Some 10,000 indigenous Mapuche activists and their supporters marched peacefully through the center of Santiago on Oct. 10, many dressed in traditional costumes and carrying flags. The march was called to mark the 519th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas—the start of the Spanish conquest. Manuel Díaz, spokesman for the indigenous organization Meli Witran Mapu told the Spanish news agency EFE that the day is one of mourning for his people, because it “signifies the arrival of the Spanish usurpers and all they brought with them, colonialism and imperialism.”
The march was intended as “a mobilization to repudiate the invasion of more than 500 years ago, but also a mobilization that criticizes the role of the state and of the economic model toward the indigenous peoples,” organizers said in a statement. Díaz added that the marchers demand “the freedom of all the Mapuche political prisoners and the return of the ancestral lands.”
With a population of 1.3 million people, the Mapuche make up almost 10% of Chile’s 15.8 million inhabitants. They are the largest of the indigenous peoples of Chile. The Mapuche are also among the poorest and most marginalized groups in Chilean society; the rural Mapuche population lives in conditions of extreme poverty. (UNPO, Oct. 11)
See our last posts on Chile and the Mapuche struggle.
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Violence at Mapuche march in Santiago
Although initial wire accounts did not mention it, apparently the Oct. 10 Mapuche march in Santiago ended in a violent fracas. The Telegraph of Oct. 11 includes a video clip form the march that shows masked youth hurling debris a police armored vehicles, and cops using fire hoses against demonstrators…
Mapcuhe recover ancestral lands
The Mapuche community of Blanco Lepin de Lautaro has won a struggle to recover nearly 900 hectares (2,200 acres) of land. CONADI, the Chilean government’s indigenous development corporation, purchased the land, and announced the transfer on Oct. 6. The community of Blanco Lepin de Lautaro, located in the Araucanía region, will also be provided with support and technical services to help the community use the land as they see fit.
The Mapuche community initiated the land recovery process eight years ago. And at the ceremony where it was formally turned over, Oscar Lepilao Tralcal, the community’s lonko (traditional chief) said, “I feel extremely proud because Chawgnechen always heard our prayer and thanks to him we are now receiving this land. We hope that our sons and daughters continue to work the land and receive from it.”
CONADI director Jorge Retamal noted that with this land purchase, more than 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) has been bought for Mapuche families and communities in 2011. According to Retamal, this exceeds the amount of land that previous administrations had purchased and keeps CONADI on track of reaching its goal to purchase 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of land by the end of the calendar year. (Indigenous News, Oct. 7)