On the Mapuche Movement

The Mapuche flag during a demonstration in Santiago, Chile

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“The Mapuche Movement is not a new phenomenon, but the continuation of a historical battle against a colonialist and racist state. Today, the Mapuche people of Chile face severe discrimination and disproportionately high levels of poverty. It is impossible to understand the Mapuche Movement without studying the roots in the past. Similarly, Maria Lugones work “Decolonial Feminism,” shows that the coloniality of gender started centuries ago, yet it is “still with us.” Both Patricia Richards’ and Maria Lugones’ work highlight the importance of looking into history, studying colonization, and analyzing the effects of capitalism to understand and challenge the preexisting repressive notions of today, including racism and sexism.

“The Mapuche’s battle started centuries ago, when colonizing powers invaded their land, stole it, and gave it to European settlers, similarly when the start of the coloniality of gender occurred. Today, the Mapuche own a tiny fraction of what was stolen from them and continue to defend what is theirs. In 1883, they were placed on reservations that made up only 6% of their original territory, and by 1930, one third was usurped. Poor Mapuche and Chileans shared class-based commonalities, and joined together in getting more political power and voting in. Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were many rights and achievements the Mapuche earned, but after a military coup, it went south. The Mapuche suffered abuses from the regime and its supporters and much of the land that was returned was taken away and given to farming elites and corporations to plant pine and eucalyptus for the growing timber industry. It was often Mapuche who worked on these plantations, but they were not given the right to own the land. Maria Lugones states “Unlike colonization, the coloniality of gender is still with us; it is wat lies at the intersection of gender/class/race as central constructs of the capitalist world system of power.” Capitalism and colonization have divided people on the basis of race and gender for centuries. European conquerors considered indigenous people as nonhuman, justifying their immense cruelty and enslavement. Indigenous women were at the bottom of the hierarchy and white men were at the top. Though in lesser forms, this mindset of racism and sexism still exists throughout previously colonized countries. Lugones encourages her readers to study history and find the root of this mentality in order to understand and challenge it effectively. Similarly, the battle the Mapuche are fighting is not rooted in the dictatorship, but in the longer history of colonialism and dispossession. They have continuously fought for justice, facing countless conflicts over land, natural resources, development, and indigenous rights, and rather than giving them what is theirs, government officials and corporations chase the incentives of capitalism to use the Mapuche’s land for timber production, even if that means repressing them, polluting their soil and water with pesticides, and more.”
– M. A., from LALS 10200, Fall 2020

Posts from the Discussion Board

About coloniality and its connection to capitalism.

“Growing up in the United States, you’re indoctrinated into a capitalist way of thinking. This way of thinking is pushed by school, the media, and the government. Success in life is measured by financial gains, and even academic achievements are contextualized by how they will promote a future career. Failure to earn a substantial living is almost always blamed on the character or work ethic of the worker, rather than the system they operate in. It is extremely difficult to question these ideas. Even when one begins to evaluate and criticize capitalism, they quickly realize that it is impossible to survive in a capitalist society without participating in capitalism. As a retail worker, I’ve seen old products purposefully destroyed to prevent dumpster diving and internal theft. This is a common practice, even for products which could be easily donated, like clothing, bras, toys, books, and food. Yet despite my moral and ethical objections to this practice, my dependency on wage labor ensures my compliance. I become complicit in destroying valuable goods and necessities in order to survive within the capitalist society I was born into. Like colonization, capitalism is an inescapable oppressive force which demands compliance. As you progress through life, it becomes easier to identify the ways in which colonialism has informed capitalism. Workers continue to be exploited for their labor, land remains in control of the wealthy, and inequality of race, gender, and class persists. The readings addressing decoloniality and dewesternization, which I explore below, question the global inequality which has resulted from colonization and its subsequent capitalism. ”
– Katherine Scardino, from LALS 10200, Fall 2020

