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Reading: The Economic Status of the Mapuche Indians of Chile


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The Economic Status of the Mapuche Indians of Chile


Donna Kish-Goodling

Muhlenberg College
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The original inhabitants of today’s nation-state of Chile were a conglomeration of indigenous tribes currently called the Mapuche. The word Mapuche is derived from “mapu” meaning “land” and “che” meaning “people”. Literally, Mapuche means “people of the land” or “people of the earth”. Ironically, the history of the Mapuche since the Spanish invasion is intrinsically tied to possession of their ancestral lands. The Mapuche way of life was dependent on the spiritual and economic importance of land ownership and stewardship. In rural areas, it still is. Today, the Mapuche are fighting to preserve what little land they have left in their possession. More importantly, their current abysmal economic status has been a direct result of many of them becoming landless and migrating to the cities in the hopes of fitting into a market economy. Centuries of large scale social discrimination and little political power have made them the poorest Chileans. They are also struggling to organize as a small political force with the goal of regaining some of the land the non-Mapuche have taken from them over the last 450 years. Their struggle is of the grandest scale. They are continually fighting political battles, overcoming violations of their human rights, and facing aging demographics that threaten the continuity of their cultural history and ethnic identity—all in the face of protecting their land titles from transnational corporations, logging companies, and even the Chilean government.
How to Cite: Kish-Goodling, D., (2008). The Economic Status of the Mapuche Indians of Chile. Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies. 21(1), pp.16–30. DOI:
Published on 01 Jan 2008.
Peer Reviewed


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