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Expanding Women's Citizenship?

Mapuche Women and Chile's National Women's Service

Author(s): Patricia Richards
Source: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 30, No. 2, Citizenship in Latin America (Mar., 2003),
pp. 41-65
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
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MapucheWomenand Chile's
NationalWomen's Service
Patricia Richards

Evenif it is truethatthereis a generalizeddemandvis-a-visthe subjectof

women... thesubjectof theindigenous women,theMapuchewoman,is much
morecomplexandmustbe developedmorecarefully.It'snotaboutarriving
andapplyingpoliciesfor womenwithoutconsideringthe particular cultural

The incorporationof women's interestsinto the statehas been the subject

of much feminist researchon SouthernCone countries(see, among others,
Alvarez, 1990; Franceschet,2001; Schild, 1998; Valenzuela,1998; Waylen,
1996). The establishmentof stateagencies,ministries,laws, andpolicies per-
tainingto women is in parta responseto the efforts of nationaland interna-
tionalwomen's movementsto bringattentionto women's rights.In addition,
transitionsto democracyin SouthernCone countrieshave createdthe oppor-
tunityfor citizens, includingwomen, to negotiatethe contentof thatdemoc-
racy (Alvarez,Escobar,andDagnino, 1998). Women'smovementsthrough-
out the SouthernCone have taken advantageof this opportunityto seek the
implementationof measuresthat betterrepresenttheir interests.In Brazil,
women's councils have been formedto advise the president,while in Argen-
tina quotashave been initiatedto increasethe numberof women representa-
tives in government.And in Chile, a NationalWomen'sService, the Servicio
Nacional de la Mujer(SERNAM),has been createdto "collaboratewith the
ExecutiveBranchin the design and coordinationof public policies thatwill

PatriciaRichardsis an assistantprofessorof sociology andwomen's studiesat the Universityof

Georgia.She is currentlyworkingon a book manuscriptwhich focuses on class andethnic dif-
ferences in the meaning and implementationof women's rights in Chile. She thanksthe atten-
dees of presentationsof an earlierversion of this articlein SantiagoandTemucofor theircom-
ments, criticisms, and reflections. She also extends her appreciationto TeresaVald6sand Jos6
Aylwin,who organizedthoseevents,andto SusanFranceschet,RanaEmerson,LynnHorton,and
LAPreviewersFlorence Babb and Manolo Gonzalez-Estay,who providedhelpful comments.
LATINAMERICANPERSPECTIVES,Issue 129, Vol. 30 No. 2, March2003 41-65
DOI: 10.1177/0094582X02250627
? 2003 Latin AmericanPerspectives


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put an end to the discriminationthataffects women in the family,social, eco-

nomic, political, and culturalspheres"(SERNAM, 1998). While conserva-
tive political forces, traditionalgenderideology, and competingstatepriori-
ties have often limitedthe scope of reformsdesignedto benefitwomen, these
changes have representeda positive step in the struggleof Latin American
women's movementstowardequalitybetween women and men.
The principleof women's differencehas been centralto women's move-
mentsthroughoutLatinAmerica.As Jelin (1996:178-179) pointsout, a cen-
tral characteristicof feminism has been to make claims not just for equal
rightsbutalso for "therightto a differentiatedtreatmentandto the social rec-
ognition of women's uniqueness."Molyneux (2000: 45) explains that more
so thanin Europeandthe UnitedStates,women's movementsin LatinAmer-
ica have made gains on the basis of a gender discourse that appropriates
aspects of a binary gender ideology, focusing on essentialist differences
between women andmen. Thus,they haverootedtheiractivismin notionsof
domestic and maternalvirtues and have demandedrecognition as full citi-
zens on the basis of contributionsthey have madeto the nationthroughtheir
roles as wives and mothers.
Unfortunately,the assertionof difference between men and women has
not always translatedinto recognition of differences or inequality among
women themselves. Burkett (1977) questioned universal sisterhood in an
early piece on the colonial era, and the goal of gender equality has been
problematizedin contemporaryLatin America by Afro-Latinas,poor and
working-classwomen, indigenous women, lesbians, and others, who argue
thattheirconcernshavebeen excludedor misrepresentedby women's move-
ments dominatedby middle-class, educated, whiter feminists. Barrios de
Chungara(1978) poignantly describes how class, race, and ethnic differ-
ences emergedatthe UN's 1975 InternationalYearof the Womanmeetingsin
Mexico. Sternbachet al. (1992) describe the role of differencein the Latin
Americanwomen's conferences (encuentros),while Valdes and Weinstein
(1993) and Schild (1994) show that differences in prioritiesand access to
power have complicatedrelationshipsbetweenpobladoras (poor and work-
ing-class women who reside in Santiago's shantytowns)and middle-class
feminists in times of dictatorshipas well as democracy.
LatinAmericanwomen's movements'effortsto deal with inequalitiesand
differences among women have been addressedby the authorsjust cited.
However, apartfrom Schild's (1994; 1998) work on the exclusion of poor
urbanwomen's organizationsfromparticipationin state-sponsoredprojects,
little detailedattentionhas been given to how well state strategiesfor repre-
senting women have incorporatedclaims for rights based on difference. In
this article,I explorethis issue throughthe case of Mapuchewomen in Chile.

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I examine how Mapuchewomen activists, employing a discourse of differ-

ence based on a vision de pueblo, presenta challengeto the genderdiscourse
promulgated by SERNAM. Examining interactions between Mapuche
women leaders and SERNAM, I contemplate the impact that Mapuche
womenhavehadon the service's discourse,policies, andprograms.I demon-
stratethat while SERNAM has incorporatedsome Mapuchewomen's dis-
courseinto its own, little substantivechangehas actuallyoccurred.The result
is frustratingfor Mapuchewomen activists-their discourseis appropriated,
but their demands are seldom met. SERNAM's behavior fits the Chilean
state's overallmodel of negotiationwith the Mapuche:Mapucheclaims are
incorporatedas prioritiesonly insofaras they do not threatennationaldevel-
opmentor a coherentChileannationalidentity.Select demandsof select sec-
tors of the Mapuchemovementaremet, while demandsmore directlylinked
to collective culturalrights are excluded. In this way, the state uses gender
and indigenouspolitics to generateconsent for its socioeconomic and ideo-
logical goals. Mapuchewomen leaders are awareof this tension, however,
and continue to seek effective ways of promoting recognition of their
demandsand those of the Mapuchepeople as a whole.
The article is organizedinto eight sections. A discussion of citizenship
and difference,the theoreticalconcepts thatguide this article,is followed by
a section on researchmethodsand the sample. I then providea summaryof
recentMapuchehistory.I go on to review SERNAM'smodel of women's cit-
izenship, noting the limited attentiongiven to differences among women.
Next, I demonstratethe centralrole of differencein Mapuchewomen activ-
ists' genderdiscourse.In the section thatfollows, I describefourinstancesin
which Mapuche women have demanded inclusion of their priorities and
interestsin SERNAM's discourse,policies, and programsand addresshow
the service has respondedto these demands.I then place this responsein the
larger context of the Chilean state. Finally, I discuss the possibilities in
Mapuche women's activism for expanding the concept of citizenship to
include culturalrights.


The strugglesof social movements-for a stakein the political system,for

respect for civil rights, for basic social rights such as adequatehousing and
health care-are impelled from below by actors in civil society who make
demandsof the stateandothermembersof society. They arethe strugglesof
citizens seeking to renegotiatethe terms of citizenship and the meanings of
civil, political, socioeconomic, and culturalrights (Alvarez, Escobar, and

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Dagnino, 1998). Such renegotiationhas particularsalience in post-Pinochet

Chile. As the consolidation of democracy has taken place, citizens have
sought to engage in dialogue with the state, attemptingto participatein the
creationof the termsof democracy.
Tounderstandthe strugglesandachievementsof movements,the "citizen-
ship-from-below"perspective has to be balanced by a recognition of the
restrictionsplacedon movementsfromabove.A majorcontributionof recent
feminist researchon the statehas been to point out thatthe stateis not a uni-
form actor with intent (Pringle and Watson, 1998). Thus, for example, an
agency such as SERNAMandthe actorswithinit can createpro-womenpoli-
cies in an otherwise woman-hostile sociopolitical context. Nevertheless,
movementsdo operatewithin the context of specific political regimes, and
stateprioritiesoften hinderthe achievementof movementgoals. Indeed,the
goals of movementsthatare incorporatedinto the stateare likely to be those
thatcoherewith the state'smaterialandculturalobjectives.In this sense, the
rightsgrantedby the statehave the effect of integratingcitizens into a hege-
monic nationalidentityand generatingconsent for state goals. Understand-
ing the successes andlimitationsfaced by social actorscalls for a perspective
thatviews theirstrugglesin the contextof citizenshipfromaboveandbelow.
Discussing the demandsof indigenouspeoples in termsof citizenship is
complex. ThroughoutLatin American history, indigenous identities have
consistently been sacrificed,marginalized,or utilized only symbolically in
the creationof nationalidentitiesrootedin citizenshipregimesbasedon indi-
vidual rights.Moreover,indigenousdemandsinvolve culturaland/orcollec-
tive rights that are often unrecognizedin these citizenship regimes. (I take
culturalrightsto mean "therightto preserveanddeveloptheirculture"[Das,
1995: 87], noting, as do Das [1995] and Stavenhagen[1996], that in many
cases these arerightsexercisedby collectivities.) In addition,to some extent,
demandsfor autonomycontest the very concept of citizenshipas an obliga-
tory status, and claims to territoryor autonomyare often seen by states as
threatsto nationaldevelopment.The stateis clearlynot a neutralactorwhen it
comes to indigenousrights.Indigenousclaims, however,areoften necessar-
ily issuedvis-a-vis the stateandseek to expandwhatit meansto be a citizen to
includenotions of ancestralterritory,collective rights,multiculturalism,and
Even where it appearsthat opportunitiesexist within the state for move-
ment actorsto issue theirdemands(such as SERNAM,for Chileanwomen),
some individualsandgroupsarelikely to be excludedon otherbases, such as
ethnicity, class, or sexual orientation.Some groups (albeit limited by the
dominantgender ideology and state context) have more opportunitiesthan
othersto influencehow certainconcepts-such as "woman"or "equality"-

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are defined. "Multiracialfeminism" in the United States, as outlined by

Maxine Baca Zinn and Bonnie ThorntonDill (2000 [1997]), elucidatesthis
point andprovidessome useful tools for looking at the relationshipbetween
Mapuchewomen and state-drivengenderdiscourse.Zinn andDill describea
women's movementthat professes to accept difference while continuingto
centralizethe experienceof white middle-classwomen. The resultis the per-
sistent marginalizationof women of color throughthe failure to recognize
"theinequalitiesthatcause some characteristicsto be seen as 'normal'while
othersare seen as 'different'and,thus, deviant"(24). They arguethatrace is
"abasic social division, a structureof power,a focus of political struggleand
hence a fundamentalforce in shapingwomen's and men's lives" (25).
Following Patricia Hill Collins (1991), Zinn and Dill assert that race,
class, andgenderinequalitiesareinterlockingelementsin a "matrixof domi-
nation."This means thatwomen experience"beinga woman"differentlyon
the basis of theirrace, class, and so forth, and "womenand men throughout
the social order experience different forms of privilege and subordination
dependingon theirrace,class, gender,andsexuality"(26). Womenwho ben-
efit from particularpositions in this social orderhave powerover others,and
in this sense "women'sdifferencesare connectedin systematicways" (26).
While it is clear thatNorthernconcepts should not be applieduncriticallyto
otherrealities, the lack of representationof Mapuchewomen's prioritiesin
SERNAMmatchesthis analyticaldescription.
The concepts outlinedhere will prove useful in exploringhow Mapuche
women's efforts to have their priorities represented by SERNAM are
restrictedby the goals of the state but also by power differentialsamong
women themselves, which serve to make invisible the specific "difference"
of Mapuchewomen. Moreover,they will help elucidatethe tensionsbetween
culturalandcollective rightsandnationalgoals in the contextof a citizenship
regime based on individualrights.


This article is largely based on semistructured,open-ended interviews

with Mapuchewomen leadersin Santiago(the MetropolitanRegion, where
approximately50 percentof the Mapuchelive) and the Araucania(Region
IX, originallyMapucheterritory,and the region with the highest concentra-
tion of Mapucheresidents).In Santiago,I interviewedten leaders of local-
level, socioculturalMapuche associations (who had varying histories and
degreesof contactwith the stateandotherorganizations).In the Araucania,I
interviewed seven leaders with relatively long histories of activism in the

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Mapuche movement, many of whom were originally from ruralMapuche

communitiesbutnow workedin institutionsservingMapuchecommunities.
Many were associated with the Coordinadora de Mujeres Mapuches
(MapucheWomen'sCoalition)andparticipatedactivelyin the creationof the
IndigenousLaw andin the process surroundingthe Beijing WorldWomen's
Conference.I also interviewedthe leadersof a new ruralwomen's organiza-
tion that had had substantialcontact with SERNAM, but in general, the
women interviewedwere not rural.The interviewsfocused on the women's
activismhistories,theirorganizations'activities,interactionswith stateagen-
cies, demandsvis-a-vis the state,andviews on the relevanceof genderto their
activism.In addition,I interviewedtwo NGO workers,six functionariesfrom
SERNAM at the national and regional levels, and two Mapuche women
employedby the CorporacionNacionalde DesarrolloIndigena(the National
Corporationfor Indigenous Development-CONADI). These interviews
focused on the services they offered, particularlyas they pertainedto the
Mapuche, interactionswith organizations,and their own motivations for
doing the work thatthey did. The interviewswere supplementedby partici-
pant observationand additional conversations.Finally, I consulted docu-
ments from Mapucheorganizationsand writtenstate and media representa-
tions of Mapuchewomen and the Mapuchepeople as a whole.


