26/01/08: El Bolsón: 500 Hundred march against the repression of the Mapuche People.
Around 500 hundred people marched around the streets of El Bolsón yesterday, in a demonstration against the repression of the Mapuche people at the hands of the Chilean and Argentine governments.
The demonstration, that started by the streets of St Martín and the Mapuche village, was aimed especially at the governor of Chile, in response to her actions concerning the assassination of Matías Catrileo Quezada, which happened on the 3rd January .
Critics of governor Michelle Bachet also highlighted the case of Patricia Troncoso Robles-the incarcerated Mapuche militant- who after being on hunger strike for the past 100 days is severely unwell.
A little before 10pm, the demonstrators stopped at the square ‘Republica de Chile’ where they carried out a symbolic act, during which they asked for the rights of the Mapuches to be recognised, and for the liberation of political prisoners.
Previously, throughout the afternoon, groups of musicians contributed to the festivities, in addition to which contributions of imperishable food were given to the community of Santa-Rosa Leleque, who little over a year ago reclaimed the land which had been taken from them by the Italian millionaire, Luciano Benetton.
In addition to the residents of santa-Rosa, members from neighbouring communities such as Emilio Prane and Nahuelpan, from Esquel, and Motoco Cárdenas, from Lago Puelo participated.
Testimonies of the people involved were given at the start of the march:
‘We are acting in solidarity with our incarcerated brothers in La Gulu Mapu’ stated huerquén José Prane in reference to the judiciary persecution faced by the Mapuche in Chile.
His sister Ana Prane expressed that, ‘The Mapuche, the Tehuelches, the Huiliches and the Guluches were here long before the state was born.’
‘I would like to remind people that before Chile and Argentina existed, this was one single territory, and for the original villages, borders didn't exist.’ Exclaimed Ana.
She also recalled the agression that her own community, situated close to Esquel suffered, ‘ The argentine army tried to opress us, they invaded our land and burned our houses, but nonetheless we continue to fight for what is ours.’
The families of Motoco Cárdenas also detailed the conflicts surrounding their land.
‘The powers which govern this locality do not want to acknowledge that the land that was occupied by the grandparents and fathers of the elders of today, is still occupied, by their children and grandchildren.’
‘The mayor Iván Fernández labels us as intruders in our own Mapu (land).’
‘ It is necessary for people to know about the problems we have here in the south. We wish to protect the natural environment, but there are those here that are much more interested in the value of the land. They wish to extract what they can and sell it abroad.’
‘However we remain firm in our convictions and are convinced that this is a fight that we can win.’ They ended by saying in front of the crowds.
Rosa Nahuelquir, from Santa Rosa, in Leleque, 70km south of El Bolsón explained the litigation that had happened between themselves and Luciano Benetton since he ‘bought’ the 900,000 hectares in dispute.
‘He is a landowner who has taken the land from us’, she stated, ‘That you have accompanied us in this struggle, despite not being Mapuche, means a great deal.’ She said to the audience.
Atilio Curiñanco, another member of the community stated that he considered the recent bloody episode in Chile as just one of those things ‘that has always happened’.
‘We´ve been thrown out once already, they simply threw our things to the side of the road.’
‘We went to Italy to see Benetton, not to bow down on our knees for him, but rather to show him the respect that we Mapuche have for everyone.’ He related, with an applause echoing his words.
‘I ask myself who respects us, when we are abused, when many of our brothers lose their lives defending our land and our way of life.’
‘We know that the road is hard and long, but whatever the consequences, we have decided to defend that which we hold precious, that which mother nature has given us. La Mapu has asked us to complete this mission, and that is what we are doing.’ Conlcuded Atilío, a little before iniciating the march.