Historically, the Mapuche people have faced different invasions, empire-building invasions. Before the Spanish, in fact, we faced the Inca Empire. For this reason, we have an image as a ‘warrior nation.’ I like to say that we have been in resistance, in self-defence, for many, many years. It’s different than us being a warrior nation because, say, we like violence or we are a violent people. We have had to resist these incursions by the various empires over the centuries.

Speaking specifically about the Spanish invasion, we fought a very strong war against them. The Mapuche territory is called the Spanish cemetery, because they suffered huge losses in their wars against us. The Spanish Empire, therefore, realized that they were taking very heavy losses, and they agreed to sign treaties with us, which allowed us to keep our autonomy for centuries. From 1641 to 1881, we were an autonomous nation.


 

So there is a bit of difference between the Mapuche and the other indigenous peoples of Latin America. So our history of loss of autonomy only goes back 125 years, and we are in the process right now of trying to recuperate our autonomy from the Chilean state.

 

In current times, the struggle of the Mapuche is not the same as in the past with armies invading our territories. It is an invasion of multinational companies that we’re facing today. So again -- although in the media we are often portrayed as a people always in conflict – they are the ones that are invading our territories and they are the ones who have started a conflict between us and them.

 

Excerpt from The Mapuche Struggle Today: An Interview With Vladimir Painemal Morales