Chile: Natividad Llanquileo, voice of the Mapuche hunger strike

By Paulina Aguilera Muñoz · Translated by Stephen Cairns · View original post [es]

In September, her name exploded on the net: Natividad Llanquileo, the spokesperson of the Mapuche prisoners at El Manzano prison in Concepción, Chile. She is 26 years old and a law student. The blog Ukhamawa [es] describes her:

Hasta antes de asumir como vocera, Natividad sufría de pánico escénico. Y hoy son pocos los que creen que se ruborizaba cada vez que tenía que hablar en público o daba una prueba oral en su carrera, la que congelara a causa de la huelga de hambre. ‘Pero de un día para otro se me acabó la timidez', confiesa. Esto, luego de que se vio enfrentada a participar en foros, vociferar con megáfono en diversas marchas, dar entrevistas y negociar de igual a igual con ministros y subsecretarios.

Until she became spokesperson, Natividad suffered stage fright. And today, few would believe she turned red each time she spoke publicly or took an oral test during her studies, she would have froze on the spot with something like the hunger strike. “But all of a sudden I stopped feeling nervous”, Natividad confessed. Since then she has faced confrontations in public forums, shouted over megaphones at various marches, given interviews and negotiated on equal footing with government ministers and undersecretaries.

On Facebook, she has a group of men and women following her, “Yo también admiro a Natividad Llanquileo” [es] [I also admire Natividad Llanquileo] and recently a Twitter account was opened (@NATIVIDADLLANQU), where she thanks all the people following her and reports on the Mapuche situation [es]:

Gracias a todos los que han solidarizado con nuestros hermanos, sus familiares y sus comunidades. Natividad Llanquileo.

Thank you everyone that has supported our brothers, their families and their communities. -Natividad Llanquileo.

As soon as the images of the Mapuche hunger strike were published, cyberspace responded quickly. Media outlets and social networks from several different countries have been moved by this girl's image and her steady voice that explains the hunger strike, the demands of the prisoners and the dignity of the Mapuches. An enormous image of her appears in the digital Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde [es].

Natividad Llanquileo. Photograph by Miguel Méndez, flickr account Méndez_vision, used with permission.

In the midst of the strike tension, voices such as Ulises de Laire's (@udelairep) began to show up:

si me permiten una frivolidad, que guapa es Natividad Llanquileo, la vocera y hermana de algunos de los chicos mapuches en huelga de hambre.

If you'll permit me this silliness, wow Natividad Llanquileo is beautiful, she is the spokesperson and sister to some of the Mapuche guys on the hunger strike.

Felipe Morales (@washingmaquina) declares:

Con todo respeto, un proceso tan complejo como el mestizaje puede ser explicado con una sola persona, Natividad Llanquileo. Que guapa!

With complete respect, a process as complex as racial mixing can be explained with one person, Natividad Llanquileo. So beautiful!

Natividad Llanquileo had two incarcerated brothers during the strike, Ramón in the Concepción prison and Víctor in the Angol prison. But the history of activism in her family is even older: her father, passed away three years ago, joined the indigenous movements of the 1970s, during the government of Salvador Allende.

Her history is one filled with struggles and reflects the reality of thousands of young Mapuches [es]. After finishing high school, Natividad moved to Santiago in order to find a job and earn money. Observatorio Ciudadano [es] describes her story like this:

“Yo creía que Santiago era más bonito y amable de lo que realmente es -recuerda Natividad Llanquileo-. Encontré trabajo como empleada puertas adentro en una casa particular. Cuidaba niños, hacía la comida, el aseo… Una vez a la semana tenía un día libre y me iba a casa de una hermana en Lo Espejo… Me levantaba todos los días a las 6 de la mañana para hacer el desayuno. Y la hora de acostarme nunca se sabía, a veces a las 2 ó 3 de la mañana, cuando los patrones volvían tarde. Es lo que pasa con la mayoría de la nanas”. También le costó aprender el funcionamiento de los aparatos electrodomésticos, adaptarse a los sistemas de transporte público y dominar las tecnologías que encontró en la ciudad.

“I thought that Santiago was more beautiful and friendlier than it really is,” recalls Natividad Llanquileo. “I found a job as a live-in maid in one house. I took care of the kids, cooked meals, cleaned… once a week I had a free day and I would go to my sister's house in Lo Espejo… I woke at 6 AM everyday to make breakfast. I never knew what time I would go to bed, sometimes it would be at 2 or 3 in the morning when my employers came home late. This is how it goes for the majority of nannies.” Also during that time she learned about modern life: the working of domestic electronic appliances, using systems of public transportation and control of technologies she encountered in the city.

