In the middle of the establishment of modernity in the world of economic development, the Mapuche people persistently fight against values they believe to be sincerely part to the world economic structure. They perceive these values as being focused strictly on material possessions, an unacceptable reconception of ‘wealth’. Sadly, modernization has meant that they have had to continually sacrifice their well being to the point that they are now recognized as ‘rebels’ by the majority of the world.
Their struggle began in the 1600s, when they initially fought land dispossession carried out by Spain. The Mapuche eventually forced Spain to sign the Treaty of Quillin, which legitimated all of Mapuche’s traditional territory. Two centuries later, after the defeat of Spain during Chilean War of Independece between 1810 until 1821, another conflict emerged with the government of Chile and Argentina, which gradually resulted in the loss of several Mapuche’s territories. Between 1861 and 1871, Chile incorporated several Mapuche territories in Araucania, where most of the Mapuches live.
The culmination point arose in 1865, when Argentina and Chile led a massive aggression against the Mapuche – an attack now recognized as the ‘Pacification of the Araucanian’ – taking a large part of Mapuche’s territory and annihilating around 100.000 of Mapuche.
As described by John Severino – a social activist in Chile and also a journalist in Intercontinental Cry Magazine – in one of his article, what encourages the endurance of the Mapuche’s determination to stand up for their land is not the land possession and the exploitation of their own land. On the contrary, they do not want greediness to control how people treat the land in the name of development. “The Mapuche struggle reveals a way of looking at land and freedom that totally upsets the dominant worldview. In their conception of land and their practice of direct action, means and ends find harmony, problems of political exclusion, economic alienation, and cultural commodification meet with a unified solution, and questions of health, spirituality, education, housing, food security, and environment blend and become indistinguishable.”
Therefore, instead of being perceived as a fight for land possession – how it may be perceived outwardly – the Mapuche recognize this conflict as being a war between two worldviews. Their aim is to win back the land and bring it back to its natural relationship with human beings, not being influenced by merely profit motives. They intend to use the land for their own sustainment by planting quinoa or potatoes, and for their livestock, eliminating any future dependence on the commercial market.
The Mapuche’s efforts truly demonstrate that they have wisdom to offer the world. While we hope that a long-lasting peace can be built, we also desire that they can preserve and magnify their noble norms and the values of their beliefs.