Academic journal article Chasqui

Between Accommodation and Resistance: Manuel Manquilef and Mapuche Oppositional Writing

Academic journal article Chasqui

Between Accommodation and Resistance: Manuel Manquilef and Mapuche Oppositional Writing

Article excerpt

Within the past thirty years, the work of Mapuche poets in Chile has become increasingly visible, with numerous anthologies and individual publications circulating each year within the country and abroad. (1) While the themes and styles of Mapuche poets vary, many use their writing to expose abuses carried out against the Mapuche during Spanish colonization which, they argue, have continued with Chilean governance. To denounce historical and present mistreatment, several poets incorporate official versions of the past within their poetry to emphasize the symbolic violence they constitute and to invite readers to consider alternative versions. Chilean critic and academic Mabel Garcia Barrera observes that by incorporating dominant discourses in their poetry, some Mapuche poets "invert the immobilizing function with which European rationality sees 'the other'" (177), thus becoming important sources of counter histories. This poetic technique forms part of a trajectory of Mapuche resistance through writing, and serves as one of the most effective ways to understand Mapuche writers as agents engaged in a centuries-long struggle rather than a phenomenon that began in the late twentieth century. (2)

Manuel Manquilef (1887-1950), the first known literate Mapuche to publish texts for indigenous and non-indigenous readers (Huenun 18), offers an early example of this technique. In this article, through close readings of his first two publications, I will show that although Manquilef's publications purport to be ethnographic descriptions of the Mapuche, they offer written strategies for resisting integration into Chilean society following a military campaign to eliminate their sovereignty. Ry analyzing Manquilef's use of language in each publication, we may appreciate his specific strategies for gaining non-indigenous acceptance of his texts while simultaneously creating a model of discursive resistance for existing and future Mapuche writers in Chile.

Post-Occupation Official Discourses about the Mapuche

The Mapuche Indians of Chile maintained sovereignty over much of the southern part of the country for over 200 years after signing the Treaty of Quiliin in 1641 with the Spanish. The treaty established the Bio Bio River as the border between Spanish jurisdiction, which began on the river's northern shore, and Mapuche Jurisdiction, which began on the southern shore and extended as far as the Toiten River. In the decades following Chilean independence from the Spanish in 1818, creole intellectual elite and government leaders faced internal and external pressures to modernize, and most believed that Mapuche sovereignty, established in the Quiliin ?freaty, was a threat to the country's economic, political, and cultural unification. To eliminate that sovereignty, Chilean governments attempted to annex Mapuche lands in a military campaign officially and euphemistically called, at the time, the "Pacificacion" (1861-83), in which thousands of Mapuche died and thousands of others were displaced onto reservations or reducciones (Bengoa 223). While some Mapuche groups supported inclusion into Chile's nation, most participated in a final attempt to obstruct the Chilean military's movement south into Mapuche territories in the 1881 Malon General on Chilean military forts. While the General Attack slowed the military, in 1883 it claimed victory and the successful annexation of Mapuche lands.

During and following the military incursion, also known as the "Ocupacion,"^ the government increased efforts to consolidate jurisdiction over Mapuche lands and incorporate Mapuche people into Chile's nation by investing in public schools where Spanish literacy was a priority (Donoso 47). As Chilean historian Jose Bengoa states:

   En prueba de paz y como testimonio de alianza, se acostumbraba que
   los caciques entregaran un hijo para ser educado en Concepcion,
   Chillan o Santiago. Se los mantenia como rehenes y se los educaba
   de modo que adoptaran las costumbres criollas, para que--se
   pensaba--al volver a su rehue "civilizaran" a sus hermanos de raza. … 
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