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Chile: Mapuche Communities Affected by Earthquake

After the massive earthquake that hit Chile on February 27, the media and the government have faced strong criticism for their lack of coverage and support for the small communities closest to the epicenter. One of these communities is the Mapuche indigenous people, whose territory is found in central and southern Chile.

Mapuche celebrating the Mapuche new year, We Tripantü. Photo uploaded by flickr user _p_ and used under a Creative Commons license

Mapuche celebrating the Mapuche new year, We Tripantü. Photo uploaded by flickr user _p_ and used under a Creative Commons license

The blog Kilapan [es] posted a statement from Miguel Cheuqueman which reports the aftermath of the earthquake:

El terremoto que asoló el territorio chileno ha afectado más gravemente a los pueblos mapuches cuyos territorios se ubican en tres de las cuatro regiones del sur de este país. Cientos de muertos y desaparecidos, desabastecimiento total, caminos y comunicaciones cortados, son parte del drama que viven nuestros hermanos lafkenches.

The earthquake that devastated the Chilean territory has affected the Mapuche people more severely, whose territories are located in three of the four regions in the south of the country. Hundreds dead and disappeared, complete lack of supplies, roads and communication cut off, are all part of the drama that our lefkenches (a Mapuche community) brothers are going through.

Pedro Vasquez produced the following video, which shows the destruction in the locality of Tirúa in the Arauco Province in the Bío Bío Region.

In the blog Nativos del Sur [es] (Natives from the South), Reynaldo Mariqueo writes about the lack of media coverage the Mapuche communities are receiving, and he defends the right of the Mapuche to ask for international aid.

Si observamos a la TV Chilena y los medios de comunicación en general, parecieran concertarse en dar cuenta de la situación que afecta a las regiones urbanas de Concepción al norte, pero se han olvidado de los pueblos ubicados al sur de Concepción, que como sabemos han sufrido un impacto similar de destrucción. Asimismo, la situación caótica que enfrentan las comunidades rurales mapuche, como siempre, parecieran haber sido totalmente olvidadas. En consecuencia, opino que es perfectamente razonable que las organizaciones y comunidades mapuches hagan un llamado conjunto y urgente solicitando ayuda humanitaria internacional y la presencia de organizaciones no-gubernamentales, que están abocadas a ayudar a las víctimas de catástrofe o desastres naturales.

If we observe the Chilean TV and the media in general, it seems like they are concentrating their accounts on the situation affecting the urban regions of Concepción and to the north, but they have forgotten the towns located south of Concepción, which we know have suffered an impact similar in destruction. Likewise, the chaotic situation that the rural Mapuche communities are facing, like always, seem to have been completely forgotten. As a consequence, I think it is perfectly reasonable that the organizations and Mapuche communities call out for urgent international humanitarian aid and for the presence of NGOs, that are meant to help the victims of catastrophes or natural disasters.

Twitter users were quick to point out the lack of media attention given to the Mapuche. On February 28, the day after the earthquake, Twitter user Danny Micin Carvallo (@dmicin) wrote:

hasta ahora no he visto ni una noticia acerca de comunidades mapuches y el terremoto

up to now I haven’t seen one single piece of news about the Mapuche communities and the earthquake

On March 8, more than a week after the earthquake, Nicolás Herrera (@nicolas91) referred to journalist Soledad Onetto on his Tweet and asked her:

@SoledadOnetto porque no se a mostrado en la prensa como quedo el pueblo mapuche con el terremoto ?

@SoledadOnetto why hasn’t the press shown how the Mapuche people are fairing after the earthquake?

Other Twitter users showed their concern for the Mapuche, retwittering articles from Mapuche-focused blogs and websites asking other Twitter users about the Mapuche Community. On March 5 Conchu Arellano [es] (@conchu) asked if someone knew how the Mapuche were doing after the quake. In addition, Samuel Bascur Molina used his Twitter account (@sambascur [es]) to spread the word about the need for 180 beds, mattresses, and blankets for a Mapuche community in need.

The media is not the only organization criticized for ignoring the Mapuche after the earthquake, the government has also been condemned for ignoring them by many bloggers and twitter users. A team of Mapuche communicators from the blog Comunidad Autónoma Temucuicui [es] -which focuses on the Mapuche community located in the Ercilla commune of the Araucanía region- denounced the government’s lack of action as a sign of racism and discrimination:

Como una abierta y clara muestra de discriminación y racismo han reflejado las Autoridades del Estado Chileno, producto a la nula preocupación por las graves situaciones provocada por el Terremoto en comunidades Mapuche de Ercilla

Al parecer para las diferentes Autoridades de Gobierno de este Estado Chileno, el fuerte Terremotos azotó y devasto solamente a las grandes ciudades de este país […]

Después del fuerte sismo ocurrido en la madrugada del día, este dejo graves daños estructurales en las viviendas, poso de suministro de agua derrumbado, el río que atraviesa la comunidad completamente contaminado producto del movimiento de la tierra no pudiendo ser utilizado para el consumo humano.