The Mapuche,who accordingto the 1992 census makeup almost 10 per-

cent of the Chilean population,were harshlyvictimized duringPinochet's
regime, and Mapucheorganizationsactively workedto bring an end to the
dictatorship.The returnto democracy representeda political opening for
many marginalizedsectors of Chilean society. Mapuche and other indige-
nous leaders signed a pact with then-candidatePatricio Aylwin of the
Concertaci6nde Partidosporla Democracia(Coalitionof Partiesfor Democ-
racy)in which he promisedthat,once elected, he would worktowardconsti-
tutionalrecognitionof indigenouspeoples andan IndigenousLaw.Although
political oppositionhas precludedconstitutionalrecognition,an Indigenous
Law was createdin 1993. In additionto establishingmeansfor the protection
and expansion of land and water rights, the law establishedCONADI as a
state agency dependenton the Ministryof Planningand Cooperation.Most
Mapucheleaderswere hopeful thatthe returnto democracysignaled a new
era in relationsbetween the Mapucheand the Chilean state.

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For many Mapuche,guardedoptimismhas given way to disillusionment

as the state has demonstratedthat indigenousrights are not a prioritywhen
nationaldevelopmentis at stake.The firsttwo nationaldirectorsof CONADI
were forcedto resignbecause they refusedto supportthe state'sconstruction
of the Ralco Dam, which violated the IndigenousLaw and will eventually
flood Pehuenche (a branch of Mapuche) territory.Chile has also granted
aquacultureandforestryconcessions to nonindigenousChileanandmultina-
tional corporationsand is in the process of building highways that disrupt
Mapucheterritory.Many Mapuchenow feel deceived by the Chilean state.
They say that CONADI, which they expected to representtheir interests,is
underfunded,bureaucratic,andinefficientand,even worse, has turnedout to
be a tool of the state.
This situationhas led to diverseanddiffuse formsof activismandprotest.
Therearemorethan60 Mapucheassociationsin Santiago,about 175 associ-
ations and 3,000 communities in the Araucania,and many more in other
regions. Mapuchedemandsare diverseand often contestedamong different
sectors of the movement.They range from demandsthat focus on issues of
redistributionand integrationsuch as access to more land, agriculturaltrain-
ing, andsocial policies thatrecognizeculturalspecificities(interculturaledu-
cation,health,housing, andchild-careprograms)to demandsthatemphasize
autonomyandrecognitionof Mapuchestatusas a people such as ratification
of the InternationalLaborOrganization'sConvention169 on Indigenousand
TribalPeoples, independentterritory,andself-government.Mapucheorgani-
zations and communitieshave developeddiverse strategiesto advancetheir
strugglesfor rights,includinggainingcontrolof local governmentandpartic-
ipating in state-leddevelopmentprograms.The most visible strategy,how-
ever, has been the sometimes violent struggleover agriculturaland forestry
lands in the Chilean South. For most Mapuche, even demands that seem
integrationistarebuilton the principleof recognitionof theirstatusas a peo-
ple (Valdes, n.d.). Most women told me that satisfactionof their demands
with regardto integrationor redistributionmeantlittle if the Mapuche'ssta-
tus as a people was not recognized.In turn,the demandfor statusas a people
is linked to the historicalexploitationof the Mapuche,the expropriationof
their lands, and the denial of their rightto autonomy.
The Frei (1994-2000) and Lagos (2000-present) administrationshave
respondedby designatingmore funds for use in areaswith high indigenous
populationsand by increasingthe budget of CONADI. In addition,shortly
aftertakingoffice, PresidentRicardoLagos createda national-levelworking
groupfor indigenouspeoples thatincludedrepresentativesfrom indigenous
movements,business,andthe government.He respondedto the group'sfinal

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report with 16 measures intended as steps toward resolving the issues it

raised. The initiatives addressed demands in the areas of land, training,
interculturaleducation and health care, and constitutionalrecognition but
notablydid not addressmorecontentiousissues such as autonomousterritory
or self-government.
While women's participationin the Mapuchemovementper se is not the
subjectof this article,it shouldbe noted thatthey are actively and often cen-
trally involved. Mapuche women defend the rights of the people, most
famously in the case of Berta and Nicolasa Quintremain, the Pehuenchesis-
tersandwinnersof the 2000 PetraKelly award,who have led a small number
of families in refusing to abandonland that will be flooded if and when the
Ralco Dam is finished. In many cases, Mapuchewomen also make gender-
specific demands that involve interactingwith SERNAM. Until recently,
SERNAM's representationof Mapuche women occurredalong three main
lines. First,Mapuchewomen appearedin photoson postersandpamphletsin
symbolic recognition of Chile's diversity.Second, in accordancewith the
mandateof the IndigenousLaw, SERNAMcreatedformalagreementswith
CONADI at the national level and in the Araucania.According to Cesar
Marilaf,head of Supportfor IndigenousSocial Managementat CONADI's
SouthernOffice, otherthana shortseries of workshopsfor Mapuchewomen
in the Araucania,very little has come of these agreements,andCONADIhas
notdevelopedan official line of actionon women'sissues (interview,Decem-
ber 6, 2000). Third,since 1999, Mapucheorganizationshave had access to
small grantsfor projectsdealingwith equalopportunitiesfor womenthrough
the Civil Society Fund,which was designedby SERNAMandis composedof
funds from SERNAM, CONADI, and two other agencies. As will be seen,
Mapuchewomenconsiderthese effortsinadequateand,often,ethnocentric.


Duringthe Pinochetdictatorship,the Chileanwomen's movementstrug-

gled notjust for the returnto democracybut for inclusion in thatdemocracy
as full subjects of rights. When democracywas achieved, one of its major
accomplishmentswas the establishmentof SERNAM. While SERNAM is
not a ministry,its nationaldirectoris a memberof the president'scabinet.It is
responsiblefor achieving the incorporationof a genderedperspectivein all
governmentministries.It has little fundingof its own and is expectedto gen-
erate supportand funding for policies and programsthat benefit women
among the other ministries.Despite the limitationsof this framework,as a
result of the struggles of women's organizations,the official image of the

