Indigenous Mapuches of Argentina: All or Nothing – an analysis of the native resistance to capitalism


December 15, 2017 – Fort Russ News – Paul Antonopoulos – Translated from Descrifrando la Guerra.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – An ancestral town that could not be defeated neither by the Incas nor by the Spaniards faces the Argentine state in the 21st century. The reason: the subsistence of a nation. On the government side, the reasons are the same: the wealth of the land and its transfer to foreign corporations and billionaires. In the middle the death of Santiago Maldonado.


The Mapuches are a native people in the south of Latin America, in the Andean region that currently belongs to Argentina and Chile. In Argentinian Patagonia, the main settlements or communities are located in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut, and are more dispersed in the Pampean region.

The translation of its name -Mapuches- says it all and, today, it constitutes a true declaration of principles. Saying Mapuche is nothing but saying “People of the Earth”. The same land that the great Argentine, English and Italian landowners want to wrest from them, as many organizations linked to the defense of their rights point out, echoing their ancestral claims.

To put white on black, these lands are intended to wrest not only the local landowning oligarchy, but also its wealthy foreign partners: the Benettons, the Lewises and many more, who join their local customers with an unstoppable voracity. “We were before them, the land belongs to everyone,” says a keeper of Nahuel Pan (Apócope de Tigre), a Mapuche community 15 kilometers away from the city of Esquel.

Sometimes one wonders why this has happened? Why now and not before? And the answer is – among many others, as many are the questions – that a class hatred has been installed that can hardly be overcome without blood.

It is convenient to review the history and go to its origins to understand the whole. In the middle of the 19th century, Faustino Sarmiento wrote this: “For the savages of America I feel an invincible disgust without being able to remedy it. That sort of thing is nothing more than disgusting Indians whom I would send to hang up now if they reappeared. Lautaro and Caupolican are lousy Indians, why? they are all Unable to progress. His extermination is providential and useful, sublime and great. They must be exterminated without even forgiving the little one, who already has the instinctive hatred of civilized man.” El Progreso, September 27, 1844.

Thus, from 1810 the newly formed Argentine government ordered to establish commercial relations with the Mapuches, which had not been subdued by the Spanish conquest or previously subjugated by the Inca Empire. That commercial deal had a fleeting duration, because soon after the fighting began.

Between the years 1823 and 1884 (on the commercial agreement already fallen) Argentina launched the “Campaign of the Desert”, a military operation whose objective was to eradicate on the one hand the original peoples of the Chaco in the Argentine north and, on the other, those of La Pampa in the south of the country, understanding the region southward of the Colorado River.

In Chile, the 19th century was equally disastrous for the Mapuche community located on the other side of the Andes Mountain Range. As in Argentina, the Mapuches suffered significant losses and territorial losses at the hands of a campaign of subjugation and extermination directed by landlords.

In this context, reductions were created, overcrowding the survivors in a portion of territory equivalent to 1.5% ancestral, stripping the Mapuche of practically all their lands. In Argentina their fate was even worse, being confined to unproductive lands in forced exile at gunpoint, sabers and bayonets.

With the arrival of democratic governments, a kind of fresh air was installed in the region. The turning point was the approval of Law 26160 of Indigenous Communities, approved on November 1, 2006 and promulgated on November 23 of the same year. The law, in its first article, establishes “Declare the emergency in terms of possession and ownership of the lands traditionally occupied by indigenous communities originating in the country, whose legal status has been registered in the National Registry of Indigenous Communities or competent provincial body or pre-existing ones, for the term of 4 (FOUR) years “.

The concrete thing is that this Law has already been extended and now it must undergo a new extension, because little and nothing has been advanced in the matter and because this one 23 loses its validity ipso iure. In this context, the Senate of the Argentine Nation gave a half sanction to the extension, but its treatment in Deputies is still needed; a scenario that is seen as complicated. It is for this reason that many deputies of the Front for Victory (today Unidad Ciudadana) have submitted a request for their extension to be dealt with in the ordinary session of November 2017, which at the time of publication of this note would be carried out .

It should be noted that as of 2015 there was a change of political sign in Argentina, and with it, a change of paradigm. The aboriginal is no longer seen as a person who must be respected with their customs and rights, but rather as a scourge in the purest sense installed by Sarmiento.

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Currently, and beyond the legal issue, the Argentine government is committed to conducting a “Second Desert Campaign” under the argument that the Mapuches are Chilean. This argument does not resist the least analysis because, precisely, this ethnic group is preexisting to the current national states of Argentina and Chile. An attempt is being made to install a hypothesis of conflict with Chile with the aim of establishing North American bases in southern Argentina.

