A new generation of indigenous Mapuche activists is drawing attention to an ongoing atrocity in the country’s south – police brutality against Mapuche youth.
The Mapuche, the largest indigenous community in Chile, are also one of the most socially and economically disadvantaged groups in a country that is already experiencing significant inequality.
Their struggle for recognition, justice and the return of their ancestral lands has been going on for centuries, but the mass Chilean protests that erupted in 2019 were a further political reawakening for the Mapuche.
With more than one million people on the streets, angry at transport price increases and demanding a more just society, the Mapuche flag has become one of the defining symbols of resistance for all Chileans.
This solidarity breathed new life into the Mapuche affair, and activists called harder for the return of ancestral lands confiscated and sold to private companies during the reign of General Augusto Pinochet.
But it was the Mapuche Gen Z that drew people’s attention to an issue that was often swept under the rug – police brutality.
MC Millaray, or Millaray Jara Collio, is one of the most prominent Mapuche Gen Z activists. The 15-year-old has been on the music scene for 10 years and has been talking to her people all along.
“I feel that most of us who live in the city are complicit in keeping silent about the reality that the Mapuche face in southern Chile,” she says.
“I’m recording a song with my father to raise awareness about the violence and oppression that Mapuche children face,”
In Araucanía, the “Mapuche heartland” seven hours’ drive south of Santiago, violent clashes rage between militarized special forces police and Mapuche communities trying to reclaim their ancestral lands.
Activists and locals accuse police of human rights abuses and abuses of power, including producing evidence against indigenous activists and killing unarmed Mapuche civilians.
Confrontations escalated after the police shooting of 24-year-old Camilo Catrillanca, grandson of a prominent Mapuche leader, in the back of the head when he drove away with a tractor in November 2018.
The case angered Mapuche communities and Chilean society in general and thousands took to the streets to reject the violence and demand the dissolution of the “jungle commandos” unit responsible for the incident.
Millaray also uses her growing social media influence to highlight the injustices done to the Mapuche communities in the country.
“All of us should have a free childhood. One free from oppression. But as long as that is not the reality, I will continue to raise my voice, “Millaray added.