Mapuche social anthropologist and gender specialist Meli Cabrapan Duarte has warned that there is an “overload” on them as they are supposed to be “natural protectors of territories” as they are considered “closer to nature than men”. .
Capraban Duarte indicated that they seek to reverse the idea that “women are the ones who serve and men are the ones who speak,” as part of the Indigenous Women’s Day, which is being observed today.
Mellie’s “tuwvn” (territorial origin) is Gulumapu, a territory located near the Villa Rica volcano, in Chile, “although they say the family was displaced from the sea there” and her paternal grandparents emigrated to Argentina to settle first in Bahía Blanca and then in Bariloche, where she was born under the registered name of “Melissa”, although her mother preferred to call her Meli (“four” in Mapuzungun).
Her process of “revival,” as she likes to call the self-identity of the Mapuche people, began when she studied social anthropology at the University of Rio Negro and in her subsequent doctorate at the University of Buenos Aires, where she specialized in gender studies and feminist anthropology.
He is currently a member of Lof Newen Mapu, 15 kilometers from the center of the town of Neuquén, which is organized as the Xawvn Ko Zonal Council of the Neuquén Mapuche confederation along with 12 other lofs established in what is now called “Vaca Muerta”.
Challenge the feeling of wilderness
From these elevated lands on a plateau crossed by “manguerotes” – as they call the hoses that carry water from the rivers to the hydraulic fractures – and where temperatures vary between 40°C and -5°C, their lof seeks to challenge “a sense of desert” of the place because “they always advanced on these lands with the idea that there was nothing here,” Meli said.
Regarding the process of building the Argentine nation state and its evolution until today for Mapuche women, Cabrapan Duarte points out: “These are questions that we are all building together, especially for 7 years in the process of thinking that we are a people of mapuche , but also look at what happens to women. We emphasize how historically indispensable we have been for the Mapuche people to sustain themselves. And this support includes the transfer of knowledge. Women have always been central to the preservation and transmission of the language or knowledge of weaving, of many arts. What the military campaigns produced was not only the confiscation of territories and the pretense of total destruction, there were also people who entered a process of proletarianization or slavery when they had to go to the cities. So there was a break in this transmission of knowledge, but the lamgen (sisters) preserved it. Today, in the process of Mapuche revival, we seek to mobilize them or awaken this knowledge in them.
Second meeting of Mapuche women
The inclusion of women in decision-making spaces in communities is now much more visible. “Things have changed over time. There is already participation of women in political roles. Of the 12 communities that make up our zonal council, just under half are women, lonko at the helm. It’s not that women haven’t been in political places before because they’ve been pushed out, but because maybe there hasn’t been time for them to do it. We are currently planning the second meeting of Mapuche women, which will be at Lake Wechulafquen, in Junin de los Andes, and one of the axes is political strengthening. Sometimes politics leads to accepting a certain masculinity in this role in order to assert a voice, to be heard and respected. It made us think that we don’t want to reproduce those roles that we criticize, that we’re not mutually exclusive, and try to iron out those rough edges that can exist between women as well. We are very critical when we talk about “leader”.
Here we can say that there is representation, there are speakers, but we try to blur those roles that are sometimes personalized because we don’t all feel represented. In this collective construction that we do, we say that people matter, that the common matters, that women matter,” says the anthropologist.
It is not women who serve, but men who speak
Regarding how patriarchy is expressed in communities, Cabrapan Duarte states, “There is a need to trace what caused machismo or violence to become visible in communities or organizations. We don’t want to romanticize because we don’t have enough tools to say that the Mapuche people were completely egalitarian, and that didn’t happen. Because beyond the fact that these elements of complementarity, of duality, can be found in the worldview, it is not really useful for us to refer to this supposedly ideal past, but rather to review what is happening today. What has happened recently is that with the uprising of the Mapuche people and their organization since the 1990s, we have recognized the place of women as fundamental.
They have always been fundamental in the care that the entire organizational process requires. That is, what is behind all this struggle: the reproduction of everyday life, caregiving, and taking on tasks that are feminized in society at large and also in the Mapuche people. Today we try to turn these questions around, that it is not women who serve, but men who speak. We were recently in Buenos Aires working on the recommendations made by the Office of the Public Defender for the media. We emphasize the care to resort to the voices of women who are organized or can be that representative voice of the discussions that take place. Sometimes it happens that a woman recognizes herself as Mapuche and this voice represents everyone or analyzes a situation and this background may not be like that. We then reaffirm our collective and organizational character.
Personally, I think that sometimes indigenous women are overworked, as if we are closer to nature than men, as if we are natural protectors of territories. This does not mean that we are not busy in the first place: it is the care and ability to provide all this daily life that is directly related to the land. But it affects us as a people, and men and other identities are also involved in this battle.”