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Chileancitizen is no longerexclusively male. The responsibilityfor promul-

gating both the rights and the responsibilitiesof women citizens has fallen
largely on the shouldersof SERNAM.
Despite feminism'sclaim to difference,SERNAM'scitizenshipdiscourse
focuses principallyon the concept of equality.This is demonstratedin the
EqualOpportunitiesPlanfor Women 1994-1999 (Plan 1) (SERNAM, 1996)
and the Plan for EqualOpportunitiesbetween Womenand Men 2000-2010
(Plan 2) (SERNAM, 2000). In its discussion of "A Cultureof Equality"in
Plan 2, SERNAM (2000: 22) states: "Equalityis a recent value in history.
Moder societies, by affirminguniversalrights and formal equality before
the law, eliminatedcustoms, norms,and beliefs thatpredeterminedpeople's
place in society in accordancewith theirsex, andsocial, religious, ethnicand
culturalorigin."The Plan maintainsthatin Chile equalityis not yet general-
ized and, as a result, women have fewer opportunitiesthan men.
Weinstein(1997) suggeststhatSERNAMhas playedan importantrole by
articulatingthe constraintsthatdiscriminationplaces on women's ability to
exercise their citizenship rights, but it has been challenged by rural,
pobladora, and indigenous women who argue that they do not recognize
themselves in its discourse.They say thatthe Plans (particularlyPlan 1) are
written by and represent the interests of urban, middle-class, educated,
nonindigenouswomen. In essence, they point out thatthe discriminationto
which Weinsteinrefers is not experiencedin the same way by all women.
Applying universalconcepts such as "equality"to a diverse populationcan
lead to the exclusionof groupswhose prioritiesarenotrepresentedin the way
the concept is developed.In the case of indigenouswomen, this is even more
problematic, as their own conceptions of rights may consider collective
ratherthanjust individualattributes.By not identifyingethnicityandclass as
"basic structuresof power"(Zinn and Dill, 2000) that differentiateamong
women in its general discussion of equality,SERNAM fails to addressthe
ways in which even a discourseof equalityfor women is complex-by their
presence or absence in the model of women's citizenship, differentwomen
are affected in differentways.


Gender identity and discourse among Mapuche women are complex.

Views on the relevanceof the Westernconcept of genderfor understanding
relationshipsbetweenMapuchewomen andmen arediverse,as areopinions
on whether gender inequality or "machismo"exists among them. These
issues are importantbut beyond the scope of this article.My purposein this

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section is to demonstratethe centralrole of differencein Mapuchewomen's

gender discourse. In discussing their demandsvis-a-vis SERNAM or their
relationshipswith otherorganizedwomen, Mapuchewomen emphasizethat
theirown struggles,interests,and demandsare distinct.
In discussing difference, Mapuche women appropriateand subvertthe
discourse of equal rights and opportunities.By "appropriation"I mean
adoptinga discoursethatcalls for anexpansionof the conceptof equaloppor-
tunitiesto include the prioritiesof Mapuchewomen, who do not feel repre-
sentedby SERNAM.By "subversion"I mean playing on the word "equal,"
which containsa sense of both "fairness"and "sameness."Mapuchewomen
arguethatthey arenot the same and thatthis is precisely the point:an equal-
opportunitiesplanthatdoes not takeaccountof theirdifferencewill notresult
in justice for the Mapuche people. The appropriationand subversion of
equal-opportunitiesdiscoursearelinkedin Mapuchewomen'seffortsto have
their demandsaddressed.
Mapuchewomen asserttheirdifferencealong threemain lines. First,the
discriminationexperiencedby Mapuchewomenis differentfromthatexperi-
enced by other women and is often perpetratedby non-Mapuchewomen.
Second,becauseof culturaldifferences,genderrelationsin Mapuchesociety
and the dominantChilean society are not the same. And third, even when
Mapuchewomen are focusing on women's needs and interests,theircentral
struggle is that of the Mapuchepeople as a whole. Together,these factors
makeit difficultfor Mapuchewomento recognizethemselvesin SERNAM's
The Mapuche women I spoke with emphasizedthat the discrimination
they experiencedwas differentfrom thatexperiencedby otherwomen. They
spoke of double and often triple discriminationagainst them as women, as
indigenous, and as poor, and they insisted that social inequalities and dis-
criminationexisted among women-not just between men and women. As
MariaPinda,leaderof Katriwalain CerroNavia (a municipalityin Santiago)
explained,Mapuchewomen areoften not hiredforjobs in which they would
be attendingthe public because their physical characteristicsdo not accord
with Chilean standardsof beauty,which value "European"features (inter-
view, November3, 2000). Mapuchewomen often receive substandardtreat-
ment in municipal offices and other public services. A leader from Cerro
Navia said that she was often treatedwith suspicion, as if she were tryingto
get awaywith somethingratherthanclaimingservicesto which she was enti-
tled. She also complainedof being attendedonly after"whiter"women (field
notes, December 13, 2000). Finally,middle-andupper-classwomen employ
Mapuchewomen as servants,exploitingtheirlaborandoften resortingto eth-
nic slurs such as mapuchitaor "dirtyIndian"to addressthem.

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When I asked her what she thought of feminism, CarolinaManque, a

social workerand cofounderof AukinikoDomo, an NGO run by Mapuche
women, said thatit was a "legitimatecurrent"but that"therehas also been a
certaindiscrimination,or a certainlack of preoccupation,of many feminist
movementstowardindigenouswomen"(interview,May 26, 2000). She told
the story of her mother,who had been a servantin the Santiagohome of a
feministwho workedin a women'sNGO:"Shewas a feminist,butshe treated
my mother as a 'shitty Indian.'She said that to her! And, well, she would
always say, 'You don't have rights, you have no rights.' I said, 'This
woman... is a feminist!?' "While surelynot all feministssharethis woman's
views, this storyvividly demonstratesthatfightingagainstone formof injus-
tice does not necessarily lead to a conscious position against all forms of
injustice. That Mapuche women experience discriminationdifferentlyand
that they are often discriminatedagainst by other women indicates that
women's substantiveexperience of citizenship is not the same-Mapuche
women are not treatedas "equals"of otherwomen. This implies thatnot all
women have the same interests.
The argumentthatgenderrelationsworkdifferentlyamongthe Mapuche
has two aspects: duality and complementarity.Both are rooted in the
Mapuchereligious worldview,in which the supremebeing has four aspects:
old woman, old man, young woman, young man. Elisa Avendanio,an expert
on the Mapuche worldview, explains that the man and the woman always
appeartogether,handin hand(interview,August2, 2000). This was reflected
in the observationof several women that state policies compartmentalized
them (as women, youth, aged, andso forth)while Mapucheculturewas more
integrativeandequilibrium-oriented.Furthermore,they suggestedthatcom-
plementary gender roles among the Mapuche did not necessarily signal
inequalitiesbetween men and women.
My interviewsdid indicatesome importantdifferencesof opinionamong
Mapuchewomen on this issue, however (see Richards,2002). Womenwho
say thatdiscriminationagainstwomen exists within Mapucheorganizations
andsociety as it does in any society oftenexpresstheirperspectivein termsof
the influence of Westernpatriarchalstructure.In this vein, CarolinaManque
maintainsthatthe infiltrationof "machismo"amongthe Mapucherepresents
"the loss of values and the weakening of our roots and worldview" (in
Coordinadorade Mujeresde Organizacionese InstitucionesMapuches,1995:
17). Otherssuggest thatthe ideal of complementaryroles does not result in
equal opportunitiesfor women. Isolde Reuque, an officially appointedcon-
sultanton indigenous issues to PresidentLagos, says that the concept may
result in fewer leadership opportunitiesfor women (interview, August 3,

