them
2. Seeing the huge improvements in them after so little time
3. The free dancing lessons on Saturday mornings
4. My friendly workmates
5. Just the environment

Words that do not exist in Spanish
1. Now.
2. Cheesy.
3. I can’t think of any more.

Top Five Cities In Peru (not counting Chincha) in my highly biased opinion
1. Arequipa- beautiful, full of volcanoes, with good bookshops, and I have host family from Lima living there. I love it.
2. Ayacucho- Authentic, interesting and full of sites of the Huari culture and the first traces of human existance in South America were found here as well. The people are friendly.
3. Cuzco- Some people will disagree with the fact that this is not number one. It is not because it is too sold out to the tourists, and it is almost hardly Peruvian. People speak to you in English more than Spanish. It does have some amazing ruins, a great night life and some good Pisco sours.
4. Lima- Scared me at first. It is huge and when I got here I thought that I would never be able to take a bus around there by myself as there are bewildering amounts of buses of all sizes to catch. However, I can now. The city has grown on me. Each part has its own personality. Miraflores is like the spoilt teenage girl, the centre like the grandfather, La Molina like the snobby aunt, Santiago de Surco like the bookish uni student. I would now even say that I like it.
5. Huancayo- Stunning with heaps of beautiful sites and ruins. The people are very nice too.

New Crazes I have gained
1. For the music of South America… salsa, merengue, tradicional, and everything else.
2. Coffee.
3. Pisco (distilled clear alcohol made from grapes) that has its ORIGINS in PERU. Neh!!!
4. Manjar (caramel like stuff).
5. Herbal Tea.