After a few days of travelling, we finally arrived at the location of our civil service year. It is the city of Malalhue, in the municipality of Lanco, Los Ríos region, in the macrozone Sur. Upon arrival we were splendidly welcomed by representatives of Medema, the Organización Mujeres Emprendedoras de Malalhue, our local partner.
The project in which Comi and Medema collaborate aims to strengthen the role of young people, supporting their personal, identity and professional development, through the dissemination of Mapuche history and culture among young people.
In the region, as in the whole of Chile, there are serious inequalities in education, health, access to services and resources, with particular disadvantages for the original peoples. The Mapuche’s precious social and cultural heritage is under threat due to the development model imposed by Chile’s neoliberal policies since the 1970s. Malalhue itself is surrounded by pine and eucalyptus trees, non-native plants, monocultures in the hands of forestry companies that alter the environmental balance of the region and have considerably reduced the arable land. A survey carried out by Comi in 2018-19 showed that 90 per cent of young people in the municipality of Lanco between the ages of 13 and 19 claim to have little or superficial knowledge of Mapuche culture. This precarious state of identity, combined with high unemployment and youth emigration, is one of the main causes of high alcohol and drug consumption among young people.
In our first meeting with Medema, we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and get to know the women farmers and entrepreneurs who make up the
as well as their families. Their work is as difficult as it is important. For years, they have been carrying out a new project of life and collective work, in the wake of the Mapuche community tradition.
Through the rural development programme, they share typical moments of the indigenous agrarian tradition, especially the cultivation of beans and medicinal plants. They sponsor and organise fairs and markets where they sell agricultural products, but also handicrafts, such as wool woven on a traditional loom. Agricultural life, health and physical well-being, and the transmission of ancestral culture are all intertwined in the projects that these women carry out on a daily basis, struggling against the disintegration of their social fabric.
For us Comi civilists, it is a privilege and an opportunity to be able to share a part of this journey with them. For our part, with the support of our local supervisor, Pilar Reuque, we intend first of all to provide all the help we can to Medema in its projects. We want to propose various activities in the village schools, such as theatre, music and technology workshops, and others aimed at citizenship, such as a community radio station, sports tournaments, book presentations and cultural events.
We have only just arrived, and we are beginning to understand the complexity of such a fascinating reality full of contradictions. There are many tough but stimulating challenges ahead of us. We have a great desire to get involved and above all to learn.
The first appointment and testing ground will be on Tuesday, 2 August, at the inauguration of the market in Malalhue Square. We hope to be able to contribute in a useful and constructive manner.