lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Mar 12 07:01:15 MST 2003
LA Times, March 12, 2003
Where Forests Are Foes
Tree farming in Chile has displaced thousands of indigenous Mapuche
Indians. But it has also fueled a rebirth of activism and pride.
By Héctor Tobar, Times Staff Writer
COLLIPULLI, Chile -- Because eucalyptus trees are thirsty, Victor
Ancalaf became a rebel.
Growing like cabbages in neat rows planted by one of the largest
forestry companies in South America, the trees suck the water out of the
ground, killing off streams and making wells run dry in this corner of
Chile. For Ancalaf and other Mapuche Indian leaders, that is one
indignity too many.
So every now and then, the Mapuche set ablaze the trees and the trucks
of companies that plant them. Ancalaf is charged with burning five
vehicles as part of a smoldering, low-tech war that also is being fought
with slingshots, chain saws and homemade shotguns.
Just as often, however, the Mapuche fight back with peaceful means.
Medicine women called machis pray for the spirits of the water and the
earth to stand fast against the "exotic species" transplanted from North
America and Australia. On the Internet, activists spread word of their
struggles, making allies in Sweden, France and other countries where
leftists have ties to Latin American compatriots.
"We've entered into a period of darkness of water, and this is bringing
us to the brink of extinction," said Rayen Kuyeh, a Mapuche poet and
playwright. "If wanting to defend the spirits of the water, the trees,
the birds, the earth and the air makes me a terrorist, then go ahead and
call me a terrorist."
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