A new generation of Indigenous Mapuche activists is drawing attention to an ongoing horror in the country’s south – police brutality against Mapuche youth.
The Mapuche, the largest Indigenous community in Chile, is also one of the most socially and economically disadvantaged groups in a country that already suffers significant inequality.
Their battle for recognition, justice, and the return of their ancestral lands has gone on for centuries, but the mass Chilean protests that broke out in 2019 were a further political reawakening for the Mapuche.
With more than one million people on the streets, angry at transport price hikes and demanding a more equitable society, the Mapuche flag become one of the defining symbols of resistance for all Chileans.
This solidarity breathed new life into the Mapuche cause, and activists called louder for the return of ancestral lands confiscated and sold to private companies during the rule of General Augusto Pinochet.
But it was the Mapuche Gen Z who drew people’s attention to an issue often swept under the rug – police brutality.
MC Millaray, or Millaray Jara Collio, is one of the most prominent Mapuche Gen Z activists. The 15-year-old has already been on the music scene for 10 years and has spoken up for her people all along.
“I feel that most of us who live in the city are complicit by being silent about the reality faced by the Mapuche in southern Chile,” she says.
“I’m recording a song with my dad to raise awareness about the violence and repression that Mapuche children face,”
In Araucanía, the “Mapuche heartland” seven hours drive south of Santiago, violent clashes between militarised Special Forces police and Mapuche communities trying to reclaim their ancestral lands rage on.
Activists and locals accuse the police of human rights abuses and abuse of power, including fabricating evidence against Indigenous activists and killing unarmed Mapuche civilians.
Confrontations escalated following the police shooting of 24-year-old Camilo Catrillanca, grandson of a prominent Mapuche leader, in the back of the head as he drove away on a tractor in November 2018.
The case outraged Mapuche communities and Chilean society at large and thousands took to the streets to decry the violence and to demand the disbandment of the “jungle commandos” unit responsible for the incident.
Millaray also uses her growing social media influence to highlight the injustices inflicted on the Mapuche communities in the country.
“All of us should have a free childhood. One free of repression. But as long as that’s not the reality, I’ll keep on raising my voice”, Millaray added.