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Sometimes, Mapuchewomen directly challenge Chilean gender stereo-

types. A highly publicized example occurred when a woman from the
Consejode Todaslas Tierras(Councilof All Lands-CTT), a radicalorgani-
zation involved in numerous land reoccupations,hit a former director of
CONADI at a meeting in Temuco.Women have been protagonistsin other
recentevents, such as the occupationof a regionalgovernmentbuildingand
some land reoccupations,as well. The Mapucheare sometimes accused of
"using"womenbecauseaccordingto Chileanculturalnorms,force cannotbe
used againstwomen. For example, BertaBelmar,the formerintendente(the
presidentially appointedhead of regional government)of the Araucania,
stated that she felt it was regrettablethat the Mapuche involved children,
women, and old people in their actions. Women associated with the CTT
responded:"Inthis way, the intendenteexpresses the paternalismof women
withouta genderedperspective,mediatedby men. We, as Mapuchewomen,
do not participatein thatpatriarchalorderwhich constructswomen as beings
markedby inferiority,subordinatedand dependenton men; we direct our
own actions"(El Austral, January20, 2001). So these Mapuchewomen
oftenaccusedby feministsandrepresentativesof the stateof being dependent
on men, of not speakingfor themselves, of lacking genderconsciousness, of
being victims of a primitiveculturalorder-have turnedthatargumenton its
head,pointingout thatin this case, it is the chief representativeof the statein
the region, herself a woman, who is analyzingMapuchewomen's participa-
tion from a patriarchalperspectivethatrestrictsacceptableroles for women.
In this case, the argumentis not merely thatMapuchewomen are not equal
but thatthey are not the same as other women.
Finally, gender issues are not usually the focus of Mapuche women's
activism.Even when the women I interviewedspokeof genderdifferencesor
inequalities,they made it very clearthattheirprincipalstruggle,theirreason
for being organized,was to bringaboutjustice for the Mapucheas a whole.
Moreover, women who advocated supporting, training, and organizing
women stressedthatthese activitieswere a supportto the Mapuchestruggle
moregenerally.Forexample,while clarifyingthatherNGO, AukinikoDomo,
did not wish to "separate"womenfrommen,CarolinaManquenotedthat,"to
the extentthatthe women can be on betterfooting, morevalued,morerecog-
nized, it will be a benefitfor women andfor the [Mapuche]people. Fora peo-
ple thatis oppressedand needs to rise up and needs to speak out-as a peo-
ple" (interview,May 26, 2000). Isolde Reuque agreed: "Thereis an idea
inside of me, thatis like thatchallenge to say, 'I am capable ... andI wantto
supportthis challenge of the people, on one hand, [and] of women, on the
other,in what we want to arriveat: the autonomyof the Mapuchepeople'"
(interview,August 3, 2000). She added that women's fundamentalrole in

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culturalreproductionmeantthatsupportingwomen's trainingandparticipa-
tion was particularlyimportantto the defense of the Mapuche.And, when
asked how Mapuche women's gender discourse differed from that of non-
Mapuche women, Elisa Avendaio answered:"The principaldifference is
thatwe women struggleas a People, we have a vision de pueblo. We women
assertas a People thatwe have to be recognized,we want autonomy,and we
arenot going to achieve autonomyas women, we aregoing to achieve it as a
People"(quotedin Calfio, 1997). Understandingthis visionde pueblo, which
incorporateselements of "non-fairness"and "non-sameness,"is essential to
understandingMapuche women activists, their goals, and their frustration
with SERNAM's ethnocentricportrayalof genderinterests.
I view this perspectiveas an importanttheoreticalcontribution,in some
ways similar to "multiracialfeminism"in the United States, on the partof
Mapuchewomen. One importantdifference,however,is thatmost Mapuche
women leadersdo not identify themselves as feminists. Anotheris thatZinn
and Dill privilege race while for Mapuchewomen the privilegedconcept is
clearly indigenous identity.
The social divisions, hierarchies,and differentialaccess to power that
exist on the basis of race also exist among indigenous and nonindigenous
women. Indeed, "being indigenous" involves elements of race: many
Mapuche women are distinct in skin color and body shape from Chilean
women with more "European"characteristicsand sufferdiscriminationas a
result.In addition,though,place is essentialto an understandingof vision de
pueblo. Wade(1997) contendsthatin LatinAmerica,indigenouspeople are
ideologically located outside of dominantsociety. They are constructedas
separatefrom "modern"society (and thus, when they leave theircommuni-
ties and migrateto the city, are often constructedas no longer indigenous).
Indigenouspeople may also constructthemselvesas outside dominantsoci-
ety, as in historicallybased claims for autonomousterritory.
Place is essentialto understandingthe vision de pueblo becauseMapuche
demandsarerootedin a worldviewthatcentralizesit. Indeed,"Mapuche"is
often translatedas "peopleof the land."The ChileanhistorianJose Bengoa
(1992: 135) points out, however,thatthe meaningof mapugoes beyond that
of "land.""Mapuis the territoryin which the men who formthe people, who
form the lineage, or group of lineages relatedby marriage,live. Mapuche
wouldbe the peoplewho live, hunt,wandertheseterritories,andas such,have
been born, and are from there."And ultimately,of course, most Mapuche
demandsarerelatedto the invasionandappropriationof Mapucheterritory.
By addingthe element of place to the tenets of multiracialfeminism, we
can begin to understandthe vision de pueblo upon which Mapuchewomen
base their activism. This explanationgoes beyond arguing that Mapuche

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womenaretriplydiscriminatedagainstto capturetherelationalaspectsof the

oppressionthey describe.Indeed,Zinn and Dill's observationsare reflected
in Mapuchewomen's experiencewith SERNAM.The social locations (edu-
cated, nonpoor,nonindigenous)of the women who work at SERNAMhave
given themaccess to morepowerfulpositions.As a result,SERNAMdefines
women and their interests in a way that normalizes and centralizes non-
indigenous women, therebymarginalizingMapuchewomen's lived experi-
ence. Even Plan 2, while includingsome referencesto ethnicityand indige-
nous women, continues to posit that there is an experience of oppression
universally shared by all Chilean women-something that the Mapuche
womenin this studyassertis untrue.A betterapproachwouldentailconsider-
ation of the impacts of policy, programs, and discourse on indigenous
women, therebycenteringethnic differenceas one of the principalmatrices
of power and domination in society much as feminist movements have
insisted on the incorporationof gender.



