Following a census in 1992, there appeared a series of demographic studies about urban Mapuche populations in Chile. The apparent "discovery" of this hidden face of contemporary Indigenous society has initiated a sudden interest in the study of the seemingly new sector. But who are the new Mapuches, these transplanted children of cement and migration who go unrecognized in the theories and reports? To answer this question, it is necessary look beyond ineffectual studies, statistics, and anthropological theories.
Other than the loss of independence, self-determination, and territorial integrity, one of the most significant consequences of the politico-military upheavals experienced by the Mapuche people at the end of the 19th century is the disintegration of societal and familial relations. The sustained deterioration of traditional economic systems, dispossession of traditional lands, and the resulting urban migrations of the Mapuche people are hallmarks of this new order of subordination to the Chilean state.
The urban Indigenous population is primarily a result of rural to city migrations. A situation common in Latin American countries in the last 100 years is the industrialization of the large cities and continual economic restructuring which have caused repeated crises, shaking the traditional population models and changing relations between the rural and urban worlds.
What had heretofore been a silent, constant flow of Mapuches into the cities became a flood during the 1930s. In recent years, far from having abated, this process has been sustained and has even increased. In this way, a new frontier has developed -- the "big city" -- in the context of inter ethnic relations between the post-reductional* Mapuches and the Chilean nation-state.
Despite the historical Mapuche presence in the cities, this undeniable reality remains in a state of semi-obscurity, poorly understood by social scientists, authorities, and -- ironically -- in the "official" Mapuche discourse of the day. This discourse, hegemonized and controlled by leaders and organizations, and lately by the state indigenist organ (CONADI), takes its ultimate form in a state Indigenist law (no. 19.253), which in only three of its articles (75-77) concerns the plight of the urban Mapuches.
THE VISION FROM WITHIN
The atmosphere of generalized melancholy in which post-reductional Mapuche society debates itself has brought with it, as one of its principal consequences, the idea of a supposed "integration" into the Chilean state. This "integration" nevertheless occurs in the context of inequality and conflict between the two sectors. These new interlocutors, the myriad organizations of ethnic resistance, have come to be known as the contemporary Mapuche Movement, and have elaborated through various strategies a discourse that, due to its extensiveness and antagonism, could be labeled as "official" in its attempt to represent an entire people.
The rupture and self-denial that city existence has meant to the reproduction of Mapuche ethnic identity have transformed, by opposition, the official discourse of the Mapuche movement into one that hails the rural community as the timeless, uncontaminated, and exclusive refuge of the "real Mapuches." The rural community is seen as the last place where the most important traditional cultural elements of the Mapuches reproduce them- selves freely, such as language, religion, etc. Nevertheless, this fundamentalist view has glossed over the complexities of con- temporary Mapuche ethnicity, and even led to an internal discrimination that juxtaposes the "pure" and "authentic," in other words the rural, with the "impure" or "awinkado," the urban.
THE 1992 CENSUS
A fabric of discourses, at times contradictory, arising from the constant need of self-affirmation faced with the mostly uninformed and hostile Chilean society has marginalized and even negated the urban Mapuches. It was not until the publication of the results of the population and housing census of 1992 that, abruptly and unexpectedly, numbers came out that have challenged what had been up to that time held up as truths. The census did nothing else, however, than confirm what many already knew, and this is that for the last several decades, no rural Mapuche family can say it does not have relatives who reside permanently in the city.
The census results showed that around 400,000 Mapuches (44% of the 930,000 persons 14 years old or older who identified themselves as Mapuche) live in Santiago. This was a surprise to leaders in the Mapuche movement. In comparison to the momentum generated by the 500 years of Columbus and the debates surrounding the Ley Indigena (Indigenous Law), the census was not viewed as a major priority for the objectives of the "official" Indigenous circles. A few organizations made declarations explicitly about the census, while others had hoped to see numbers amounting to about 300,000 Mapuches.
Many Indigenous leaders criticized and continue to criticize census figures that establish the Mapuche as one of the largest Indigenous nations of the continent, more numerous even than some national states, with half of its population being urban. For the "official" discourse, the need to maintain the traditionalist rural posture is, for the moment, stronger than that of reformulating ideas and proposals based on the "socio-political success" caused involuntarily by the census.
THE NEXT GENERATIONS: MAPUCHES BORN IN THE CITY
All theories and postures set aside, the numbers have spoken and the Urban Mapuche is today simply a reality. Even more important, an important percentage of the population that auto identified itself as Mapuche corresponds to persons autochthonous to the city -- the children of migrants, first or second generation, born and raised in the city. This is undoubtedly the most controversial sector of the urban Indigenous population, most "invisible," and most difficult to classify according to the parameters of established anthropology.
