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Mitos y Leyendas: The Mapuche

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  • Genny de Bernardo shares facts about the Mapuche.
  • The Mapuche are one of the most well-known tribes, but not many know details about them.
  • There is still much to learn about this tribe.

The Mapuche, whose name means «people of the land,» derived from «mapu» (land) and «che» (people), occupied an extensive region at the southern tip of South America, encompassing both the central area of Chile and Argentina.

Based on their geographical location, they self-identified in different ways, such as «huilliches» for those in the south, «puelches» for those in the east, «ranculches» for those of the reed, «picunches» for those in the north, and «pehuenches» for those living near the pehuéns or araucarias, among others.

The cardinal points were of great importance to them, and they oriented the construction of their rucas (dwellings) accordingly.

Thus, the main door was always located to the east, and the beds were positioned with the head towards the direction of sunrise, never from north to south or vice versa.

Mapuche Conflicts

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According to their beliefs, the first arrangement was associated with life and the protection of benevolent spirits.

The second brought with it diseases and death, as they considered the south to be the starting point of the evil spirits that haunted them.

At that time, there were no clear boundaries between countries as we know them today. Wars and conflicts broke out between chiefs, tribes, or tribal confederations for various reasons.

Such as the kidnapping of women or the struggle for survival in territories suitable for agriculture and rich in plants and trees that served as a source of food.

Present Day

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Currently, the Mapuche survive in Chile, from the south of Bio-Bio to Puerto Montt, occupying different points in the pre-Andean region and on the coast.

Although it is estimated that the total number of Mapuche is 500,000, only about 200,000 of them maintain the language, traditions, and rituals. However, these figures are uncertain.

There is debate over the racial homogeneity of the Mapuche, as despite sharing a language and similar customs, they might have had ethnic differences.

Regarding the origin of the American races, there are numerous theories that will not be addressed in this moment.


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It is important to highlight that knowledge of Mapuche culture and mythology is largely due to dedicated and wise researchers.

They studied their language and observed their customs, rites, and traditions over three centuries.

Although these peoples did not have a written language, the compilation of their oral tradition allowed the partial preservation of their mysterious mythology, whose origins date back to prehistory.

Mitos y Leyendas thanks you for your interest and hopes that this information about the Mapuche has been to your liking. Until next time!

Mitos y Leyendas
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