Image by Camilo A. Riffo, @camiloriffo, used with permission

The adjectives on the Facebook page in her honor, some tending to be over the top, describe her as “a fighter true to herself [es]” “A smart and beautiful girl is a difficult combination to find. Her struggle and bravery are to be admired. [es],” “She has a profound look in her eyes that is able to reflect something special… it inspires courage and strength[es].” On twitter, @mxmg says that Natividad is “admirable.”

She is considered part of the “new mapuche generation” by Revista Que Pasa, reported by Prensa. Chile: asuntos indígenas [es]:

Cuentan que cuando niños cuidaban animales y vivían en rucas. Hoy estudian en la universidad. Admiran a Lautaro y no a Prat. A diferencia de sus padres, aprenden mapudungun y juegan palín. Están organizados y pretenden convertirse en dirigentes. El conocimiento winka es “una herramienta” para sus fines. Porque, definitivamente, no quieren ‘chilenizarse'.

They say that as children they took care of animals and lived in huts. Today they study at university. They admire Mapuche heroes like Lautaro and not Chilean national heroes like Prat. They differ from their parents in that they learn the Mapuche language and play Mapuche sports such as palín. They are organized and are trying to become leaders of their country. Mainstream Chilean knowledge is a “tool” towards their goals. They definitely do not want to “chileanize” themselves.

Magnetic, hypnotic are some of adjectives used by Patricio Hidalgo in El Quinto Poder [es]:

A diferencia de casi todos los políticos y opinólogos de nuestra patria, habla preciso, justo, ahorrándose los fuegos de artificio y las citas provocadoras. Hay algo de magnético, de hipnotizante en su fortaleza sencilla, en su tono de voz macerado, en su mirada huidiza. El contraste es notable: la pantalla es saturada por políticos que “denuncian” que los comuneros están comiendo, personas que hacen gárgaras con la “amenaza terrorista”, con la atrocidad de “atentar” contra la propia vida, y la respuesta viene simbolizada por una cara lozana, sencilla, inolvidable,

Different from almost all the politicians and talking heads of our nation, she speaks precisely, fairly, keeping herself from faked emotions and provocative quotes. There is something magnetic, hypnotizing in her simple strength, in her marinaded tone of voice, in her elusive gaze. The contrast is notable: the screen is saturated by politicians that “condemn” what the community is eating, people gargle with “terrorist threat”, with the atrocity of “taking” their own lives, and the answer comes symbolized as an unforgettable yet simple, fresh face.

From Youtube the thin but powerful figure speaks with clarity about the rejection of the prisoners' families from the negotiating table, as it was proposed by the government:

With the same clarity she came to the negotiating table, according to an interview [es]:

En una reunión, la primera, al ministro Larroulet lo apunté con el dedo y le dije fuerte: “Usted dijo que nosotros somos terroristas y ahora dice que no. Entonces ¿qué es lo que está pasando?”. En ese sentido, no porque sea ministro hay que tratarlo de otro forma, porque yo soy igual con todos. A quien veo con mucho respeto es al obispo Ezzati. Su rol en este tema ha sido muy importante. Si no hubiese sido por él, tal vez el gobierno hasta ahora no se hubiese sentado a conversar con nosotros. Además, para negociar con el gobierno, debíamos tener un facilitador, que a la vez es un garante, porque si no, no era negociación. Porque ¿quién nos asegura que el gobierno firme o no firme los papeles? Sin garante, una negociación no sirve.

In a meeting, the first thing I did was to point at government minister Larroulet and say loudly: “You said that we were terrorists and now you say that isn't so. So what has happened?” In that same sense, I believe that just because someone is a government minisiter they don't have to be treated differently, because I am the same as anyone else. One person I greatly respect is Bishop Ezzati. His role in this matter has been very important. If not for him, the government might not have felt like opening a dialogue with us until now. Besides, to negotiate with the government, we had to have a facilitator. At once there was a gurantee of follow-through, and if not for this, there would not have been a negotiation. Because who assures us that the government signs or doesn't sign the agreement? Without gurantees, a negotiation doesn't work.
Natividad, spokesperson weichafe [es] [representatives of the Mapuche nation and agents on their behalf] explains the division in the striking Mapuches:

Today, the tales of Natividad's brothers, Ramón and Víctor Llanquileo, from start to finish, are known, whether cheered or criticized. Natividad says that her father always taught them to never feel less than equal. An important lesson that begs the question: If everyone were taught the same thing, how many Llanquileos, how many young men and women of frank gazes and steady voices, would Chile have?

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