Despite the limitationsdescribedabove, some Mapuchewomen leaders

havechosen to interactwith SERNAM.Theydo so for a varietyof reasons.In
additionto people-level demands,these women have issued gender-specific
demands.For instance,among the proposalssubmittedto SERNAMMinis-
ter AdrianaDelPiano by the MapucheWomen'sExecutiveSecretariatin the
Araucania were interculturalsexual education and family planning, an
interculturalmobile gynecological clinic, interculturalfamily-violence pro-
grams,and access to land subsidyprogramsfor single mothers.In Santiago,
proposals have included the creation of an "IndigenousWomen's House"
with programsfor and by Mapuche women, the creationof an Indigenous
Women'sDepartmentstaffedby Mapuchewomen withinSERNAM,the cel-
ebrationof the InternationalDay of the IndigenousWoman,spaces for them
to sell traditionalcrafts, and interculturalchild-carecenters.
Furthermore,thereis a growingtendencyin projectandfundingopportu-
nities (in the state as well as in internationaldevelopment agencies and
NGOs) to focus on gender.Some Mapuchewomen complainaboutthis, say-
ing thatit is inconsistentwith theirworldview.At the same time, they recog-
nize thatby focusing on genderthemselves they can get access to important
resources.Finally,some see SERNAMas a potentialally in gettingaccess to
other parts of the state government.In discussing the proposals made to
SERNAM through the Urban Mapuche Women's Working Group, the

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Mapuche activist and former adviser to CONADI Beatriz Painequeocom-

mented: "Well, they weren't that many, because we know that SERNAM
doesn't give thatmuch.... So the idea is thatthey also help us to open spaces,
because for us, it's not so easy to open spaces in other public services ...
becausein realitywe don'thavethe spacesto rely upon,butfor themit should
be somewhateasier"(interview,November28, 2000). Achieving access for
womenby ensuringthatstateministriesincorporatea genderedperspectiveis
the institutionalpurpose of SERNAM. Beatriz's comments are interesting
because she includes Mapuchewomen in the groupof people towardwhom
SERNAMhas a responsibility.She andotherswho shareherviews arerefor-
mulatingthatdiscourseto demandthat state ministriesnot only not be gen-
der-biasedbut also not be biased againstindigenouspeoples.
Mapuche women's gender-baseddemands were documentedas part of
the preparationsfor the WorldWomen'sConferenceheld in Beijing in 1995,
althoughthey had also been discussed in earlierforums. Mapuche women
have also initiated dialogue with SERNAM and other state agencies.
SERNAMhas openedup to dialoguein some cases, althoughthe resultshave
seldom been very substantive.Its currentdiscoursewith regardto indigenous
issues seems more promising,however,and some Mapuchewomen express
hope that this new "openness"will result in more appropriatepolicies and
programs.Fourrecenteffortsof Mapuchewomen to have theirinterestsrep-
resentedby SERNAM are summarizedbelow. The first one illustratesthe
complete absence of indigenous issues in SERNAM'searly discourse. The
following three highlight the additive approachto indigenous women and
ethnicitythatprevailsin SERNAM'sdiscoursetoday.


Ruraland indigenouswomen were mentionednowherein the firstEqual

OpportunitiesPlan. In response to this, groups representingthese women
successfully petitionedSERNAMto form a committee (the Mesa Rural)in
1995 to create an equal opportunitiesplan for ruralwomen. The resulting
document(1997) was published,however,not as a planbutas "Proposalsfor
EqualOpportunityPolicies for RuralWomen,"andthese proposalswere not
adoptedas partof the presidentialplatform.Additionally,the specific issues
faced by urbanindigenouswomen (morethanhalf the indigenouswomen in
the country)were not addressedin either document.
Today,SERNAMhas shiftedfromcompletelyignoringindigenousissues
to viewing them additively.Indigenous women are mentioned in various
places in Plan 2 but almost exclusively in terms of their being a "marginal
group."Being indigenousis conceptualizedas an additionalbarrierto access

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to resources and services. While this is indeed one aspect of Mapuche

women's claims, SERNAMhas made no effort to createlines of action that
startfrom the perspectiveof Mapuchewomen, andthereforetheirmore sub-
stantial claims of difference remain unaddressed.As the following cases
demonstrate,SERNAM views being indigenous as one more impediment
ratherthanas a principalsourceof identitythatcreatesdifferencesin the per-
spectives of women and, because of power differences in Chilean society,
results in restrictedaccess to resourcesand decision making.


In response to criticisms expressed by ruraland indigenous as well as

pobladora women, SERNAMinvitedgroupsof women representingdiverse
sectors of society to participatein evaluatingPlan 1 priorto the creationof
Plan 2. Mapuche women in Santiago and in the Araucaniaparticipatedin
these evaluationsand,particularlyin the Araucania,contributedvery specific
proposalsto the process. But as EricaL6pez, formerdirectorof SERNAMin
the Araucania,pointedout, Plan 2 is made up of generalobjectivesand lines
of action, and few of these proposalsactuallyappearin it. The women were
left to protestthattheir time and efforts had been wasted.
Accordingto variousaccounts,the Santiagoevaluationprocess was par-
ticularlytense. It was a two-month-long,multistageprocess in which groups
of womenrepresentingdifferentsectorsof society generatedevaluationsand
proposalsand were broughttogetherat the end to approvea final document
thatwouldbe sent on to the nationallevel. The Mapuchewomen who partici-
patedprotestedthat many had not even known the plan existed before they
were invitedto evaluateit. Accordingto MargaritaCayupil,leaderof Trawun
Mapuin Santiago,the women also felt that SERNAM was coming at them
with pregeneratedproposalsfor approval,andthereforethey decidedto sub-
mit proposalswithoutthe facilitationof SERNAM(interview,September11,
2000). According to one SERNAM functionary,several Mapuche women
interruptedthe final event, saying thatthey were not representedin the pro-
posals. She complained that the Mapuche women were organizationally
immature:"Includethem or don't include them, they'll attack me all the
same."This official seems to have expected that Mapuche women would
have simply been happywith the invitation.
Plan 2 is neverthelesssomewhatmore promisingthanthe first plan. Eth-
nicity is mentionedin 15 of 147 total lines of action (14 of 31 total objec-
tives). However,while it makesreferenceto "indigenouspeoples"and "eth-
nicity"in generalterms,it neverspecifically mentionswho these peoples are
(Mapuche,Aymara,RapaNui, andso on). In addition,most of the references

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involve suggesting that their access (along with that of other vulnerable
groups) to particularresources and programsneeds to be improved.While
this is true,it is a completely additiveapproachto incorporatingdifference.
By not moving the experiencesof indigenouswomen fromthe marginto the
center,Plan 2 perpetuatesSERNAM'sexclusionarygenderdiscourse.
While Plan 2 tacks on ethnicityat key points, it fails to incorporateit as a
"basicsocial division and structureof power"thatresultsin inequalitiesand
differencesamong women (Zinn and Dill, 2000 [1997]). Genderequalityis
presentedas fundamentalto a moredemocraticsociety,butthe ways in which
nonindigenousChileanwomen are complicit in the oppressionof Mapuche
women are not consideredone of the inequalitiesthat should be addressed.
Nor does the planacknowledgethatMapuchewomendo not wish to be equal
in the sense of being the same as nonindigenousChileanwomen. Nowherein
the plan does SERNAMassume the responsibilityof ensuringthatthe poli-
cies it advocatesarefree of ethnicbias or, for thatmatter,thatall otherminis-
tries consider the impact of their policies not just on women but on indige-
nous women in particular.Inclusion in SERNAM's writtendiscourse gives
Mapuchewomen more of a base from which to make claims on the service,
but since no specific initiatives are outlined, their chances of having their
interestsrepresentedwill be at least partiallya functionof the goodwill of the
individualstate functionariesinvolved. Unless ethnic differenceis seen as a
principalvector by which power is distributedin society (includingamong
women) rather than as an additional barrier faced by some women,
SERNAM'sapproachwill continueto marginalizeMapuchewomen.



