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About the Author

Kevin Rennie
Citizen journalist, Teacher (retired),Volunteer (Melbourne, Australia)

I am a retired secondary teacher and unionist. I have been an Australian Labor Party member since 1972. After teaching in Victorian schools from 1975, I spent 8 years teaching in the Northern Territory: 4 in Katherine, followed by 4 in Maningrida, an aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. Returned in June 2008 to Melbourne to live after 15 months in Broome. Now live near Red Bluff which overlooks Half Moon Bay on Port Phillip Bay's eastern side. I am a Global Voices author.


Mapuche: The Other Patagonians

Published 04th May 2010 - 9 comments - 4809 views -

We took a circuitous route to the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit on 6-7 May. We started in Santiago, travelled overland through Patagonia on an Intrepid Travel trip to Pucon, Puerto Varas, Bariloche and Buenos Aires. After a side visit to Rosario, we flew back to Chile.

There was plenty of time to think about South America's place in global development and the role of tourism in particular.

The Mapuche people first caught my eye in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Silvia Vinas reported on their plight on Global Voices:

After the massive earthquake that hit Chile on February 27, the media and the government have faced strong criticism for their lack of coverage and support for the small communities closest to the epicenter. One of these communities is the Mapuche indigenous people, whose territory is found in central and southern Chile.
Chile: Mapuche Communities Affected by Earthquake

In Pucon it was hard not to reflect on the future of indigenous people in developed countries like Chile (or closer to home in Australia for that matter). The Mapuche resisted invasion by the Incas and the Spanish and were not overpowered until the latter half of the 19th Century in Chile or Argentina.

We enjoyed traditional dishes at Cocina Mapuche tourist restaurant and visited the Aldea Intercultural Trapupeyum Centre in Curarrehue. A visit to a private museum in Pucon also helped broaden our understanding of their rich history.

Mapuche museum

The dispossession of their people in Argentina is also graphically documented in Bariloche, both in the Museo de la Patagonia "Francisco P. Moreno" and on the nearby statue of General Roca, 'liberator' of Patagonia.

Roca 1Roca 2

There seems to be plenty of evidence that many Mapuche feel like the dis-empowered and marginalised part of a modern first world economy. Yet they continue to resist what they see as attempts to lose their identity:

Despite the assimilationist efforts of the dominant Chilean society, the Mapuche people have managed to preserve their traditional language (mapudungun), their religion and the socio-political structure which regulates life on the indigenous reserves where they have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. Their identity as an autonomous nation together with their awareness of being part of a distinct cultural and historic heritage and spirituality has created a socio-political movement which draws on communal aspirations.
The Mapuche Nation

They are caught up in the two edged sword of cultural tourism that I will post about separately.

Category: Human Rights | Tags:


  • Andrea Arzaba on 04th May 2010:

    I can relate the mapuches situation with any other indigenous culture in Mexico, and I would dare to say the same about the whole Latin America.

    Losing their identity is a reality that keeps on growing every single day as they feel discriminated in their own countries and young people do not dress as their parents, do not speak their language, do not want to learn about their heritage. It is sad that all this richness is getting lost, so we must try to preserve it! As well as empower indigenous societies

    Thank you Kevin! GV smile

  • Iris Cecilia Gonzales on 04th May 2010:

    Thanks for this Kevin. It’s the first time I heard of the Mapuches. Anyway, as Andrea said, the reality is the same even here in the Philippines. Indigenous people here are struggling for their right to self-determination. It is a a continuing struggle.

  • Hanna Clarys on 04th May 2010:

    But is that struggle not in vain? Eventually they will disappear. It is sad, but they cannot survive in a world changing like ours. When tradition and modernity meet ... tradition is doomed to fade away.

  • Kevin Rennie on 04th May 2010:

    I should get the chance to talk to some Chilean bloggers tonight. We are meeting with them as part of the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2001 in Santiago this week.

  • Aija Vanaga on 06th May 2010:

    @Hanna But are we able to live without traditions that shape us?

  • Hanna Clarys on 06th May 2010:

    To Aija: I think there will always be traditions, in every country and every culture. But what I mean is that traditional societies as being opposite to what is called modern ones, will go down one by one. Which I do not like, but which I fear is inevitable. Sadly enough. What do you think?

  • Aija Vanaga on 06th May 2010:

    My feeling is that we are able, because we substitute traditions. I do not know and am not able to judge is it a positive or negative trend, but the inner feeling is that we tend to get global and loose roots, which I find way of today living. Somehow homeless.

  • Hanna Clarys on 07th May 2010:

    I agree with you, Aija, that it is a problem that we cannot relate to many traditions anymore. It might become quite problematic in the future when people don’t feel connected with anything anymore. But I wanted to ask what you mean with “My feeling is that we are able, because we substitute traditions”. I didn’t really get that, but maybe it is just me smile

  • Aija Vanaga on 12th May 2010:

    By substituting traditions I that we give up tradition to be a virgin till marriage and became strong women who leaves apparment before men wake up after crazy night.
    Like reacently I was talking with turkish girl, who said that her parents would kill her, if they would get to know she is not a virgin, so they wioll never know.
    It’s like substituting fast food for healthy food becasue of fast and more junky full taste. This is somehow what I mean.

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