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News > Latin America

Chile: Mapuches Fight Tourism Project to Protect Sacred Lands

  • The Villarrica National Park is considered sacred by Mapuches and a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO.

    The Villarrica National Park is considered sacred by Mapuches and a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO. | Photo: Creative Commons

Published 23 April 2018

The ecotourism project Sky Lican Ray - Pinohuacho is being opposed by neighboring Mapuche communities.

Mapuche communities in Chile are opposing the construction of the Sky Lican Ray – Pinohuacho recreational center in Ruka Pullan, by the Villarrica volcano, a place considered sacred by its inhabitants for its spiritual significance and natural resources.


Imprisoned Mapuche Leader Denied Permission to Attend Ceremony

“We totally oppose the intervention in a space with such great cultural and spiritual meaning for our fellentun kay kume mongen (believes and good-living) like the volcano, which gives us newen (energy) and therefore deserves all our deep respect. At the end, we want to keep being Mapuche,” reads a statement signed by Indigenous communities neighboring the Villarrica national park, including the Rudecindo Ancalef community and inhabitants of Challupen, Pucura, Trapel and Chiguaico.

The Chilean government established the Villarrica National Park in 1940, and the UNESCO also recognizes it as a Biosphere Reserve. According to the press release, these conditions should protect the region from any extractivist activity or any other threats against its preservation and biodiversity.

The communities are appealing to the International Labour Organization's Convention 169, which establishes that Indigenous people have the right to decide their own fate and priorities regarding development, according to their own views and traditions.

“We confirm our firm will to totally reject the installation of the 'Sky Lican Ray – Pinohuacho Center' project in our Ruka Pullan sacred place. Therefore, we're calling all conscious society, Mapuche or not-Mapuche organizations, for support to protect one of the few natural places within the Wall Mapu [the Mapuche ancestral territory].”

The center is being promoted as a recreational Ecotourism sustainable center with skying facilities, cabins, and thermal waters.

The communities also demanded the Chilean government comply with the requests of Machi Celestino Cordova, who is asking for a two-day permission to leave prison and attend a ceremony with his Rewe, something all Machis (the community and spiritual authorities) must do to renew energies.

“We manifest our rejection to the biased attitude expressed by the government towards the hunger strike... not understanding the spiritual connection the Machi have with their Rewe, and that the Machi obey their Pulli [spirit], that you don't get to understand our way of feeling and understanding life as a Mapuche,” says the communique.

Machi Celestino Cordova has been on hunger strike for more than 100 days and has recently lost consciousness for about three hours. The government is refusing to negotiate with him.

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