Colonialism conflicts violently with Mapuche women

By: Raúl Zibechi

Two decades ago Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui proposed that patriarchy is a substantial part of internal colonialism and that there is a parallelism between ethnic domination and that of gender. She always lived her feminine identity “since the historic and political interior of internal colonialism,” and from that place was able to comprehend, very quickly, how the three oppressions, “Indian, women and subaltern classes,”* are interwoven sustaining the capitalist world system.

The mayor of Temuco (southern Chile), an important city in the ancestral region of the Mapuche people, is promoting a repressive escalation against women selling vegetables, which shows, without nuance, the persistence of internal colonialism and how far the coloniality of power can reach.

In the center of the city you can hear horns that warn the population: “Watch your money! If you are surprised buying from the illegal street trade inside the zone of exclusion, police officers can issue you a fine that can cost 140,000 pesos (200 dollars).” “Nazi Megaphone” is how the webpage classifies it, one of the most followed media in the region.

Mayor Miguel Becker, belonging to a family of settlers that made their fortune thanks to the genocide of the Mapuche people in the “Pacification of the Araucanía” (1860-1883), declared war on the vegetable vendors a year ago. He failed because they continued selling and the residents of Temuco continued buying from them, as I was able to appreciate last December in the environment of the Mercado Pinto, where there are hundreds of stalls of vegetables, fruits, meats, legumes and artesanía.

While the Sebastián Piñera government distributes aid to the big agricultural entrepreneurs and reduces their taxes, the campesinos are expelled from the markets in the Mapuche regions, as a document of the Mapuche History Community highlights. The Republican colonial history explains this brutal asymmetry.

“All the cities located in former Mapuche territory were built in the second half of the XIX century. As the Chilean troops that dispossessed Mapuche society of their territory advanced, they were founding military forts that later became the principal cities of the region” The foundation of Temuco was done over the dead bodies of 400 Mapuches that resisted, growing on “a river of Mapuche blood.”

The tradition of women fruit and vegetable vendors comes from the will to survive of the Mapuche people, condemned to survive on small parcels of land where they started to recuperate from the military invasion, just 140 years ago. The current cities, heirs of the Chilean “military forts,” intend to continue confining the Mapuche population outside the walls, cornering them in their own territory, accepting only white people inside the city.

The Community of Mapuche History reflects what is happening now: “But here we are, we have leaked, as greengrocers horticulturists, but also as teachers, journalists, workers, doctors, anyway, today the Mapuches are in Temuco and other cities, and we have the “right to the city,” we have the right to use them, and even the right to govern them.”

I believe that this paragraph says it all. After the military invasion and occupation of our territory, we have recuperated, we’re standing and now we look beyond, towards self-government, towards the reconstruction of our nation.

That’s why the historians say: “we bring bad news” for the powerful, “because despite colonialism and dispossession, Mapuche society continues standing, resisting in everyday life to survive and organizing to project.”

It’s that projection forward that worries the white ruling class that appeals, in its attempt to contain an entire people, to the crude methods of colonialism. In that same region, a few kilometers from Temuco, Camilo Catrillanca was murdered in November 2018, provoking a massive Mapuche reaction and unprecedented support of the Chilean population with mobilizations in 30 cities.

It seems important to emphasize that the colonial/patriarchal reaction of white power directly attacks women, perhaps because they believe that they are the weakest sector of the movement and because they are the support of the community economy. But they found that they are the point where the repressive waves crash.

Those below must understand that the Mapuche people are not asking for anything, they don’t beg, nor even do they raise demands. They are in another stage, as the “Temucuicui Manifesto” of last December teaches, and which united all currents of the movement. Their objective now consists in “strengthening the exercise of territorial recuperation y control.” Territory and self-government!

*“Mujeres y estructuras de poder en los Andes”, Controversia, La Paz, 1997.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, August 16, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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