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