Chile: Mapuche march on Santiago to mark Columbus invasion
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)