We Tripantu Festival

Last Saturday we had another IFSA field trip, this time to the far south of the city to Cerro Chena. Cerro Chena was and remains an extremely important site in many of the indigenous cultures both as a meeting place as well as a sacred place. We were there to celebrate We Tripantu, which is the indigenous people’s New Year and is marked by the winter solstice or the longest night of the year.

It was an overcast day and the sky threatened rain but the people who began to gather at the foot of the steep hill were excited and happy to see one another. Children were running and playing together, and a group of kids our age were dancing and laughing in a circle. Before the ceremony started we took a hike along the winding trail up to the top of the hill, where we could look out over the farmlands and nearby mountains. The view from the top was breathtaking and we stayed for a while just looking out over the countryside.

We wound our way back down the mountain and took our seats in the folding chairs that had been set up to watch the ceremonies. The facilitator of the event thanked us all for coming, and invited us to stand in a half circle to watch the purification rituals. In the middle of the circle of onlookers was a sacred tree, which was blessed by a mapuche elder who sprinkled it with water from a hollow gourd as he prayed under his breath in mapudungun (ancient Mapuche language). The facilitator prayed aloud in Spanish, thanking the spirits for the past year and asking for their blessing and support in the coming year. An offering of beer, grain, and bread was sprinkled over the sacred tree and also some was burned in a small bowl. Finally we were all asked to hold hands in a symbol of unity and alliance and acceptance of diversity.

After the Mapuche ceremony had concluded, the Rapa Nui delegation from Easter Island also held a ceremony in which they offered water and salt as symbols of the old year and the new. We were invited to think about the elements we will carry with us over to the next year and the things that we should let go and leave in the old year.

Next representatives from the three tribes that were present preformed some of their traditional dances and music, which I enjoyed very much. Here are some short clips of the dances:


After the dancing was a great cookout, all free of charge, with such awesome food. I had grilled chicken and bread, a sopaipilla, a chicken soup with vegetables, another sopaipilla, some barbequed pork, and a teeny sample of some traditional wine made from fruit. It was all delicious! Full to bursting and happily sleepy, we crawled back into the van and slept all the way home.



Boring Orientation Mapuche Field Trip

Sorry, I’m a bit behind on my blog. This is what happened on Tuesday:

I successfully navigated public transportation again and met up with everyone at 8:45 at the IFSA office to attend orientation at the Universidad de Chile, which is luckily right on the same street so we all trooped into the campus.

The campus at Av Portugal is gorgeous, it houses the Facultad de Negocios (affectionately called FEN), the Facultad de Arquitectura y Deseno, and some other ones I don’t remember.


However this was the most boring orientation ever. I thought the point of orientation was to be like “rah rah we are so exciting rah rah!” but some professor just talked for almost an hour about the political and economic history of Chile in a dry voice. Then there was a little show by some students and then more administrators talked but it was SO BORING. Luckily the refreshments afterwards were awesome.

Next we piled into a bus to visit the southernmost campus of the Universidad de Chile which is where the agriculture and veterinary schools are. This part of Santiago is also much poorer than the heart of Santiago and so illustrates very well the  stratification and segregation of classes in Santiago and in Chile as a whole.

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The Mapuche orientation was fascinating. We ate some traditional Mapuche food (I wasn’t a big fan of it but at least I tried it!) and then we were treated to a presentation inside the Mapuche roca, their traditional thatched grass communal dwellings.

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The presentation was about the Mapuche creation story and worldviews. Their cosmovision, or interpretation of the world, is really interesting. Above the earth is the Wenu Mapu, the source of positive energy, and below is the Miñche Mapu, the source of negative energy, and the people and animals and plants live on the Nag Mapu. On the horizontal plane, each cardinal direction has a significance, for example the ancestors are said to dwell in the east, so they send the sun each morning. This is why Mapuche dwellings, called ruca, always have a doorway facing east, so the light from the sun can come in and purify the home each morning. The sun and moon cycles also play a vital role in their cosmovision. I’m considering taking a class in Mapuche art and culture because it is so interesting.