In 1991 the conflict took shape when the Italian corporation Benetton bought 900,000 hectares in Patagonia, most of them in Mapuche ancestral territories, where they raise more than 100,000 sheep to produce a percentage of the wool of the clothes they make. Shortly after, the Mapuches began to settle in these lands, in order to return them to their people after the extermination suffered a few centuries ago.

However, the start of this second campaign has its starting point in the Gregorian calendar: January 12, 2017. On that date, the national government of President Mauricio Macri of the political coalition Cambio (Pro + Unión Cívica Radical), together to his strategic ally Sergio Massa, ordered the National Gendarmerie to free Route 40 and clear the passage of the train known as ‘La Trochita’, which in its route links the stations of Esquel and El Maitén.

The crest of the wave, regarding the conflict, was recorded on August 1, 2017 with the death of Santiago Maldonado. The events took place in the area of ​​Pu Lof de Cushamen about 90 kilometers from the city of Esquel, bounded by the national route 40 (an emblematic route like the 66 US) that runs the country from south to north for a side, and the Chubut river to the other.

In relation to Esquel we will say that it is a small city of no more than 40,000 souls. It is located in the northwest of the province of Chubut (Argentina). Its dominant position within the Andean Patagonia, its riches and vast tracts of land, make it desirable for locals and foreigners alike.

Esquel has – it is fair to say – a vast trajectory of struggle. It is one of the few regions of the country that successfully opposed mega mining.

Every month Esquel celebrates its triumph over Mega Mining.

We had said that the turning point was undoubtedly the case of Santiago Maldonado. Santiago was a young man whose livelihood was tattoos, an anarchist ideology, recognized by friends as a pacifist, whose only sin was to embrace the Mapuche cause and ask for the release of one of its leaders: Facundo Jones Wala, arrested in Unit 14 of the National Penitentiary Service, with a seat in the aforementioned city of Esquel. The young tattoo artist, a native of the province of Buenos Aires (Argentina), on his Facebook profile called himself Juan Culfucurá (Kurru Chiued Tatto). It should be noted that Culfucura was a renowned Mapuche chieftain of the nineteenth century who fought for the rights of indigenous peoples.

Maldonado resided temporarily in the town of El Bolsón (province of Río Negro). This region, declared as the first non-nuclear municipality of Argentina, hundreds of hippies and people linked to alternative therapies that leave their mark in the region. Once in it, the young man soon became linked-according to sources consulted with the RAM (Ancestral Mapuche Resistance) – to the aboriginal claims for the struggle for the land, making them his own.

The result is known to all: on August 1, 2017 its disappearance occurred. On October 18 of the same year, a few days before the national legislative elections in Argentina, his body appeared on the banks of the Chubut River, in a spot near Pu Lof de Cushamen. The disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, his search, and the subsequent appearance of his body a few days before the legislative elections in Argentina, generated tension and rarefied the political and social climate of this region.

On November 1, 2017 marches were held in all the country asking for Maldonado.

The South American country showed, badly that it weighs to some, a false nationalism and a disgusting contempt for human life that settled in a good part of society. Half of the population scoffed at his death, the memes did not take long to appear, and the pro-government politicians laughed at such misfortune.

They said that Maldonado was alive, that he had been taken by a truck driver in Entre Ríos, who had cut his dreadlocks in San Luis, who was in the RAM (Mapuche Ancestral Resistance) and many other things. Even the national deputy Elisa Carrió (despised by the former President of the Nation, Dr. Raúl Alfonsín, now deceased) even said that 20% of Maldonado was in Chile, in a disrespectful abomination for a person who is said believer and respectful of institutions.

In the end his body appeared, and the autopsy has confirmed that his death was from hypothermia and drowning while fleeing in the middle of a repressive police operation. There are still several unknowns surrounding this death, so the murder can not be ruled out either. While the conflict continues to expand and at the same time that the wake of Maldonado took place, on November 25, another police operation ended the life of a Mapuche after receiving the impact of a bullet, in the midst of operations to expel the indigenous people from a Natural Park. The rest of the story is about to be written, because this is just beginning.

To conclude, for those who favor the confrontation with the Mapuches, the desire of the cacique Antieco (now deceased), man who was received by General Juan Domingo Perón to fly a flag that conjugates the two peoples -Mapuches and Tehuelches- came of 1987, until in 1991, on August 3, the aboriginal communities of Chubut met in Trevelin and raised the flag that was recognized by the government of Chubut.

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