The expansion of the Mapuche movement

Thousands attended the funeral of Camilo Catrilanca.

By: Raúl Zibechi

Leaving Temuco, in the heart of Mapuche territory, extensive pine plantations surround villages and towns, like waves that hover over people of the earth, “natural” wire fences of a monstrous concentration camp. The highways and roads crowded with carabiñeros [1] in their green vans complement the circle of plantations with a relentless siege, tattooed in fire and shrapnel on dark bodies.

The vendors around the Temuco market are being displaced because of a municipal order, which the armed police execute with punctual arrogance. They continue coming, protected with a broad clientele that persists in buying from them despite the threat of fines. They hung a number of black balloons when they learned about the murder in the back of Camilo Catrillanca, on November 14, in the community of Temucuicui.

Whoever wants to know more details about the crime, the lies of power and about the political crisis that corners the government, can go to the page where there is no lack of information.

What follows is the result of exchanges with and listening to members of different organizations, urban and rural, with comuneros and academics, political prisoners and family members, students and feminists, collected in Santiago and Temuco during the first days of December.

The first point is to verify the territorial expansion of the Mapuche movement. In Araucanía or Wallmapu (Mapuche Territory) they don’t stop recuperating land, a question that strengthens the communities that were encircled and subjected to reductions. They remain in water up to their necks, but begin to breathe, and therefore the attacks from the power have not achieved stopping them in the last decade, let’s say between the murders of Matías Catrileo (2008) and Camilo Catrillanca (2018).

In some areas, such as the triangle between Ercilla (to the north of Temuco), the coast of Tirúa and Loncoche (to the south), the land recuperations are forming a spot of Mapuche community power. An example: on the 1200 hectares of the former Alaska farm, recuperated in 2002, two communities (Temucuicui Traditional and Temucuicui Autonomous) now live on lands that belonged to the Mininco Forestry of the Matte Group, which owns 700,000 hectares usurped from the communities.

The second thing is to verify the multiplication of organizations of all kinds, everywhere, in Wallmapu as well as in the big cities. The Coordinator of Organizations of Mapuche Students (COEM, its initials in Spanish), in Santiago, formed four years ago, unites groupings from almost all the universities and has created a school of indigenous women that defends Mapuche feminism. They define themselves as “anti-patriarchal but not feminist” because, as Angélica Valderrama of Mapuexpress points out: “we don’t want to think about our reality within the parameters of white feminism.”

The Mapuche History Community is part of this notable growth and diversification of the movement, which Simona Mayo defines as “the multi sectorial character of the Mapuche organization.” Various collectives that could be defined as human rights defenders integrate this diversity and, in some cases, consider themselves Mapuche because they have assumed that identity even having white skin.

The third, and the most surprising to this writer, is the creation of mixed spaces integrated by Mapuche and huincas (whites), as something natural and normalized, without hierarchies existing within the collectives. Both the COEM and the Mapuexpress information collective are Mapuche and white spaces, as well as various feminist, environmentalist and student groups.

They are constructing “heterogeneous subjects,” as the historian Claudio Alvarado Lincopi emphasized in a conversation, something that the Left isn’t able to do because: “in its inbreeding only its own traditions have value.” These “mixed” spaces as well as Mapuche feminism, were almost non-existent a decade ago, or they were very incipient, but now they are flourishing and multiplying exponentially.

The fourth point is the expansion of the Mapuche language, Mapudugun, in unsuspected places, like popular neighborhoods and those of the urban middle class. In the Olympic village, in the Ñuñoa commune, a middle class neighborhood of Santiago, the daughter of my host studies Mapudungun in her school, by her own choice. The same thing happens in three other schools in the district. There is consensus on the extraordinary expansion of the Mapuche language, much beyond the borders of Wallmapu.

The fifth point is the massive reaction of the Chilean population to Catrillanca’s murder. There were mobilizations in at least 30 cities throughout the country, including those in the far north. In Santiago, in the days following the murder, there were around 100 street closings, with barricades and bonfires, for hours, with hundreds of neighbors. Those who did not go out in the street beat pots and pans in entire neighborhoods, especially in the outskirts. In some zones the mobilizations lasted for 15 days.

That reveals that the Mapuche people have become a reference for an enormous portion of Chileans that harbor anti-systemic sentiments, in a country where half of the population never votes. The tenacious resistance of the Mapuche people and the mediocrity of the Lefts, located the Mapuches in that place, despite the campaigns against them.

Lastly, to emphasize the strategic importance of the Temucuicui Manifesto issued on December 1 to a crowd concentrated in the community where Camilo was murdered. It defends the “demilitarization of Wallmapu,” the right to ancestral territory with a call to the communities to “strengthen the exercise of recuperation and territorial control” and to form a “historical clarification commission” that recuperates the truth about how the Chilean State occupied their territory.

In the exercise of their free determination, all Mapuche currents finish with a call to disobedience as a way of making decolonization a reality.

[1] Carabiñeros are Chilean federal police.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, December 21, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




One Comment on “The expansion of the Mapuche movement

  1. Pingback: EZLN warns Zapatistas will not permit ‘Maya Train’ mega Rail project – The Free

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