In Santiago,Mapuchewomen fromthe Commissionof UrbanIndigenous

Peoples requested that the national office of SERNAM create a Working
Groupwith UrbanMapucheWomen. SERNAMagreed, and four meetings
were held, startingon May 24, 2000. SERNAMdocumentson the working
group demonstrate an inconsistent understandingof the importance of
improving their representationof Mapuche women. In a document titled
has a mandateto "eradicateall forms of discrimination."It also notes the
state's recognition that "truedemocracyis possible only to the extent that
each groupandpersonfeels partof andrepresentedby the diversepublicpol-
icies that the state incorporatesinto its management."The document sets
short-, medium-, and long-term challenges for SERNAM's work with
Mapuche women, among them to "incorporatethem as a group of bene-

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ficiariesin the correspondingregions"andto "visualizethemwithinthe man-

agement and services that the programs offer to the community at the
regionallevel."This second challenge seems to be getting at what is neces-
sary: to consider the prioritiesand perspectivesof Mapuche women. The
documentgoes on, however,to mentiona presidentialmandatethat all sec-
tors of the government"design a programmaticagenda that integratesthe
wisdom andknowledgeuniqueto the ancestralcultures."The mandateis pre-
sentedas a positive step for SERNAMandotherstateagencies, butby focus-
ing on integrationand implying thatindigenouspeoples arethepast of what
is now Chile it indicatesthe limits to "truedemocracy"anddeemphasizesthe
rightsthatrecognizingtheir statusas peoples might entail.
Thusfar,the mainpositive resultof this workinggrouphas been the cele-
brationof the InternationalDay of the IndigenousWoman in Santiago on
September5, 2000. This was consideredan importantachievementby many
of the women who participated.At the event, AdrianaDelPiano spoke can-
didly of the difficultiesSERNAMfaced in confrontingthe issues of Mapuche
women without equivocation-trying to understandwhere their concerns
overlapwith those of other women and in what ways they are differentis a
majorchallenge. Yet her speech revealedmanyof the problemswith official
statediscoursevis-a-vis indigenouspeoples. She repeatedseveraltimes that
the dialoguestakingplace betweenthe Mapuchemovementandthe statehad
to do with how Chile could incorporatethe country's"indigenousrichness."
Mapuchewomen agreethatrecognizingdiversityis a real need;the problem
is that official Chilean discourse focuses so intently on diversity,
deemphasizinghistoricaldemandsand the Mapuche'sstatusas a people.
DelPiano also said thatChile would be a differentcountryif it acknowl-
edged its mestizo identity as do many other Latin American countries.
Acknowledging mestizaje, she said, makes us recognize a sharedidentity,
andthereforethe issue of mestizajeis just as importantas thatof indigenous
peoples and she would like to see CONADI addressit. DelPiano accurately
identifieda problem:the widespreadbelief among Chileans that theirs is a
racially homogeneous society of Europeanorigin and the almost complete
denialof mestizajeamongChileanindividuals(Aylwin, 1998). But mestizaje
discoursehas been used in manycountriesthroughoutLatinAmericato deny
the rightto differenceassertedby indigenouspeoples. It may not have been
DelPiano's intent, but by claiming sharedidentity,mestizajediscourse can
have pernicious effects on indigenous peoples' efforts to make demands
based on historicalinjustices and culturaldifference.
SERNAM'sagreementto enter into dialogue with Mapuchewomen is a
step in the right direction,and, clearly,Mapuchewomen's activism has led

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SERNAM to consider diversity. But diversity alone is not sufficient to

addressMapuchewomen's claims for culturalrights.



SERNAM's regional office in the Araucaniahas displayed increasing

willingness to initiate solutions. A regional document acknowledges the
"nonexistence of equality policies for Mapuche women that are based on
real needs and expectations"(Matte, 1999), andEricaL6pez, formerdirec-
tor of the regional office, recognized that measuresto addressthe needs of
Mapuche women were long overdue. She added, however, that regional
offices were severelylimitedin the extentto which theycould tailortheirpro-
grams to regional needs, because programmaticas well as budgetarydeci-
sions were made at the nationallevel. But at least recently,SERNAM-IXhas
demonstrated more political will for addressing Mapuche women's
demands.In 2000, KarinTreulen,a Mapucheadviser,was maderesponsible
for organizingthe MapucheWomen'sExecutiveSecretariat,a groupof aca-
demics, NGO and governmentworkers,andmembersof Mapuchewomen's
organizations.The objectiveof the secretariatwas to createa list of proposals
to be integratedinto the regionaldevelopmentplanandto formthe basis for a
regionalequal-opportunitiesplan for Mapuchewomen. The proposalswere
submittedto DelPiano in a formalceremonyon November3, 2000. The pro-
posal-developing process was very participative,incorporatingthe four
groups mentionedabove.
One way in which state agencies respond to Mapuche demands is by
attemptingto "sell"programsthatalreadyexist or havealreadybeen planned
as answers to Mapuchedemands.An example of this is the creationof two
intrafamily-violencecentersfor the Araucania,one of themeasily accessible
to Mapuche women. The point is not that these centers are unwantedor
unnecessarybut ratherthatSERNAM'sstrategyappearsto be to ask, "What
do we have that more or less fits their demands?"SERNAM officials often
explainthatit is difficultto incorporatethe proposalsbecauseannualbudgets
are determinedapproximatelya year in advance.The weakness of this argu-
ment is evidentwhen we considerthatMapuchewomen's demandsandpro-
posals have existed in writtenform since at least 1995. This strategycan also
be interpretedas an attemptto impose discourses and prioritiesthat do not
always reflect the reality or priorities of Mapuche women. Once again,
Mapuchewomen are simply being addedto existing programs.
Still, in the Araucania, SERNAM has begun to respond to Mapuche
women's demands by initiating this process, and this should not be over-

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looked. Karin Treulen, moreover,often expressed her frustrationthat her

multipleduties did not allow her to spend more time on Mapuchewomen's
issues. The willingness of L6pez and Treulendemonstratedthat the state is
not a monolithic actor. Mapuche women are more likely to have their
demands addressed when sympatheticactors exist within the state. Such
willingness is barelyapparentin the MetropolitanRegion andis inconsistent
at the nationallevel.
In 2001, SERNAMbackedup its verbalcommitmentto Mapuchewomen
in the Araucanfaby signing a national-levelagreementwith CONADI that
designated50 millionpesos (approximatelyUS$85,000) forproductivedevel-
opment, integral development for women with land, interculturalhealth,
intrafamilyviolence, and leadership training, among other initiatives (El
Austral,March23, 2001). While this effort was a significantgesturetoward
changein the relationshipbetweenSERNAMandMapuchewomen,the allo-
cation of 50 million pesos-less than US$8.50 per intendedbeneficiary-
indicatesboth the severely limited budgetsof SERNAM and CONADI and
the low priorityassignedto Mapuchewomen'sconcerns.Since my fieldwork
ended, however,a Mapuchewoman, Rosa Rapimanof the Casa de la Mujer
Mapuche,was designatedregionaldirectorof SERNAMby RamiroPizarro,
who was appointedintendenteof the Araucaniain January2002. Whether
she will be able to implementprogramsandpolicies froma perspectivemore
in line with Mapuchewomen's prioritiesremainsto be seen.
In sum, these four cases show thatwhile SERNAMhas recentlybegunto
recognize the need to representMapuchewomen, its main strategyhas been
an additiveapproachthatfails to acknowledgeMapuchewomen's assertions
of culturaldifference. Issues such as the ways in which some women are
implicatedin the discriminationsufferedby others,possible culturaldiffer-
ences in genderrelations,and the need for interculturalprogramsare not on
its agenda.