The census figures showed that 5%% of the roughly 400,000 Mapuche population that resides in Santiago represents persons 15-3% years of age. It is possible to imagine that the majority of these people were born in Santiago, based on the fact that sustained migration to Santiago dates back to the 1930s, and that the large majority of those who migrate are single and move in their productive years, establishing themselves with their families in a corner of the urban periphery.
Undeniably Mapuches, these sons and daughters of migrants are the principal victims of the military and political defeat of 1881 in Araucania. They are the inheritors of marginalization, dispersal, and the discrimination of a society alienated from its most visible traits that tries to "protect" them from the larger society's scorn. The urban Mapuche defines his or her existence on the triple discrimination for being Mapuche, poor, and urban. Only the recuperation of subtle fragments of ethnicity adapted to the new frontier environment will allow for the recreation of a solid identity.
The most dramatic of the strategies of "protection" employed by the parents of city-born Mapuches is the abandonment of the Mapuche language and the most visible aspects of Mapuche customs. We've heard it so many times that the justification for this is now common knowledge: "I didn't teach my children to speak Mapuche so that they wouldn't be made fun of... like I was." This strategy is reinforced by the desire to ascend the social ladder, the desire of migrants to send their children to receive formal education "so they'll be more than we were."
THE EXTREMES OF MAPUCHE IDENTITY
The cold data of the 1992 census have brought face to face two versions of Mapuche identity, the extremes of "Mapucheness" at the end of the century: the informal that enters the mansions of the rich through the side door, who's standing on some corner of the marginal periphery, swelling the drinking crowds of bars, a masked, fleeing, contradictory apparition that, when in front of the mirror, recognizes himself through his "otherness;" and the other, official, fed by proper truths and certainties, but too a constructor of stereotypes of invented authenticity.
The rupture and disintegration that migration has engendered, this feeling of one's being outside of a collective future, taken in its entirety, have caused Mapuche society to forget that the distinctive aspects of its collective memory are made up of a multitude of histories of communities, of kinship ties, of the organized movement of the 20th century, and of the life experiences of all who are part of this society. The formulation of a collective identity for the urban Mapuches must pass through the recuperation of this collective memory, this knowledge of one's roots, of where one comes from, and of what family line one belongs to, the essence of the historical memory of the Weupife (Mapuche historian and orator). It must also utilize the many mechanisms that Mapuche society has elaborated through the years to maintain a minimum degree of internal cohesion.
THE POSITIVES: THE RISE OF NEW MAPUCHE ACTORS, THE PERSISTENCE OF THE OLD
Migration to the city is a strategy for survival, and thus carries with it an inherent hope in the resolution of conflicts and problems previously insurmountable. For the Mapuche, migration has opened perhaps as many doors as it has closed, and provided a glimpse of what cultural survival will require in the future.
Migration and the ethnic discrimination of the urban context that results, at the same time that they masks identities, can also result in a new Mapuche subject, able to mitigate between the interests internal and external to Mapuche society. The acquisition of spheres of influence in all of the places where Mapuche society is dispersed, and the adoption of a new concept of the Mapuche movement by all of the sectors that conform it, various of them urban, will bring forth the cultural, social, and political rebirth of the Mapuche people, so urgently needed these days.
For decades, a very complex web of links between migrants and their communities of origin has developed. Mechanisms seemingly trivial as the subtle reproduction of various elements of non-material Mapuche culture, symbolized in values, customs, beliefs, continue to exist. The links between city and community also translates in the economic aid provided by "successful" migrants to relatives in the community.
Urban Mapuches are at a comparative advantage for access to a formal and advanced education, allowing for a rapid social ascent and assured participation in the economy. On the other hand, this also brings with it the risk of identity loss upon being in contact with the maximum representatives of the "modernization paradigm." Often, if the acquisition of a formal education occurs without the reinforcement of identity, the urban Mapuche will form an identity based on conflicting oppositions.
Within the internal relations of the Mapuche people, the majority urban composition of the population has led to the need to reflect on various issues. In particular, today, as we near the end of the 20th century, when we refer to our people, to their traditions, their struggles and demands, do we mean everyone, or only one part? It will be the Indigenous peoples themselves who, in the necessary identity reformulation that the new reality requires, and in the solution that what many refer to as the "tradition vs. modernity" problem, will control these important decisions.
* Refers to the period after the wars in Araucania