The Mapuche in Chile

 A people in perpetual struggle for recognition.

The Mapuche, from the word mapudungun, which means "People of the Land," form an indigenous and historical Amerindian population of Chile and Argentina. They are divided into communities that are also called Araucans.

The term Araucans was attributed to the Amerindians by the Spaniards when they occupied the region of Araucania or Arauco, which today corresponds to the Chilean administrative region of Araucania. The word Mapuche refers to the Mapuche language that was once spoken by the Araucans.

They are known to have always fought forcefully against a foreign power.

At first against the Incas, against whom they ended up bending not without having shown a strong resistance, then against the Spanish colonization.

Until the 19th century, the Mapuche resisted the Spanish colonizers by using the Bío Bío River as a natural border, thus participating in what is recognized today as the greatest indigenous resistance in America.

In 1641, the Mapuche strengthened their territorial autonomy by signing the Treaty of Killin with the Spanish. Twenty-eight other agreements followed, reflecting two centuries of diplomatic relations between the Mapuche and the Spanish conquistadores. 

After South American independence at the end of the 19th century, the history of Mapuche resistance persisted, this time against the Chilean and Argentinean states: 100,000 Mapuche were reportedly massacred by the Chilean and Argentinean armies. Despite the agrarian reform launched between 1965 and 1973, which had improved the living conditions of the Mapuche, all legal advances were halted by the military coup d'état of 1973. Since 1989 and the return to democracy, the Mapuche have achieved some victories in their struggle for redress, but conflicts with commercial and industrial interests have intervened to prevent the recovery of their land.

The conflict between the Chilean state and the Mapuche people remains a sensitive issue in the country today.

In an effort to maintain their ethnic and cultural differences and, above all, to obtain a recognized right to what they consider their historic territory, the Mapuche have undergone a violent process of forced assimilation and acculturation, denounced by many organizations and by the UN Special Rapporteur.

Numerous demonstrations are still taking place on a regular basis in Temuco. Several Mapuche leaders have begun hunger strikes to protest against the repression of the protest movement and against the prosecution of the most radical groups in the movement, which sometimes takes particularly violent turns. The violence on both sides, Chilean police and radical Mapuche, is regularly in the news in the country.

Beyond the issue of property, the Mapuche are using international law, such as the Charter of the United Nations Organization, and the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007, to demand their recognition and their right to self-determination on the model of ethnic minorities such as the Inuit in Canada.

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