Reportage. A delegation of South American indigenous representatives arrived at St. Peter’s Square and delivered a letter to the Argentine pontiff: “We have been subjected to this day.”

Mapuche to the Pope: We need a call for compensation

The voice of the Mapuche people has reached the Vatican, thanks to the presence of a delegation invited Wednesday for the general audience with the Pope.

Rosario Railaf Zuñiga, a Mapuche activist from Chilean Araucanía, exiled together with her family after Pinochet’s coup in 1973, today working on behalf of the European Coordination in Support of the Mapuche Indigenous People, presented a letter to Pope Francis that contained a clear expression of their expectations for his visit to Chile next January.

She was joined by Juan Carlos Carrilaf, a Mapuche-Tehuelche artist from the province of Rio Negro, Argentina, and Alex Mora, of Mapuche origin and an activist for the Society for Threatened Peoples in Germany.

Later on they held a press event at the AIASP Casa dei Popoli, in partnership with EcoMapuche and the Caos group, where they illustrated the struggle of an indomitable people, which did not surrender to the Spanish colonizers of centuries past, just as they will not surrender to the invaders of today: the oil and mining industries, agribusiness and large landowners, backed by the governments on both sides of the Cordilleras.

This is a people that continues to suffer violence and abuse, from the fierce repression of the Pu Lof Mapuche community in Argentinian Patagonia (where Santiago Maldonado died, was killed or was left to die), to the invocation of the anti-terrorism law enacted during the dictatorship of Pinochet against the Mapuche resistance in Chile.

In their letter to Pope Francis, the Mapuche reaffirmed their desire for dialogue on the basis of self-determination and against all paternalism and colonialism, to which, they write, “we have been subjected to this day.” They denounced the seizure of Mapuche lands and their resources with “the acquiescence of the Vatican,” from which they now expect a clear repudiation of the “Discovery Doctrine,” in order to finally realize the meeting between the two worlds that has never been accomplished to this day.

“We expect from you an imperative statement on the need for compensation for the damage caused to the Mapuche people, their land and cultural heritage, so as to achieve a stable and lasting peace on the basis of truth and justice,” they wrote to the pope.

In this way, for the occasion of the Pope’s future visit to Wallmapu, their ancestral territory, the Mapuche are reminding Bergoglio of their need to hear words beyond a mere generic appeal for peace: “We would like,” they conclude, “for you to call for truth, justice and peace to be established in Araucanía.”

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