IHP Human Rights Spring 2015 – Chile


Santiago and Curarrehue

We are currently sitting in a volcanic ash storm in Curarrehue in the south of Chile. It is 11 am and it is pitch black outside.

Cocina Mapuche in Curarrehue, Chile.Cocina Mapuche in Curarrehue, Chile.

Picture credit: Lizzy Brilliant

We are currently at Cocina Mapuche where we ate two times. The Mapuche woman who co   oks there was also one of our host mothers.

We have been in Curarrehue for the past five days studying indigenous rights and their intersectionality with environmental rights. We have been staying with local Mapuche families who have taught us a lot about their lucha (fight, struggle) to protect their land from hydroelectric companies and fight discrimination. Mapuche people have been systemically oppressed by the state and the hydroelectric companies. This oppression is rooted in history and still demonstrates itself today.

This river is one of the rivers the hydroelectric company is trying to take over. Not only does this river have spiritual and ancestral meaning, but as you can see, there is very little water in it. This means that if the hydroelectric company took over this land, it would pollute the river and also reduce the amount of water so that there is none left.

River in Curarrehue, Chile

River in Curarrehue, Chile which hydroelectric companies are trying to destroy.

Photo Credit: Marianne Retif

We have learned about living sustainably as a community rather than pursuing individualistic economic gain. The Mapuche have taught us about the meaning of solidarity, integrity, respect, and community. They pass on their culture through their food. For example, they have a market every February which they coordinate all together.

 A sign from the Mapuche in Curarrehue, Chile

A sign from the Mapuche in Curarrehue, Chile, calling for autonomy, justice, land, and liberty.

Photo Credit: Marianne Retif

They discuss all matters that impact them as a community because when one person is affected, they all are. Furthermore, they resist oppression by passing on their language and spirituality to their children. Their spirituality is rooted in connection to the earth.

The resilient Mapuche write signs like this to denounce the truth.

Mapuche Sign

Curarrehue, Chile

Photo credit: Lizzy Brilliant

We are headed back to Santiago tonight and will begin to wrap up our final week. In Santiago we have been studying human rights violations that occurred during the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973-1990 and the aftermath that followed. We learned about people seeking justice for those who were killed, disappeared and tortured during the regime. We also met with people who worked on the transitional justice system after the dictatorship.

We walked through Villa Grimaldi, a former torture center for political dissidents, with a resilient woman who had been detained there. Despite the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990, his legacy continues in Chile both politically and economically due to the continuation of his constitution of 1980 and his implementation of neoliberal economic policies.

Panoramic of Santiago, Chile

Panoramic of Santiago, Chile

Photo Credit: Marianne Retif

We have also learned about the influence that United States policies and intervention continue to have on Chile and numerous other American countries, ranging from CIA involvement in coups d’état to neoliberal economic pressures.

Additionally, we have met with organizations like Red Chilena and MEMCH, which fight to end violence against women. We also met with FECH, a student organization fighting for the right to education.

We are so grateful for the people we have met who have opened up their homes and their knowledge and wisdom with us. We are thankful for everything we have learned. We will be back home soon!


IHP Human Rights Students Spring 2015

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