SERNAM'sdiscourse and actions can only be understoodin the context

of the state as a whole. The Chilean state has been selective in addressing
Mapuche demands. Some revindicationshave been defined as illegitimate
(autonomousterritory)or illegal (land invasions).Programsthatfit within a
loosely defined diversity/integrationparadigm(such as interculturalhealth
or educationprograms)have been fundedandhighly publicized.Finally,the
Mapuche'sstrugglehas been framednot as historicallybased claims but as
socioeconomic problems easily eradicatedby development-orientedsolu-

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tions such as land subsidyprograms,education,and training.This approach

does respondto some demands,butit avoidsdirectlyaddressingthe demands
for recognitionand autonomythatchallengethe state'sinterconnectedgoals
in the economic (strengtheningChile's position in the global market)and
ideological (maintaininga unitaryChilean national identity) spheres. The
state'scurrentresponseto the Mapuchethus seems to be an effortto contain
Mapuchedemandsin orderto protectthese goals. CarolinaManqueobjects
to the injustice of this strategy (personal communication,November 24,

The Chilean state has a historicaldebt with our people for having takenfrom
us, by force of deathandarms,ourterritoryandindependence.It's obviousthat
all the publicpolicies the stategeneratesfor the Mapuchepopulationaregoing
to act vis-a-vis the "effects"of a colonialist state:poverty,illiteracy,lack of
economic, educational,etc., opportunities,but always thinkingof us as a vul-
nerableandpoor sector.... In the currentsituationof oppressionandcolonial-
ism fromthe statetowardourMapuchepeople, the pathof publicpolicies, like
the laws, has serveduntilnow to seek "integrationism" or dependency.Now, in
termsof theissueof publicpoliciesandMapuchewomen,asa doublyortriply
discriminatedsector of society, what role is there for the state?

When Mapuchedemandsare incorporatedas partof public policy, it is not

historicalinjusticeor culturaldifferencethatthe staterecognizes. Rather,as
Manquenotes, policies directedat indigenouspeoples in Chile are linked to
poverty alleviation and "vulnerability."SERNAM's response to Mapuche
women's claims fits into this overall state strategy.Addressing indigenous
peoples not only in termsof a loosely conceived "diversity"or an additional
"vulnerable"sector but also as participantsin a historicalrelationshipthat
has resulted in the depredation of their societies, cultures, and nations, as well
as moder-day discriminationand the devaluationof their cultures,would
mean radicallychanging the way SERNAM and the state (and, indeed, the
nationitself) are organized.It would entailrecognitionof differentiatedcul-
turalratherthan simply individualrights.


Mapuchewomen's claims based on vision de pueblo incorporateaspects

of equalityand difference,drawingattentionto the differencesand inequali-
ties thatexist amongwomen. They representa challengeto SERNAM'spor-
trayal of the interests of Chilean women citizens, which is based funda-

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mentallyon the principleof equalitybetween women and men. SERNAM's

shortcomingsin this regardmatch the reluctanceof the wider state to deal
with claims based on culturaldifferenceand historicalinjustice.
What,then, does challengingstate-drivengenderdiscoursematterin this
context?Is thereroom within Mapuchewomen's interactionswith the state
for the expressionof a criticalpolitics basedon culturaldifferenceandhistor-
ical justice? While hopeful, Mapuchewomen leadersincreasinglychallenge
SERNAM (and other ministries) for not supporting its discourse with
actions,andsome questionthe point of formallyissuing demandsto the state
or participatingin meetings to develop proposals in coordinationwith the
state.They arguethatthe solutionto the Mapucheconflict does not lie in pub-
lic policy; Mapuchewomen's claims arepartof broaderdemandsover a his-
torical conflict thatis unlikely to be resolved by increasingfunds for multi-
culturaleducation or interculturalhealth programs.The constructionof a
strong movement that focuses on historical demands is therefore more
importantthan negotiating with the state. CarolinaManque, for example,
argues that in the context of the state she describes above, establishing a
strongmovementof Mapuchewomen thatempowersthem while struggling
forjustice for the people as a whole is moreimportant(personalcommunica-
tion, November24, 2000).
Othersagreethatfortifyingthe movementis essentialandstruggleto find
ways to workfor continuedchangewithinandoutsidetheirrelationshipwith
the state.MariaHueichaqueo,presidentof TaiiiAdkimnin La Pintana(Santi-
ago), explained that in one meeting of SERNAM's WorkingGroup with
Urban Mapuche Women, she became concerned about the lack of unity
amongthe perspectivesof the Mapuchewomen who were participating.She
felt that this made it easier for SERNAM to avoid addressingthe women's
more importantdemandsby appealingto the specific interestsof particular
women such as micro-entrepreneurs.She explainedthe strategythey came
up with to preventthis from happeningagain as follows (interview,July 26,

Wearegoingto gettogetherbeforemeetingswiththestateandafterthemeet-
ings... becausetheideais tokeepimproving
ing our profile, not saying, "Yes,yes, yes" to everythingthe state is saying or
offering. Because, definitely, there are always going to be crumbs.... You
know,40 million [pesos] in the areaof interculturalhealthis, to me, a laugh.Or
bilingualeducation,is also,forme,a laugh.It'sa
amount,andthat'swhatwehaveto tellthestate:Thereis a historical
debt here.

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This perspectiveemphasizesthe difficultyof getting the stateto incorporate

claims for rights based on cultural difference. Approaches that focus on
strengtheningthe movementmay have more success insofar as they clarify
what the movement'sobjectives actually are.
Mapuchewomen have achieved importantchanges in the way in which
SERNAMapproachesgender.They are limited, though,by its reluctanceto
addressthe prioritiesand demandsof Mapuchewomen and by the general
statecontext,in which gainingrecognitionof culturalrightsis extremelydif-
ficult. Yet the unique challenge that they pose to state-drivengender dis-
course and theirability to sustainactivitiesoutside of theirrelationshipwith
the stateindicatepossibilities for the growthof a criticalpolitics aroundcul-
turaldifference and historical injustices that could lead to the inclusion of
culturalrights as partof Chilean citizenship.


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