For our third week in Chile, we traveled on a bus for 10 hours to a town called Curarrehue to spend a few days living with indigenous Mapuche families. This week truly marked me. As we drove into the town, I was in awe by the vast green mountains, countless miles of animals roaming free, and the fresh crisp air all around. This was very different from Santiago where the air is noticeably polluted. I was so filled with excitement as the sheep, cows, and horses greeted me.
The days consisted of gathering in various places for class, visiting different Mapuche gathering sites, and then spending the evenings with our families. We learned about the ways that the state is and has been terrorizing Mapuche people, and stealing their land for years. We learned about how the land to the Mapuche people is not just a “natural resource” to be monetized, but sacred sites that are to be cultivated, sustained, and respected. Their deep reverence for land and animals taught me so much about how to be sustainable, ethical, and convicted me of the waste I produce and of the ways in which I have perceived land. We visited the river that hydroelectric water companies are trying to privatize, and we learned the ways their community will be destroyed if that project proceeds.
Mapuche people have been severely oppressed by the government for years. Much of their land has been stolen, and the government continues to take more. Police continuously raid Mapuche communities.
Meal times were some of my favorite times here. As Mapuche people don’t use chemicals and antibiotics in their crops, their food was some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. Each day, our host mom made fresh bread, vegetables, and served us Matte tea. For breakfast, we ate jam that they made from the berries they picked, and for dinner we had a salad of mushrooms that grow on the trees in their backyard. My favorite part of meals were our conversations and our time spent together. Time in Curarrehue is not rushed or centered around the list of things that need to be done. It is a time to hone in on the people around you, to look out the window together, to sit in silence, and to enjoy one another’s presence.
This week composed of deep reflection, of dancing, eating well, hearing the stories of people who are fighting for their land and water, and a time to appreciate and connect with nature. This week was truly rejuvenating.