Mari mari pu lamngen ka pu wenuy inche ta domo Santiago warria mew. (Hello brothers, sisters, and comrades; I am a woman in Santiago). I am an antiauthoritarian/anarchist, mother of two children, almost 40 years old, and a part of various networks of independent/radical media and counter-information.
I am currently active in a radio project based in Santiago, focused primarily on anarchism and various other ramblings, now on its 130th episode. I am also involved in the 18th of October Coordinating Committee formed in solidarity with political prisoners in so-called Chile. In this project I work with comrades and lamenten (brothers, sisters, and friends) both in Santiago and in Wallmapu (Mapuche ancestral territory), two places where I have strong personal and political connections. I actively take part in trawun (gatherings) of territorial recuperation, autonomous organizing, and feyentun ka kimun (the preservation of Mapuche spirituality and ancestral knowledge). All of this is from an autonomous viewpoint and with the goal of contributing to a broader struggle from where I stand. For me, under my circumstances, this means my resistance primarily takes place within the reality of the futxa warria (big city).
Could you shine a light on some of the history of Mapuche people’s organizing and resistance against the colonial Chilean state?
To understand the so-called Mapuche conflict, we must know that Wallmapu is the name given to the territory that today is dominated by the Chilean (gulumapu) and Argentinian (puelmapu) states. The resistance and struggle for autonomy and the reclaiming of ancestral territory dates back to the time of the invasion and subsequent colonization, by the Spanish monarchy. The peak of this process occurred between 1800 and 1880 with the “Pacification of Araucania” in this territory and the “Conquest of the Desert” in so-called Argentina. When Chile became a republic, its army continued the legacy of its origins as a violent colonizing force against the Mapuche people.
In the last few months, declarations of war against the Mapuche people have been declared both by the Chilean and Argentinian states. How is this escalation playing out? Additionally, how are the Mapuche people meeting the new levels of repression on their own terms?
Currently we see a situation where the military and the police relentlessly intimidate, kill, and oppress the Mapuche people. Additionally, in recent years there has been a rise in the appearance of far-right paramilitary groups mainly linked to the landowners, latifundistas1 and settlers who continue to occupy this ancestral Mapuche territory.
We see on the one hand how militarization and conflict is devastating the Wallmapu area, but at its core, the problem is much bigger. Years ago the Chilean state handed over most of Mapuche territory to landowners, latifundistas and settlers to exploit the land. These lands are still owned and run by these same families, and are mainly made up of industrial plantations producing pine and eucalyptus (both invasive species that damage the land and permanently deplete the native forest and its water supply). The Araucanía region, also known as Arauco, is the heart of Wallmapu and a central conflict zone. It’s also the most impoverished region of all of the Chilean state, despite being the region which derives the highest amount of profit from land-clearing, cellulose plantations, and the lumber industry.
The MAPA Project for example, which covers 10,000 square meters and is the largest pulp and biomass processing plant in the world, is located in the province of Arauco (Araucanía region). It belongs to the Arauco company of the Angelini group– one of the main corporate entities in Chile, with business in hospitals, pension funds, mass media, pharmaceuticals, and wherever profit can be found.
Currently there are countless numbers of lof (Mapuche communities) resisting colonization through forceful land reclamation: pu lamngen (brothers, sisters, and comrades) take over a property owned by millionaires or forestry companies, and build their community there. Through force, the land is reclaimed from such profiteers and used to create a rewe (ceremonial space), maintaining the social structure of the Mapuche: lonko (head), werken (spokesman), machi (spiritual authority), and pu weichafe (warriors). However problems still remain, because these lands, as we already mentioned, are overrun with monoculture crops, making it very difficult to work the land or to obtain lawen (medicine) from it.
In a post-colonial society, the Mapuche feyentun ka kimun (spirituality and ancestral knowledge) faces multiple threats as well. The power and domination of the winka (white enemy) are exerted through a range of historical and current colonial efforts. The state targets many Mapuche people with imprisonment and preys on impoverished Mapuche individuals to reject their own people through strategic government aid programs. The long-standing spiritual invasion of the evangelical church has also preyed on Mapuche people for generations.
