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  • Writer's pictureGrace Rector

Week 7: A Week Away from the City

According to the Mapuche culture, everything has life and everything has a positive and negative energy. This week, I went to the south of Chile to a city called Temuco, also home to a large Mapuche population, or the largest indigenous tribe of Chile. The main purpose behind this trip was to learn about the intercultural schools in the south that bring together Chilean and Mapuche cultures, but also to learn about the Mapuche community as a whole.

Students performing a Mapuche dance

We spent the first few days attending seminars with various professors that specialize on intercultural education. The seminars were fascinating because I learned that the requirements to be an intercultural school are so minimal that the title no longer hold much significance. If a school holds an event traditionally associated with another culture at least twice a year, they are named an intercultural school. But being intercultural means so much more! Rather than objectifying a culture for the purpose of a holiday or to receive the title as an intercultural school, true intercultural education in the context of southern Chile is a school that uses Mapundungun (the language of the Mapuche) outside of Mapundungun class, it is a school that teaches the values of the Mapuche tribe throughout the everyday learning in the classrooms, it is an education promotes cultural diversity rather than integration of one culture into another.

Outside of the seminars I learned a lot about the Mapuche culture by living with a Mapuche family: Luci, Raul, and their grandson Nawel. They lived in beautiful home in the center of the community, next to the Ruka, a hut constructed by the community with a fire pit inside for community events. Every day I would put on my boots and go out to the chicken coop with Raul to pick the freshly laid eggs by one of their 50 chicken, then we would walk to another plot of land to bring the 40 sheep back to the plot of land next to our house. We ate every meal together, and I hardly saw Luci or Raul sit and do nothing over the course of the week, because they always found something productive to do around the farm or they went to the city to cell products.

Going for a walk with my host dad Raul

It was a very cold week, never reaching more than 55 degrees, and every morning, as I was cozy in bed, was so hard to get out of the wool blankets and get dressed. But most nights, Raul and I went out to gather dry firewood and made a nice and toasty fire in our home, then sat around it with our feet up singing songs. He is a very involved member in the Evangelical church, so he sang me some hymns from his church and I sang him a song that I learned in my Catholic Church.

On the last day of our visit, every student planted a tree on a plot of land as a thank you gift for our time spent in their community. It was a beautiful activity to do with my host dad Raul and my host brother Nawel because it was a group effort and it is a sustainable contribution that will remain in the community for many years I hope.

Planting our tree with Raul and Nawel

I am so grateful to my host family for opening their home to me and for all the stories, laughs, and meals that we shared.

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