Rethinking the Decade of Agrarian Reform in Chile: Community Mobilization, Territorial Restitution, and the Transformation of the Mapuche Public Sphere, 1960–73

Friday, January 2, 2009: 1:40 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York)
Florencia E. Mallon , University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
In the second half of the 1960s Mapuche peasants, often in coalition with leftist political parties, organized land occupations that dramatically radicalized the nature of the agrarian reform in Chile. Intensifying poverty and shortage of land in Mapuche communities between the 1930s and 1950s had sent the younger generation out in search of work. The opportunity to participate in unions and other popular organizations created, for this group, the possibility of political alliances that were not mediated by already existing Mapuche organizations. Although part of a general radicalization, the land takeovers were most profoundly motivated by the failure of legal strategies of land restitution pursued throughout the first half of the twentieth century. When radical leftist parties called for direct action, second-generation leaders—many of them with migration experience—were ready to listen. Creative alliances with leftist parties also allowed rural community leaders a new presence in the public sphere that had previously been the province of more educated and urbanized Mapuche leaders. Dramatic Mapuche participation in the mobilizations that radicalized Chile's national-popular state highlights the persistent contradiction between national modernism and internal colonialism that has informed twentieth-century indigenous politics. A coalition with the left promised national inclusion through land restitution and the democratization of Mapuche politics. Yet even the radical left dismissed Mapuche desires for cultural and political autonomy, something that more urbanized Mapuche leaders had been envisioning throughout the twentieth century. It would only be during the Pinochet dictatorship, and especially in the early years of the transition to democratic rule, that a new generation of urban Mapuche activists in alliance with local communal leaderships would initiate the current wave of radicalization in which the presence of both groups in the public sphere has transformed the Mapuche movement as a whole.
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