Perquenco’s Traveling Guitarists: Music and Mapuche Cultural Revival under the Pinochet Dictatorship, 1980–88

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:30 PM
Liberty Suite 4 (Sheraton New York)
Scott Crago, University of New Mexico
Through a focus on a Chilean pilot project for indigenous Mapuche integration known as Plan Perquenco, this paper examines ethnicity, gender, nationalism and Mapuche collective memory during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in the 1980s. To correct the stagnant culture that the military officials felt plagued Perquenco’s Mapuche communities, the Ministry of Agriculture argued that music had to be a central aspect of Plan Perqeunco.  An examination of Plan Perqeunco’s Mapuche folklore group, Los Guitarreros Caminantes (the Traveling Guitarists), demonstrates the multifaceted and complex meanings attributed to music that reinforced, recreated, and subverted specific economic, political, ethnic, gendered, and national ideologies. In mandatory music classes, Mapuche youth utilized both their oral tradition and folk music to reconstruct a history that reinforced their sense of collective community belonging and cultural identity. Because music was part of Plan Perquenco’s cultural program, Mapuche youths’ participation in these programs was in no way illegal, but actually sanctioned by the dictatorship. Los Guitarreros Caminantes used this authorized space to travel throughout Mapuche communities in the Municipality of Perquenco to promote a cultural identity that highlighted the importance of traditional modes of communal work and land ownership that in turn directly challenged the military regime’s conception of citizenship based on individualism and private property ownership within male-headed nuclear families. Beyond the auditory and lyrical content of their music, the very act of uniting and performing as a band during a time of harsh military repression allowed Los Guitarreros Caminantes to affirm alternative ethnic and gender identities as well perceptions of community organization. Through the act of playing music, therefore, Los Guitarreros Caminantes reconstructed the boundaries of rural Mapuche citizenship to reproduce a cultural identity the dictatorship tried to eradicate.
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