September 1, 2009 - 12:00am
Twenty students from the Monterey Institute accompanied Professor Jan Black and Judge Juan Guzman Tapia, most notable for prosecuting former Dictator Augusto Pinochet, on a research tour of Mapuche communities in southern Chile last January. The Mapuche are an indigenous group, comprising about 4% of Chile's total population. Their communities now face environmental, socio-economic, and human rights issues.
Not quite knowing what to expect, we arrived in Santiago for two weeks in the field. We spent most of our time listening to the needs, interests, and personal reflections of Mapuche leaders, community members, and academic experts. And we traveled to Mapuche settlements in southern Chile, attending meetings, breaking bread, and conducting interviews.
Immersing ourselves in Mapuche life, we witnessed the effects of environmental contamination caused by transnational corporations and heard numerous accounts of human rights abuses committed by officials of the Chilean state. Judge Guzman continued his legal work, gathering evidence and testimonies to defend Mapuche leaders prosecuted under anti-terrorist laws.
We left with a sense of Mapuche life, their sacred relationship with the land, and their commitment to thrive as a community. Our research projects focused on Mapuche communications patterns, Chilean governance, women's human rights, and more. View the documentary trailer to learn more about our experiences: