Introduction / History "Mapuche" comes from "mapu" (land or earth), and "che" (people). Thus they are "the people of the earth". The Mapuche culture first appeared in the South of Chile, in the province of Araucania, with the so-called Araucanians, in time unknown. In the 16th and 17th Centuries they stopped the advance of the Incas and conquered a big portion of the Patagonia (includes some regions of Chile, the provinces of Rio Negro, Neuquen and parts of La Pampa, Mendoza and Chubut) and the South of the province of Buenos Aires; spreading their language and culture. When the Spaniards arrived, the Mapuche strongly opposed them, refusing to be conquered as other peoples had been, and deprived of their lands and homes. They took advantage of the horses the Spaniards had brought with them and mastered the art of riding. They also helped Argentina and Chile free themselves from Spain. They held a long resistance to the advance of the "criollos" and landowners. Often they were accused of being violent and savage, most of the times without foundation. Only in 1879, about 300 years later to the arrival of the conquerors, were the Mapuche defeated. They fought until the end, until there was no more hope. And then they fought some more. They are a good and brave people.
Where are they located? Today they live in the southern regions of Chile and in the Argentinean provinces of Chubut, Neuquen, Rio Negro, La Pampa and South of Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Mainly, they have been stripped of their lands, and placed in miserable reservations, often with really bad natural resources. They still fight and hold a campaign for the preservation of their homes and their cultural heritage. Most of their lands were sold to international companies or private buyers who build luxury hotels or badly exploit the natural resources.
What are their lives like? Many of them have become activists for the protection of their rights, and some are in jail for that. They are losing their language and many of the younger generation don't speak it. Their well-known and difficult art of loom-knitting is also being lost, as most daughters don't learn it anymore. Most Mapuche live in reservations, but many have fled to the cities for better jobs and education where they often deny their origins.
What are their beliefs? Some are Roman-Catholics, mostly nominally. But most still hold the traditional rites and beliefs. Mainly they believe that there is a god called "Nguenechen", literally "the owner of people", and make collective prayers and rituals, called "rogativas". In each tribe there is a "machi", a kind of witch-doctor. They believe that every tree, animal, river, etc. has a divine spirit which they worship.
What are their needs? They need to be able to keep their culture and language. They need to be embraced by the true love of God, and learn that He is the only true One.
Prayer Points * Pray that God will have compassion on them and raise missionaries who will teach them the Gospel without cultural connotations and stand side by side with them in their happiness and sorrows.