European settlers in Chile | DW Documentary


A land dispute between European immigrants and the indigenous people of Chile has turned deadly. Hardly a day passes in the Chilean province of Araucanía without an attack by indigenous people on settlers.

In the night of January 4, 2013, Mapuche Indians invaded a Swiss couple’s farm. Shots were exchanged. The house was set on fire and the couple died in the flames.

Attacks are carried out again and again in Araucanía: Fields are burned, tractors and harvesters destroyed, and forests and farms set alight. There has been no respite for the province in southern Chile – and the violence is increasing. This small-scale war has gone on without attracting the world’s attention. The Mapuche see it as a struggle for emancipation.

The Chilean government lured European settlers to the New World in the 19th century, paying for passage, and granting them 40 hectares of land and loans to build a new life. Around 22 thousand Swiss came at that time, along with German, Italian and British settlers. They were escaping poverty in hopes of a prosperous life. Many succeeded. They became proud landowners. But the state generously distributed land it did not actually own. The young nation had only conquered the southern regions of today’s Chile in the mid- 19th century. Official histories still call this „pacification,” but it was nothing more than the merciless suppression of the indigenous people. The Chilean state took 90 percent of their territory and crammed them into reservations. With the loss of their land, their culture and way of life disappeared. Once semi-nomadic, they now served the settlers as cheap labor in the fields and as domestic help. Today, this historic injustice has once again come to the fore.

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