“Capitalism incites coloniality: whatever it takes to maximize profits, moral or not, against human rights or not, that is what is going to happen. The United States’ imperialistic policies have destabilized states and exploited millions to get raise profits and fulfill its capitalistic interests. Then they make it seem like they are helping, spreading democracy, and freeing people. However, there are so many contradictions where if a democratically elected leader goes against those capitalistic interests, the US will do its best to remove them. Hugo Chavez was democratically elected, but the US supported a coup to oust him because of his socialist stance, namely the nationalization of oil. Similarly, in Bolivia, the US backed a coup to try to remove their democratically elected president, for lithium. Elon Musk proudly tweeted “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it,” when someone asked him to consider the Bolivian people (Tesla needs Lithium it to produce electric car batteries). Tyrants who put the US’s capitalistic interests before their people are supported. In 1953 Iran, the US backed up a coup that removed their democratically elected president and propped up an oppressive dictator that they were able to control the oil supply with, ultimately paving the way to the Iranian revolution. Similarly, in Cuba, the US backed the oppressive dictator, Batista, in order to exploit Cuba’s resources, ultimately leading to the Cuban Revolution. During the Bush presidency, the US invaded Iraq calling the need to free the Iraqi people and giving them democracy. Hundreds of thousands were killed, millions were displaced, a power vacuum was created where dangerous groups were able to obtain power. At the end the US succeeded in gaining access to Iraq’s oil. The US wants democracy for Cuba and Iraq, but not for Hondurans or Palestinians. Imperialist countries have no interest in spreading ‘freedom’ or letting the people decide, rather, anything that makes exploitation easiest and capitalists richer. I found Walter Mignolo’s article interesting because he explains how the so-called Global South is held back by coloniality and the “indignity of being considered lesser humans.” Also, he explained how the Global South isn’t a geographical area and how there are people in the US, Russia, Western Europe, etc. who are part of it. The mistreatment of African Americans and the mass incarceration rate come to mind.”
– M.A., from LALS 10200, Fall 2020

Theories and ideas that were useful in this class.

“The most impactful theories we’ve explored for me have been the theories of dewesternization and decoloniality presented by Walter Mignolo and María Lugones. These ideas helped me conceptualize the current struggles faced in the Americas within the context of western colonization. As a fourth-generation citizen of the United States, I reside in a nation which has benefited from globalization and the exploitation of other nations. Exploring Mignolo’s Colonial Matrix of Power was important for understanding the other side of this dynamic: those who are exploited by and suffer at the hands of globalization and colonization. Seeing the global south as the provider of resources for the global north was important for understanding how socially undervalued the global south is by the global north. Even underground economies, like drug trade, are impacted by this Aunequal power dynamic. Southern countries provide raw materials for drugs to their northern peers, who refine them. The United States are the receivers of the final, and most valuable, version of this product. This allows the US to receive the most profit, despite providing the least amount of materials or labor. The United States then villainizes the global south as the pushers of this drug trade, despite being the country whose economy is most benefited by it. By shedding light on the relationship between the United States and our southern neighbors, Mignolo was able to reveal to me the foundations of Latin American rhetoric I interact with every day. The United States often claims superiority over its southern peers, whether it be economic superiority or social. In doing so the US fails to recognize the ways which the United States directly benefits from these “developing” countries.

“Ideas of decoloniality are really important when thinking about the everyday issues people in the Americas face, and the origins of those issues. I loved the way María Lugones was able to directly address the arbitrary nature of the gender binary imposed by western colonizers on the Americas. The idea of a gender binary is so basic and intrinsic to our daily interactions that we are often too close to even question it. While they affect everyone differently depending on nationality, race, class, and gender, these western ideas oppress us all. In attacking the gender binary, Lugones is also attacking colonialism. The gender binary exists as a direct result of western colonialism. We cannot be free of colonialism until we are free of these restrictive gender concepts.

“Lastly, I found Martinez-Herrera’s piece on the Tlatelolco massacre extremely relevant to American experiences today. I am surprised by how much this class has taught me about my own country, despite focusing on the nations and peoples of Latin America. The frank nature of Martinez-Herrera’s piece reminded me to question my government at home. It was shocking to me how easily it was to think of protests where the government had attacked its people, both in the United States and in other nations. The events of the past year have been a violent eye opener as to how quickly a government can become oppressive against its people, and how easily oppression can be hidden, and forgotten. The United States has a long history in foreign involvement and interference, as well as police brutality and violent repression. This reading emphasized that governments often do not willingly provide transparency. In our fights for equality, we must also fight to ensure government accountability.”
-Katherine Scardino, LALS 10200, Fall 2020.