On the morning of Thursday, October 20th, approximately 30 families from the Mapuche-Huilliche community of Huichan Mapu walked onto a 250 hectare (approximately 615 acre) parcel of land in Frutillar, Chile and began a peaceful occupation of the land. The community was removed from the land in 1991 and has been trying, unsuccessfully, to use the processes of the state to gain its return. According to their spokesperson, the families are prepared to stay on the land indefinitely until the land is returned to the community.
Prior to 1991, the Hulliche community members lived on and farmed the land that they now peacefully occupy. But in 1991, according to the lonko (leader) Florinda Martínez Gáez, the land was taken from the community when other individuals “misrepresented” the land’s status. At that point in time, men, women and children were removed from the land. Since then, the community has sought the return of their lands by going to authorities at the regional, provincial and national levels. With those efforts leading nowhere, the decision was made to take peaceful action to recover their traditional lands.
The community’s spokesperson, José Hernández, added that the families have no intention of leaving the land until it is returned to their people. Hernández also indicated that the community has documents proving that they were rightfully on the land 40 years ago, although CONADI seems to indicate that no records from that far back currently exist.
The community’s efforts have resulted in a meeting to take place on Friday, October 21st, which will involve community members, the Governor and a representative from CONADI (the Chilean government’s Indigenous development corporation). Assuming that the issue won’t be resolved with one meeting, the people of Huichan Mapu have called upon other Mapuche leaders and communities to support their efforts.
The occupation has, thus far, occurred without incident, although police officers were sent in to the entrance of the land to ensure that order is maintained.