True stories with a twist!

Mapuche Woman

It was a singular experience, unlike any I had ever had seen before. We were in Chile, and were invited to visit a Mapuche woman in her own home. Through an interpreter, she told us about the proud history of her people, and how they fared today.

At one time the tribe was isolated from other nearby cultures because of a wide river that separated them. Once a bridge was constructed the Mapuche were drawn into the educational system and wider cultural opportunities of the Chileans.

Our hostess, Sayen, (meaning “sweet woman”) welcomed us into her home. She was cheerful, friendly and warm, and, through a translator, spoke of her tribal history.2018-02-12 16.38.38Sayen, her husband and seven children lived in this one room structure, where they slept, cooked and ate their meals. Sayen spun cloth out of sheep’s wool, dyed it with berries and plant dyes, and wove the family’s clothes. Here you can see the dyed wool being stretched on the loom, the logs prepared to cook the next meal and the ponchos hanging on the wall. Children walked barefoot until they entered adolescence. The roof had to be replaced approximately once in twenty years. On top of the structure was an opening that drew smoke out of the dwelling.

Sayen invited group members to dress in Mapuche gear.2018-02-12 17.20.352018-02-12 17.25.17-1

Each Mapuche family was given its own piece of land for growing crops. As each child reached maturity he was also given a small plot of land for his family.

Medical care was administered by a local healer, who relied on herbal medicines and tales of healing techniques handed down from Mapuche history.

2018-02-12 17.30.25Here Sayen demonstrated the instrument used for tribal ceremonies. She blew through the ram’s horn attached to hosing covered with colorful woolen strands of thread, while drumming on a tautly pulled sheep skin secured to a basket.

The Mapuche fought the Spaniards for land. Mapuche fighters were renowned as brave and clever warriors, finding ways to ambush and defeat the enemy for many years.

Sayen invited us to a home prepared meal of herbal tea, fresh baked bread, a spread made of mashed beans, and a dessert of lemon pie. It was a feast!

We had a meaningful day, unlike any we had witnessed before. We all felt respect and affection for the Mapuche.

Comments on: "Mapuche Woman" (16)

  1. She seemed to be satisfied and content with her life. But I wonder whether her children live the way she does, now that they go to better schools and communicate with people on the other side of the river.

  2. Amazing story… I wondered if that simple satisfying way of life, demanding every fibre of a person’s being, and every moment of their time, seemed like hardship when it was the only way they had ever known?

    • She seemed to be comfortable and satisfied with her life. I didn’t sense any desire to change her life. It would be interesting to know whether her children lived the same lifestyle. Now that they attend the “White MansL

  3. What a special treat to learn about another’s culture first-hand. Wish I knew more about their herbal medications and healing techniques..

    • I agree, Bev. That would be very interesting to learn from her. I assume that the practices would be much like the opinions of professionals like Dr. Andrew Weil or Dr. Oz, who are physicians who rely on natural healing techniques. So many modern medicines originate from nature’s herbs.

      One reason that it is so tragic to allow the destruction the rain forest is that it has given the world many plants with healing properties, and more research about plants growing there need more research.

  4. These experiences tend to be very humbling. What a wonderful opportunity you had to peek into their lives and culture.

  5. Sounds like a fascinating trip!

  6. Adrianne Bendich said:

    Wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing and including the great photos!

  7. You certainly had a great experience, and fortunate enough to experience it close up and first hand. Fantastic you got to share the home environment of the Mapuche family, their musical instruments are unique as is their totem signs, I admire their spirituality. I am trying to figure out your location in this post and think it might have been in the Temuco province of Chile, then again maybe down south of Chile, great pictures and lovely to read of your experience….

  8. harvey hammer said:

    Ron, I wondered why Joe mumbled something about Mapuche dessert before he volunteered for that helicopter ride around the crater of the volcano. You ought to get the recipe!

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