The Mapuche people face the constant offensive and violent wrath of the state and its business interests. However various resistance forces are emerging in light of the military siege. Armed groups such as CAM (Arauco Malleco Coordinating Group), the Mapuche lafkenche (People of the Sea) resistance and the ORT (Territorial Organs of Resistance) carry out an array of actions, sabotage, and confrontation in occupied Mapuche territory.
In recent times there have been at least 25 pu lamngen murdered in Wallmpau, in circumstances ranging from armed confrontations, being killed while engaging in sabotage, and multiple deaths reported by the state as “suicides” that likely were not. The state is using different political tactics and strategies in its desire to crush the Mapuche people. There is a permanent violence carried out against the children of this territory, who are often caught up in military raids and face constant police abuse and harassment. This is in addition to the constant violence of living in a territory that is not only occupied but also devastated by drought.
Political imprisonment is one of the main tactics the Chilean state has used against Mapuche people. As of writing there are more than 55 Mapuche political prisoners, including minors, in the prisons of Angol, Lebu, Arauco, Temuko, Vilcun, Victoria, Chol-Chol and Cañete; we know that prisons are a fundamental instrument of power and that incarceration by the Chilean state is part of a broader strategy to torture and isolate Mapuche people.
In the case of the Mapuche this is an even more extreme experience of deprivation, since we are talking about che (people) who have a way of life, a way of living in and understanding the world different from what the Western world is used to. Hunger strikes have been a long-held practice by political prisoners, a dignified weapon used by the incarcerated weichafe (warriors) to denounce the racist bias of the judicial system or to demand fair trials and the implementation of ILO Convention 169. 2
A poem by Matias Catrileo, Mapuche warrior murdered January 3rd, 2008. A translation is in the footnotes.
Historically has there been a close relationship between the Mapuche people and anarchist or anti-colonial revolutionary movements in so-called Chile?
As I see it, the Mapuche people are the ones who currently show the greatest resistance towards the Chilean colonial state, capitalism and winka politics. Generally there has not been a very fluid relationship between anarchist comrades and the Mapuche resistance in recent years. Perhaps this is due to the Mapuche worldview and the distrust that comes from hundreds of years of invasion, maybe it is because as anarchists we become caught up in the idea that the Mapuche people stake a claim as a “national people.” In general this relationship has been improving over in the last couple of years. There are fraternal ties of keyuwun (solidarity) between anarchist comrades and communities in resistance, a bond of complicity when facing a common enemy. After the revolt of 2019 some of the veils that separated these two struggles have been lifted, moving towards a new articulation of complicity between Mapuche, anarchists and lamngen.
Thanks so much for your time and insights. Finally, does the recent electoral victory of leftist Gabriel Boric affect the resistance or focus on the ground by Mapuche people and other movements against the Chilean state?
Presently, with armed clashes and permanent sabotage, what happens in Wallmapu has the characteristics of a low-intensity war. It is unrealistic to believe that the rearrangement of power that occurred with the last presidential election will change the situation of dispossession and neo-colonization in southern Chile. There are some Mapuche who are more closely linked to academia and ‘bourgeois’ institutions, like Elisa Lonkon, president of the constitutional convention (the body that is drafting a new constitution) who look to compromise. Better put, there are some Mapuche who embrace “democracy” as what is best for their people, hoping for recognition by the state and political resolutions within legality and the existing settler-colonialist framework.
Those who would celebrate this victory do so without considering the military occupation of Wallmpau, nor the current political prisoners, nor the unprecedented violence against the Mapuche people, especially Mapuche children, that continues to this day. From the weichafe ka lamngen (warrior brothers, sisters, and comrades) who rise up in Wallmapu against the domination of capital and the latifundia (large scale landowner class) there is no common ground with these Mapuche who feel comfortable among winkas and politicians.