The Chilean government has openly and clearly shown a clear demonstration of discrimination and racism, because of the complete lack of concern for the serious situations produced by the earthquake to the Mapuche communities of Ercilla [...]

Apparently for the different government authorities of Chile, the strong earthquake hit and devastated only the big cities of the country […]

The strong quake which occurred at early in the morning left severe structural damage to houses, the collapse of the well which supplies water, and contaminated the river that runs through the community because of the earth’s movement leaving it unusable for human consumption.

In response to the devastation and the absence of media or government support, the Mapuche have called out for International aid. The news agency MapuExpress [es] put out a statement by a group of organizations under the name La Sociedad Civil (The Civil Society) specifying the measures they will be taking to ensure the Mapuche receive the much needed aid. The statement begins by introducing the aid group and assessing the situation:

Ante la situación que vive nuestro país tras el terremoto, informamos que diversas redes de ONGs, organizaciones sociales, federaciones de estudiantes, medios de comunicación comunitarios y organizaciones internacionales se han articulado y se encuentran movilizadas para seguir trabajando en conjunto con las comunidades afectadas y recoger sus necesidades de urgencia inmediata así como las de reconstrucción de sus localidades.

Las comunidades sufren en este desastre las consecuencias acumuladas de la desigualdad y la pobreza, de la privatización de los servicios básicos, de la desprotección social y los procesos de individualización y mercantilización, de la centralización política y administrativa, de la falta de probidad de un sector empresarial irresponsable y sin fiscalización suficiente por parte del Estado, de la falta de medios de comunicación comunitarios y alternativos y por lo tanto de la vulnerabilidad del actual modelo de desarrollo.

In the face of the situation that our country is experiencing after the earthquake, we inform that various NGO groups, social organizations, student federations, community media outlets, and international organizations have come together and are mobilizing to continue working together with the affected communities to address their immediate urgent necessities and help with the reconstruction of their localities.

The communities that suffer the consequences accumulated in this disaster due to inequality and poverty, the privatization of basic services, the lack of social protection, and the processes of individualization and mercantilism, of the policy of centralization and administrative, of the lack of honesty from the irresponsible business sector without enough fiscal review from the government, the lack of community, and alternative media outlets which result in the vulnerability of the current development model.

The statement ends with optimism that new policies could help the Mapuche, but also with a warning that this catastrophe could make a severe inequality problem in Chile even worse:

Este desastre natural puede permitir el comienzo de un proceso de reconstrucción participativo e incluyente, basado en nuevas políticas públicas, que garanticen estándares de de seguridad y derechos, incluso en casos catastróficos como los que enfrentamos en esta situación. Pero también puede ser un momento en que se agudice la profunda desigualdad e inequidad de Chile, que se ha mostrado con toda su brutalidad en esta coyuntura.

This natural disaster may allow for the beginning of a process of participative and inclusive reconstruction, based on new public policy, that guarantees security standards and rights, even during catastrophic events like the one we are facing now. However, it can also be a moment that can deepen the profound inequality in Chile, which has brutally come to light during this moment.
  • http://andshetookherjourney.blogspot.com/ Donna Martinez

    People with disabilities are another group not receiving much air time. A friend in the USA alerted me to CNN-USA’s report of two unlikely heroines. When a tsunami crashed into one of in Chile’s hogars, two unlikely heroes, one schizophrenic, the other mentally disabled, formed a team to save their friends’ lives while the nun was on the second floor, praying while covering her ears so she wouldn’t hear the screams of her frightened and drowning charges. Instead showing a perfect example of presumed competence this “descapacidados” TOOK CHARGE and rescued themselves.
    http://tinyurl.com/yjqa3v9

    It should be noted:
    Chile only two months ago passed their own version of a disabilities rights and access act . Chile also signed the Convention on Rights for People with Disabilities.

  • Janet Gunter

    Thanks for this article, I was wondering about this. It sounds like Mapuche communities are in danger of experiencing what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism”. That said, it seems that the Mapuche historically are an example of real resilience.

  • Pingback: Latin America: 2010 in Review · Global Voices

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