Chile begins this Sunday a stage of dialogue in equal conditions and rights

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As a 10-year-old girl, at the beginning of the seventies, to get to her school she had to travel eight kilometers from her house in the Mapuche community Lefweluan (the place where guanacos run, in Mapudungún) to the town of Traiguén, in the heart of the Chilean Araucanía. Sometimes there was luck and the bus passed; at other times, he had to walk an hour and a half along the dirt and mud road. He did it with black plastic shoes, but he felt lucky: his mother always told him that, in his day, it was necessary to go barefoot and that the cracks caused pain. “I come from a simple family, like all Mapuche families affected by poverty, but with integrity from the point of view of our codes, inspired by collective norms, memory, social narratives, history. My family inherited a sense of happiness from me, ”says Elisa Loncón, 58, who does not complain when remembering her childhood sacrificed in the deep south of Chile when, before school, she spent the mornings selling fruits, cheeses and eggs in a basket.

The daughter of a housewife who adored poetry and of a furniture maker who learned to read self-taught at the age of 17, the PhD in Linguistics is one of the 17 constituents of the original peoples of the Chilean constitutional convention, whose first session was held celebrated this Sunday morning in Santiago de Chile. An expert scholar in intercultural bilingual education, she aspires to become the president of the body that will have one year to write the new Fundamental Charter.

Question. Why would it be important for the body to be chaired by a Mapuche woman?

Answer. It would be a step to install a different Chile that respects the human condition of diversity, values ​​women and their ancestral roots. This is what it has not done institutionally.

P. Is Chile a sexist and racist country?

R. Chile is sexist, racist and classist, unfortunately. But there is another face: that of the Chileans who fight. It would be a beautiful sign from the people of Chile if the convention is chaired by a Mapuche indigenous woman.

P. What stage do you start?

R. Chile opens this Sunday the stage of dialogue on equal terms and rights.

His mother, sisters, cousins ​​and various relatives still live in Lefweluan, where Loncón has resumed ceremonies four years ago and takes advantage of picking the quinces and apples that his grandfather planted decades ago. She remembers scenes from that place that still amaze her, like when her father bought a collection of philosophy books thanks to the sale of two carts of firewood: “He prioritized education for us under any circumstance,” Loncón recalls.

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She has not been a formal member of any political party, although she considers herself a left-wing woman: “My people were always fighters and we collaborated with the triumphs of the different left,” she says about her family. His ancestors – his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather – fought against the military occupation of Araucanía in 1883 and defended the city of Temuco, the regional capital. Of the thousand days of the Salvador Allende government (1970-1973), he recalls: “My family was happy, because they gave us a scholarship with which they bought me my first leather shoes. In that government, each child was given half a liter of powdered milk daily, which my naughty friends ate on the way to our houses ”. Sometimes Loncón still remembers the soil on the ground mixed with the white milk.

The convention will debut this Sunday at ten o’clock in the morning in the courtyards of the Congress headquarters in Santiago and none of the representatives of the three powers of the State will be present. The conventional, after formally accepting the position, will have to define their presidency in the first session. It is a relevant issue because the presidency will play a central role both in the development of the convention – such as defining the order of the debate, putting the discussions and the distribution of work on the table – and in the political sphere. But whoever remains with the presidency must, above all, articulate in political dialogue in a diverse convention marked by the presence of independents who do not respond to party orders: “We Mapuche have a long history of vocation for horizontal dialogue. 50 parliaments were held with the Chileans and before that with the Spaniards, ”says Loncón.

She is in favor of “the State sharing decision-making power with all native peoples”. It was one of the 34 constituents that declared six democratic guarantees for the convention: “The original constituent power is a fully autonomous power,” stated the letter from the beginning of June. She adds: “We do not respond to the democracy agreed to in the last 30 years of Chilean politics.” The prisoners of the social unrest –which the Prosecutor’s Office keeps in preventive detention–, Loncón classifies as “political prisoners”. “It was the young people who started the social explosion that made the constituent process possible.” Regarding the revolts of October 2019, where Mapuche and non-Chilean flags were seen, he assures that “the Mapuche flag represents resistance and a new way of relating in society.” He also thinks about the demolition of the monuments to the Spanish conquerors, as also happened in the revolts in Colombia: “Those sculptures represent colonialism, Eurocentrism and the denial of thought, philosophy and popular forces of the south.” He feels part, he says, of the emergence of the indigenous movement in Latin America, “which has important theoretical foundations,” and especially of the generation that installed multicultural bilingual education in Mexico after the Zapatista revolution.

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P. The different Chilean opposition groups – the center-left, the left, independent anti-capitalist system – are the majority in the convention. Is the right handicapped in Chile?

R. The right is not weakened because it has the economic power, with which it can buy any will. If I chair the convention, however, I will dialogue with all groups with a view to the common good.

Different political forces of the opposition to the Government of Sebastián Piñera seek to remain in office, while a certain consensus has been established that should remain in the hands of a woman: the constituent body, made up of 77 women and 78 men, will be the first joint to world level, an achievement of feminism that was the spearhead of social movements. Never before, in addition, has a convention to draft a new Constitution had so many seats reserved for indigenous peoples, 17 out of 155 (out of 10 indigenous peoples).

P. What claims do the representatives of indigenous peoples share?

R. Reparation to the original nations for everything they have run over us, which will have to be addressed in the new Constitution. We drag poverty and lack of institutionality.

P. Should Chile be a plurinational country?

R. We seek to install plurinationality in the new Constitution, which implies the recognition of the 10 pre-existing nations to the Chilean State. It is not a single, indivisible State, as the old Constitution says, but is made up of a plurality of nations with rights such as territory, autonomy, self-determination, languages, cultures, histories. The right to self-determination does not imply secession or dividing the State into 10, but rather the installation of autonomous government systems.

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P. What country do you like as a model?

R. In linguistic terms, I dream of a model like that of the autonomous communities of Spain. In territorial terms, I look at Canada.

An English teacher, Loncón has perfected herself in various countries around the world. He has studied in the Netherlands, Bolivia, Canada and Mexico, where he lived between 2001 and 2006. “Every November 1 I make the altar of the dead. Chile needs to assume an integral thought of the relationship between life and death, which responds precisely to an indigenous perspective ”, analyzes the academic from the University of Santiago, the one in the middle among seven siblings. “My parents taught us to answer if they called us disparagingly indians. We should correct and say that India was on another continent. My family, people who never went to school, were developing strategies to defend themselves, “Loncón recalls within hours of debuting as a conventional. “For the first time, the original nations have been summoned in Chile to draft a Constitution. The current conflict in Araucanía is due precisely to the lack of participation of the Mapuche people in decision-making ”, Loncón says that he will attend the ceremony dressed in his traditional chamal, as his mother and grandmother once did. paternal, who never got to speak Castilian well.

“My mother resisted with her Mapuche dress all her life, even pregnant, when the medical system was discriminatory,” says Loncón, who has suffered racist discrimination firsthand. When she returned from Mexico, where she was accepted, loved and valued as a professional, she found herself back in a “harsh and cruel” country where even her resume was doubted, which once made her cry. “They say we are lazy and drunk. If a pencil is lost in any room in Chile, the Mapuche is suspected first ”, he reflects. It happened to her when she was little, when a teacher accused her of stealing a syringe at her school: “I was mistreated and it was painful.” Those were the times of plastic shoes, of powdered milk as caramel, of selling fruit in its basket and of a country that did not even dream that a Mapuche girl from the south could ever write a Constitution.

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