The discovery... of the Mapuche
Arturo Tapia travelled to Chile to learn more about the Mapuche, the indigenous inhabitants of central Chile.
When one thinks of Chile, the usual thoughts are of the Atacama desert, Torres del Paine, Valparaiso, Easter Island and (let’s admit, for most of us), the delicious wine. However, on my last holiday to Chile, I was fortunate enough to discover something off the beaten track, and a real one-of-a-kind cultural experience.
Alongside a group gratefully hosted by the Chilean tourist board, I flew into Temuco airport (only 2 hours away from Santiago), and from there made the journey to a small cultural village. Arriving at a local house we were welcomed heartily by a lady called Juanita and her mother, who are both indigenous Mapuche. Meaning ‘people of the land’, the Mapuche population have lived in the Araucanía region of Chile as well as parts of Patagonia (and Argentina) for hundreds of years – long before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Mapuche have always managed to remain independent, and have held onto their self-sustaining spirit which we were privy to see.
The main form of artwork in the community is textiles, and Juanita showed us how she uses her weaving machine to produce textiles and tapestries. She colours the wool naturally, using plants and seeds, and we were able to see the traditional process used.
We also learned how to prepare bread for our lunch. The flour is produced locally in the village, and the bread is cooked in the hot ashes of what one might call an open-air fireplace for lack of a better description. The bread was served with vegetarian fare, and again, all the ingredients were sourced locally; many from the forests nearby. This was genuine local, organic eating – and it was delicious.
Aside from simply soaking in the culture, there are numerous outdoor activities to keep you busy, including visiting the nearby thermal pools, or walking and trekking through the truly beautiful landscapes.
When it was time for us to go, we were brought presents of tapestries, liquors and jams to keep the memory of the Mapuche alive. Leaving the local houses and stepping into the thin, cool air I knew – I would never forget this meaningful, magical experience.
Cox & Kings offers an excursion to Mapuche, as part of a tailor-made package. See more details on the website, or call 020 7873 5000 to speak to a Latin America specialist.