In the disputed territory, the community persecuted by the government and the provincial justice system carried out an ancestral ceremony in front of Lake Mascardi, in an act of spirituality that gives meaning to the place from which they were dispossessed. A moment of connection with natural forces, while the security forces control the passage through a public space, they chase in vans, with an Argentine flag in the background where before there was a flag of the original peoples that said: Recovered territory. “We are convinced that we are going to return to the territory, always opening our hearts,” they say, while four Mapuche women remain under house arrest, including the machi who revealed the sacred status of these lands.
By Francisco Pandolfi for lavaca.org
It’s 6:30 in the morning and the day started a long time ago. The meeting point is in front of the Pilar neighborhood, on Route 40. Mapuche from different communities arrive there, from Chubut, Neuquén and other parts of Río Negro to carry out an ancestral ceremony. The destination will be the shore of Lake Mascardi, in front of where, until last October 4, the Lafken Winkul Mapu community lived, repressed and evicted by the Unified Command created by the Ministry of Security of the Nation under the command of Aníbal Fernández, then of the search warrant issued by Judge Silvana Domínguez.
The entire open-air road is flanked by a hill, to the left; and by mountains of the Andes mountain range and three lakes to the right (first the Nahuel Huapi, then the Gutiérrez and lastly the Mascardi). The landscapes are wonderful, fascinating. In these cases, one would like to have the gift of borrowing another pair of eyes, to encompass so much immensity and beauty. The trip is accompanied by the yellow broom, an exotic shrub that grows along the route and only blooms in November. Behind, a wide diversity of plants and trees, such as coihues, cypresses, lupines, broom, rose hips and Oregon pines. “The Oregon pine is introduced, it is not from here; it alters the soil and gains territory from the native flora”, says a local woman. She concludes: “It’s like the winka”, referring to the invading white person.
Half an hour after departure, you arrive in a territory that has nothing to do with what it was a month ago. The sign that reported: “Recovered Community” is missing. Also the Mapuche flag. In its place hangs an Argentine flag. Not a minute passes after having parked until several members of the Federal Police appear. “Unified Command”, they introduce themselves. It is explained to them that a ceremony will take place and they go down to the Mascardi. While walking there, reinforcements arrive from the other three forces that make up the Unified Command: Gendarmerie, Prefecture and the Airport Security Police. In the middle of the ceremony, the agents will say that all people must give them our data. We are in a public space. We are not in a state of siege. But that’s the order.
Despite the intimidation, what happens on the shore of the lake is magical, unique, difficult to explain in words: “Today is a day to share what everyone knows, and it is important that we all speak in some way; You have to be calm, calm. Our ancestors fought and that testimony lives on, we are still standing”, they start, first in circle, looking into each other’s eyes, listening to each other, seeking “collective harmony”. And celebrating the meeting: “Full of emotion to be here, in this place. We come to strengthen the mountain, before the injustices of the winka. It is so much pain that we carry; our bodies know the saddest story. We just want to live in freedom.” This place to which they refer is a paradise: a forest where the song of birds such as bandurrias and cauquenes can be heard; where Lake Mascardi and the Cordilleran mountain range seem infinite. A more than desirable area for the real estate business, matrix of a large part of Patagonia, which does not understand spirituality or worldview, or respect for cultural diversity. “We are convinced that we are going to return to the territory, always opening our hearts.”
They stop being in a circle and line up, one next to the other, looking towards the lake and the mountains. The ceremony begins, the guellüpun, as they say in Mapuzugun. Two instruments sound: the Kultrún –percussion– and the Kull Kull –a bovine horn originally used to make calls–. They sing, they play, they dance, they talk. “Our ancestors passed through here. So, what happens to us spiritually is very strong. The anger that we can have for what we are going through is transformed into ways of feeling and thinking. We cannot forget that we are close to the Rewe de la Machi and since she cannot speak, she cannot be in her place, she gives us the strength to make our word come out on the shore of the lake”. The Rewe is the specific space of connection with other dimensions of space and the Machi is the person who can treat and cure illnesses. It had been more than 100 years since a Machi had risen in Puel Mapu –Mapuche ancestral territory in what is now known as Argentina–. Today, the Machi Betiana Colhuan Nahuel is not in her territory because she was evicted, like the rest of her lof, and because she is also one of the four women who continues to be imprisoned, under house arrest.
There are childhoods, adolescents, adults. There are several generations that are seen, that are, in one way or another. “And the natural forces that also accompany us”, express the air, the water, the wind, the fire armed with branches and trunks, between stones that contain, that embrace. There are barefoot Mapuche, resting the soles of their feet directly on the mapu (earth). There is an old woman, a preponderant role in the original communities, who moves to her rhythm, supported by a golden cane that comes and goes, backwards and forwards, to the beat of the musical creation.
The pichiche (girls-boys) distribute a bag with seeds. Then, they serve a liquid in jars that has the color of a banana smoothie, which is called muday, mushay or muzay, depending on the community. “It’s a wheat drink, like a kind of nickname, but not quite because the wheat is not completely cooked,” they say. “The meaning, always in Mapuche ceremonies, is to share, you invite the land what you harvest or prepare. We do this specifically for ceremonies and it is the meaning of doing the guellüpun: a way of giving what you have, in this case the seeds and that drink; He gives himself so that what we say comes out better, what we ask for, to talk and share”.
They get even closer to the lake. The sun is radiant. They kneel. They release the seeds. Each one, each one speaks, asks, denounces, thanks, as needed. Unparalleled music is formed that shakes. Afterwards, they look at the sky and build a howl, together. A unity in the heterogeneity of the tones, of the rhythms, of the volumes, of what is said. The individual, the collective, the incredible, the everyday: “Our way of looking at the world is integral, it is with everyone, with everyone. There is the lake, the fire, the mountain, all speaking at the same time; an individual, public and collective moment is created; each person strikes up a conversation with the forces. It seems weird, doesn’t it? But it happens, it is possible. It is particular, but shared, we accompany each other. We know that many people do not understand this, but for us it is essential to transmit it, because it is about our spirituality”.
The ceremony ends. Several officers are waiting on the route. And a Federal Police van. And another Gendarmerie truck. And another van from Prefecture. And another truck from the Airport Security Police. If there is one thing that cannot be denied, it is that the Command is Unified. Why the deployment of Forces? “To maintain any inconvenience,” says assistant Flores, who “as of this week” is “in charge.” Later, Assistant Flores, without any identification on his jacket, retracts: “It is to avoid any inconvenience, both on his part and mine, and that the information is not distorted. Just that”. Behind, officer Santana films; he films us. the photographer of Cow he asks why. And Officer Santana doesn’t answer him; or yes, actually, because he doesn’t say a word but records it more and more. Now only her.
“Harassment against the Mapuche is being strengthened, against a different way of seeing the world, of understanding the place where we are living; It is not new, we have always suffered this type of persecution, discrimination, denial, contempt, racism against our people.”
We got into the cars to return the 30 kilometers that separate Villa Mascardi from the City of San Carlos de Bariloche. And the chase materializes, literally, for a few minutes: a Federal Police truck begins to chase us, faster and faster, without scruples, with impunity, in daylight. To the side, a lamien (woman) says, calm down, when the truck stops on the shoulder and is left in the distance: “Everything is going to be fine, we are doing what we should do.”