Three days among the Mapuche in Chile

Article published on Oct. 4, 2012
Article published on Oct. 4, 2012
''Author:Van Laethem Benjamin , Belgium Photos are taken by Van Laethem Benjamin The article is the 3rd prize winner of the Mladiinfo Article Contest 2012'' It was in the end of March , a chain of acquaintances who I have met during my travel brought me there. I’m still half sleeping in my room, yet I can hear a huge bustle outside.
In that moment I preferred to stay in my bed, firstly because it’s around 5 a.m. and secondly because the members of the community are killing a horse to feed themselves and the hosts during the following days. I would prefer avoiding this scene and enjoying better my meals later.

Today, it is the preparation day. We are going to load the trucks and cars with all the needed materials. Later on we are going to prepare by hand all the ‘kofke’ we need. ‘Kofke’ is the local name for the handmade little bread, which every family is making almost everyday to fill its household. The representative families of the community and I will collect a huge amount of branches in order to make sheds around the ceremony place. These sheds will be our living place

for the three days of the ceremony. Each shed is held by a family and each family is responsible for it. Every family is also taking care for the invited hosts. The shelters are placed around a circle of little trees, where in the middle of the trees is situated a totem, the ‘Rehue’. The ‘Rehue’ is a pole of few meters high, which is cut as a ladder shape, in order to make the connection between the physical and spiritual world. Around the sheds, there is a huge path of trodden earth, which is- I will discover it later- made by horses.

I’m in Chile in the ‘Araucanian’ region between Santiago and the Land of Fire. I’m there to make my thesis in anthropology about the local family farmers (‘mini-foundo’). My thesis is about the difference between the Mapuche, the local indigenous people, and the Chileans who have came with the migration. I would like to see the differences inside the agriculture, the commercialization and the consumption between those two peoples. I do not know how, but I have given to myself, with the help of what I can call now friends, the opportunity to participate to a Mapuche ritual called ‘Guillatun’. Although the friends who have invited me here have described me the ceremony, it would have still been a mystery to me. I have the chance to be one of the hosts, because some community opened their “Guillatun” to the tourists, while others not. In this case the only requirement they asked me is not to take picture.

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