In southern Chile the indigenous Mapuche people have begun a campaign for more land rights.

There are more than a (m) million Mapuche people in Chile, making up nearly one in ten of the country’s population.

For hundreds of years they held out against the Spanish Empire and they were only conquered by the Chileans last century.

Now they’re set for another battle to save their homeland and reclaim what was once theirs.

The Mapuches were among the most feared peoples in southern America, now they’re among the poorest.

Several dozen families live in this Mapuche community, most work as farmers.

Over the past few months groups of Mapuche activists have started to take back land they claim is theirs by ancestral rights.

When Chile became independent in the last century their land was taken from them.

Now the Mapuche people want it back.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“This is an anti indigenous state, is the inheritance of the Spanish colonial system, they haven’t changed their mentality.”
SUPER CAPTION: Aukam Huilkaman, Mapuche Indian

Disputes over land in recent weeks have prompted several confrontations between the police and the Mapuche Indians.

Last month a group of them marched to the capital Santiago, in a bid to put their case to the government.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“I am afraid because the whites, the Chileans, they go over us, they always go over us in land affairs.”
SUPER CAPTION: Leader of Trapa Trapa community

Such bitterness reflects a long history of – at best – indifference from the majority of Chileans.

SOUNDBITE: (Spanish)
“In other parts of America indigenous cultures have been appreciated because they were great civilizations like the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas, they made their country proud of them, but the Mapuches were only hunters and farmers in a primitive way.”
SUPER CAPTION: Sergio Villalobos, Historian

For the Chileans, whatever their ancestory, their only hope is that the new millennium will bring positive change and actual improvement.

You can license this story through AP Archive:
Find out more about AP Archive:

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *