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In October 2021 the Chilean state declared a state of emergency and a formal siege against the native Mapuche people. This sudden escalation in repression is a continuance of the longstanding colonialist war by the Chilean state against the Mapuche.
Since the state of emergency was declared, Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera has sent a swarm of troops to inflame the war in response to Mapuche resistance and defense of their native lands.
Shortly after Chile declared the siege, Argentinian military forces were also deployed in a parallel offensive against Mapuche communities standing their ground on the Argentinian-state-occupied side of their territory. Despite both occupying states doubling down on their brutal offensive, Mapuche resistance remains strong.
We reached out to comrades on the ground to better understand the situation and the relationship between the Mapuche, anarchists, and broader movements against the Chilean state, as well as the outlook of such revolutionary communities following the massive 2019 uprising and the recent electoral victory of Chilean president-elect Gabriel Boric, a leftist politician who defeated José Antonio Kast, a Pinochet defender (and son of a Nazi officer).
This interview was originally in Spanish and has been translated. Some Mapuche words are translated in parentheses. For those interested in learning more, we’ve added some links and further recommended readings at the end of the post.
A police check point was set ablaze in chilean occupied Rucalhue, Mapuche territory.
Mainstream sources claim the fire has been deemed an arson, and comes shortly after a march against the planned construction of a Hydroelectric Plant in the region:https://t.co/pRwqcowpLn https://t.co/2PGhcjn0rf
— IGD Worldwide (@igdworldwide) January 3, 2022
Would you like to introduce yourself?
Mari mari pu lamngen ka pu wenuy inche ta domo Santiago warria mew. (Hello brothers, sisters, and comrades; I am a woman in Santiago). I am an antiauthoritarian/anarchist, mother of two children, almost 40 years old, and a part of various networks of independent/radical media and counter-information.
I am currently active in a radio project based in Santiago, focused primarily on anarchism and various other ramblings, now on its 130th episode. I am also involved in the 18th of October Coordinating Committee formed in solidarity with political prisoners in so-called Chile. In this project I work with comrades and lamenten (brothers, sisters, and friends) both in Santiago and in Wallmapu (Mapuche ancestral territory), two places where I have strong personal and political connections. I actively take part in trawun (gatherings) of territorial recuperation, autonomous organizing, and feyentun ka kimun (the preservation of Mapuche spirituality and ancestral knowledge). All of this is from an autonomous viewpoint and with the goal of contributing to a broader struggle from where I stand. For me, under my circumstances, this means my resistance primarily takes place within the reality of the futxa warria (big city).
Could you shine a light on some of the history of Mapuche people’s organizing and resistance against the colonial Chilean state?
To understand the so-called Mapuche conflict, we must know that Wallmapu is the name given to the territory that today is dominated by the Chilean (gulumapu) and Argentinian (puelmapu) states. The resistance and struggle for autonomy and the reclaiming of ancestral territory dates back to the time of the invasion and subsequent colonization, by the Spanish monarchy. The peak of this process occurred between 1800 and 1880 with the “Pacification of Araucania” in this territory and the “Conquest of the Desert” in so-called Argentina. When Chile became a republic, its army continued the legacy of its origins as a violent colonizing force against the Mapuche people.
In the last few months, declarations of war against the Mapuche people have been declared both by the Chilean and Argentinian states. How is this escalation playing out? Additionally, how are the Mapuche people meeting the new levels of repression on their own terms?
Currently we see a situation where the military and the police relentlessly intimidate, kill, and oppress the Mapuche people. Additionally, in recent years there has been a rise in the appearance of far-right paramilitary groups mainly linked to the landowners, latifundistas1 and settlers who continue to occupy this ancestral Mapuche territory.
We see on the one hand how militarization and conflict is devastating the Wallmapu area, but at its core, the problem is much bigger. Years ago the Chilean state handed over most of Mapuche territory to landowners, latifundistas and settlers to exploit the land. These lands are still owned and run by these same families, and are mainly made up of industrial plantations producing pine and eucalyptus (both invasive species that damage the land and permanently deplete the native forest and its water supply). The Araucanía region, also known as Arauco, is the heart of Wallmapu and a central conflict zone. It’s also the most impoverished region of all of the Chilean state, despite being the region which derives the highest amount of profit from land-clearing, cellulose plantations, and the lumber industry.
The MAPA Project for example, which covers 10,000 square meters and is the largest pulp and biomass processing plant in the world, is located in the province of Arauco (Araucanía region). It belongs to the Arauco company of the Angelini group– one of the main corporate entities in Chile, with business in hospitals, pension funds, mass media, pharmaceuticals, and wherever profit can be found.
Currently there are countless numbers of lof (Mapuche communities) resisting colonization through forceful land reclamation: pu lamngen (brothers, sisters, and comrades) take over a property owned by millionaires or forestry companies, and build their community there. Through force, the land is reclaimed from such profiteers and used to create a rewe (ceremonial space), maintaining the social structure of the Mapuche: lonko (head), werken (spokesman), machi (spiritual authority), and pu weichafe (warriors). However problems still remain, because these lands, as we already mentioned, are overrun with monoculture crops, making it very difficult to work the land or to obtain lawen (medicine) from it.
In a post-colonial society, the Mapuche feyentun ka kimun (spirituality and ancestral knowledge) faces multiple threats as well. The power and domination of the winka (white enemy) are exerted through a range of historical and current colonial efforts. The state targets many Mapuche people with imprisonment and preys on impoverished Mapuche individuals to reject their own people through strategic government aid programs. The long-standing spiritual invasion of the evangelical church has also preyed on Mapuche people for generations.
The Mapuche people face the constant offensive and violent wrath of the state and its business interests. However various resistance forces are emerging in light of the military siege. Armed groups such as CAM (Arauco Malleco Coordinating Group), the Mapuche lafkenche (People of the Sea) resistance and the ORT (Territorial Organs of Resistance) carry out an array of actions, sabotage, and confrontation in occupied Mapuche territory.
In recent times there have been at least 25 pu lamngen murdered in Wallmpau, in circumstances ranging from armed confrontations, being killed while engaging in sabotage, and multiple deaths reported by the state as “suicides” that likely were not. The state is using different political tactics and strategies in its desire to crush the Mapuche people. There is a permanent violence carried out against the children of this territory, who are often caught up in military raids and face constant police abuse and harassment. This is in addition to the constant violence of living in a territory that is not only occupied but also devastated by drought.
Political imprisonment is one of the main tactics the Chilean state has used against Mapuche people. As of writing there are more than 55 Mapuche political prisoners, including minors, in the prisons of Angol, Lebu, Arauco, Temuko, Vilcun, Victoria, Chol-Chol and Cañete; we know that prisons are a fundamental instrument of power and that incarceration by the Chilean state is part of a broader strategy to torture and isolate Mapuche people.
In the case of the Mapuche this is an even more extreme experience of deprivation, since we are talking about che (people) who have a way of life, a way of living in and understanding the world different from what the Western world is used to. Hunger strikes have been a long-held practice by political prisoners, a dignified weapon used by the incarcerated weichafe (warriors) to denounce the racist bias of the judicial system or to demand fair trials and the implementation of ILO Convention 169. 2
Historically has there been a close relationship between the Mapuche people and anarchist or anti-colonial revolutionary movements in so-called Chile?
As I see it, the Mapuche people are the ones who currently show the greatest resistance towards the Chilean colonial state, capitalism and winka politics. Generally there has not been a very fluid relationship between anarchist comrades and the Mapuche resistance in recent years. Perhaps this is due to the Mapuche worldview and the distrust that comes from hundreds of years of invasion, maybe it is because as anarchists we become caught up in the idea that the Mapuche people stake a claim as a “national people.” In general this relationship has been improving over in the last couple of years. There are fraternal ties of keyuwun (solidarity) between anarchist comrades and communities in resistance, a bond of complicity when facing a common enemy. After the revolt of 2019 some of the veils that separated these two struggles have been lifted, moving towards a new articulation of complicity between Mapuche, anarchists and lamngen.
Thanks so much for your time and insights. Finally, does the recent electoral victory of leftist Gabriel Boric affect the resistance or focus on the ground by Mapuche people and other movements against the Chilean state?
Presently, with armed clashes and permanent sabotage, what happens in Wallmapu has the characteristics of a low-intensity war. It is unrealistic to believe that the rearrangement of power that occurred with the last presidential election will change the situation of dispossession and neo-colonization in southern Chile. There are some Mapuche who are more closely linked to academia and ‘bourgeois’ institutions, like Elisa Lonkon, president of the constitutional convention (the body that is drafting a new constitution) who look to compromise. Better put, there are some Mapuche who embrace “democracy” as what is best for their people, hoping for recognition by the state and political resolutions within legality and the existing settler-colonialist framework.
Those who would celebrate this victory do so without considering the military occupation of Wallmpau, nor the current political prisoners, nor the unprecedented violence against the Mapuche people, especially Mapuche children, that continues to this day. From the weichafe ka lamngen (warrior brothers, sisters, and comrades) who rise up in Wallmapu against the domination of capital and the latifundia (large scale landowner class) there is no common ground with these Mapuche who feel comfortable among winkas and politicians.
The most recent communiqué from the CAM is very accurate in this regard [it follows below]:
Public Statement: Neither with the Right Wing Nor With Servile Progressivism: The CAM Confronts the Current Scenario of the Revolutionary Mapuche Struggle
Regarding the current events in the institutional framework of the Chilean State, the constitutional convention and the current government led by Gabriel Boric, which is based on the framework of the national and international cross-bourgeois relationship, we state the following:
Kiñe: There is a constant denialism, a bias and mass ignorance about the history of our Mapuche Nation, orchestrated and imposed by the Chilean state to justify the usurpation of Wallmapu. This discourse seeks to ignore the fact that as Mapuche people we have maintained a long independence and sovereignty over our ancestral territory, to such an extent that all colonial and republican structures remained at the margin of our lives for several centuries without being able to impose their cultural, economic and political forms. The only way the Winka found to take over our territory was through dispossession, deception, racist tutelage and militarization; phenomena that are being repeated today.
Epu: Moreover, in the current scenario where voices arise trying to direct our autonomy with an institutionalism and paternalism, we respond to that new “hippie, progressive and cool” left that today celebrates a social-democratic government or, to be more precise, a center-left one, that the Mapuche people have their own political-military order since before the formation of the Chilean state. This, through the koyang, the weychan and the presence of our ancestral authorities such as machi, lonko, werken, weychafe; roles that remain in force in our movement, outside of foreign ideologies and active in the processes of reconstruction and national liberation towards the kizügunewün (self-determination).
Küla: We understand that, while the forms of power and domination may vary, at their core they are still the same structures against which we have fought for a long time, therefore, no one will teach us to confront them; it has been our history of struggle, our successes and mistakes, the word of our cultural authorities, which has trained us as a people in resistance and motivates us to continue fighting the expressions of capitalism in the Wallmapu. The colonial power that subjected us more than a century ago follows the same logic today. Therefore, Saavedra, Pinochet, and Kast represent that historical continuity as a project of fascist and racist domination to the extreme. We who live with this caste of domination throughout the length and breadth of the disputed territory already know this. In view of this, we return to highlight the example of our ancestors, the futakechekuifi, and we reaffirm that we will continue to fight for the Mapuche national reconstruction without straying one centimeter from our line and our principles of struggle.
Meli: At present and as a concrete expression of these structures of domination, the supposed struggle against “violence in Araucanía” is configured as a general tactic promoted by the business sector, the right wing, the media, and even the Constitutional Convention and Gabriel Boric, aimed at maintaining the system at any cost, to the point of justifying repression and militarization to confront the revolutionary autonomist Mapuche movement that exercises territorial control. It would seem that when they touch the interests of big capital there are no differences between “left and right”, since both sectors maintain a homogeneous discourse in the face of the political and material advances of our demands. These sectors forget that in our historical horizon it was political violence and resistance that made us a sovereign people and it is our legitimate right to use it to maintain our dignity as a nation.
Kechu: The above tactic is part of a counterinsurgent strategy that is making its way in the current political scenario through the installation of a narco-terrorist narrative, aimed at cornering and discrediting, politically, economically and in the media, all of our expressions of revolutionary struggle. These are the desperate attacks of the ruling classes and fascism to safeguard their interests in the face of the strengthening of the weychan (rebellion). At the same time, in the same way, in this context we categorically dissociate ourselves from certain deviations that have occurred within the Mapuche movement in general and that have turned out to be functional to the power of domination, such as drug trafficking, the mafias linked to the extraction of wood, Yanacona paramilitarism, and the servitude of the “new Mapuche micro-entrepreneurs”. In these historical moments it is fundamental to suffocate these expressions functional to capital, and as an organization we will do so by reaffirming the political ethics that our tradition of struggle entails.
Kayu: We call on our rebellious Mapuche people to continue resisting and to vindicate political violence as a legitimate instrument of our struggle, whoever is governing and whoever maintains the pattern of capitalist accumulation and its colonial scaffolding. To stop the destruction of the Wallmapu, to create the bases for the definitive emancipation by multiplying the chem and intensifying territorial control to achieve zones liberated from winka power. To not forget in our collective memory the costs of this new autonomist resurgence, which have been paid with political persecution and fallen pu weychafe, motivated by a broad feeling of dedication to our people. Not to be fooled by false promises and not to fall into the short-sighted and petty vision of the pseudo-left.
With Matias and Toñito4 always in our memory!!!
Resistance is not terrorism!!!
Kizugūnewtun for the Mapuche Nation!!!!
Freedom for Daniel Canío5 and all the PPM (Mapuche political prisoners)!!!!
Amulepe taiñ weichan
Weuwaiñ – Marrichiweu
- Large landowners who rent their fields to local farmers, a form of modern serfdom or sharecropping.
- C169 – Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989. A binding international agreement concerning treatment of indigenous and tribal peoples.
- Translation of poem by Matias Catrileo, the Mapuche warrior murdered at age 19 on January 3rd, 2008.
The economy moves the country
Love moves mountains
The economy doesn’t move them, it destroys them
Hate moves the tyrant
And love moves mountains
The tyrant doesn’t move mountains, they govern them.
Freedom moves my people
Love moves mountains
My people don’t move them, they conserve them
Not for love or for hate
But for freedom of the Mapuche and the will
of the natural world.
- Matias Catrileo was Mapuche militant murdered by police in 2008; “Toñito” aka Pablo Marchant was a Mapuche militant in CAM murdered by police in 2021.
- CAM militant serving a long prison sentence.
The anonymous interviewee recommends this recent piece by political prisoner Marcelo Villarroel Sepúlveda, which addresses the indispensable solidarity between the Mapuche struggle and broader movements against the state and capital.
Please also follow @BuscandoKalle on Twitter for updates on the struggle of Mapuche and other revolutionary political prisoners in Chile.
The blog Act For Freedom Now! consistently provides translations of texts from political prisoners in so-called Chile (as well as many other exciting things).