Mapuche activism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
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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