Located 700 kilometers south of Santiago, La Araucanía is a region shaped by volcanoes, rivers and lakes, but it is also the best place for getting to know the Mapuche people, the “people of the land.” In this article, we will tell you about 5 experiences with the Mapuche people available to you in the south of Chile.
The Mapuche people are the largest and most representative indigenous group in the country. Alienated and persecuted for centuries, the Araucanos —the name given to them by the Spanish— are some of the very few who understand the potential of the land beyond agriculture. For this reason, La Araucanía has been the site of ethnic tourism projects that give visitors the possibility of a cultural exchange, whether it be sleeping in a traditional Mapuche ruca, cooking with products collected and cultivated from their lands or participating in ancestral rituals is one of the best experiences with the Mapuche people.
Here you have different kind of experiences with the Mapuche people. The Weaver of Curarrehue
Just 45 minutes by car from Pucón, you can find the workshop of Juanita Becerra, in Curarrehue. Surrounded by the brown, blue and green tones of the landscape, it is this same nature which inspires the work of the young Mapuche woman. For Juanita, color is directly related to happiness.
The weaver invites us to know her work, which she has been perfecting since she was only six years old. It was her mother who encouraged her to learn this ancient technique which combines loom weaving with felt. In the Mapuche culture, the tradition is that the parents and grandparents are the ones to transmit their knowledge to the youngest family members from an early age. In true Mapuche style, Juanita is involved in the entire process: she shears her sheep, washes the wool and dyes it with materials collected from her garden.
Loom weaving is the exclusive work of the Mapuche women. Juanita’s creations weave together symbols and the history of a community that refuses to go away. Originally, the woven drawings were not done at random: they could be used to tell a story or give specific information on someone’s social role, in a way that seems impossible to decipher by outsiders.
For Juanita, the elements around her —including the breathtaking view of the Curarrehue valley and the Trancura river— come to life through her creations: clothing, accessories and decorative pieces that visitors buy to take a little part of La Araucania back home with them. But it doesn’t stop there: the weaver also offers a guided tour of life in the country, inviting guests to know the animals and plants that inspire both her and her culture.