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The indigenous heritage in Chilean: between shame and ignorance

When we talk about Chile, we are talking about a diverse and mestizo nation, where different descendants merge to form the “Chilean”. Mainly, our roots come from Europe and the American indigenous peoples at a ratio of almost 50/50, but there is a phenomenon that calls attention: that the Chilean citizen does not accept the descent in the same way.

A study carried out by the Center for Citizen Opinion Studies of the University of Talca, showed a crude reality, where Chilean society denies its indigenous roots, reaching the point of assuring that Chile is a more developed country due to the little influence of native peoples. In this study, 52% of Chileans claim to have no relationship with the original peoples, also revealing that 77% of our population believes that carrying a Mapuche surname is detrimental to their work.

Bearing these figures in mind, we must ask ourselves why we do not feel identified with our native peoples, remembering that 44% of our genes are Amerindian, coming from the Aymara and Mapuche peoples. To answer this question, we talked to Michel Duquesnoy, a researcher at the Centre for Political, Cultural and Social Studies of Latin America, EPOCAL, at the Bernardo O’Higgins University, who will try to explain this situation.

The Mestizo Chilean

According to the “Chile Genómico” project, which seeks to unravel the genomic characteristics of our country, Chilean citizens have three main descendants: European, Amerindian and African. Generally the one that predominates is the European, although not by much distance.

According to Michel Duquesnoy, there are two reasons why people deny their indigenous origin, “the first has to do with the desire for pure blood, where they seek to maintain the image of purity, discarding the possibility of biological and cultural crossbreeding. It also has to do with an issue of xenophobia, where the indigenous people are still viewed with distrust,” he explains.

This lack of recognition of the Mapuche culture and ethnicity can lead to the loss of ancestral customs. According to the researcher, this phenomenon is nuanced, because it is caused by the responsibility of the State in the formation of laws that develop and help generate respect for the Mapuche, and by the abandonment of the indigenous culture by society.

The problem arises when “due to weak policies and the blindness of a somewhat discriminatory society, dialogue is hindered or eliminated, which is fundamental in the development of a society and in the creation of a common identity,” he said.

Are we a discriminatory country?

From time to time and in the face of different victims, the question arises as to whether we are really discriminating. For the researcher, in general, we are.

“In Chile, a large majority of the population is discriminatory. People make differences based on skin color, hair color, economic income or ethnicity, where they are afraid of what is different and focus mainly on indigenous people and foreigners,” says Duquesnoy.

But can this situation be improved? It seems so, and the fundamental pillar is education, with the aim of facilitating dialogue between society and starting a process of assimilation that is necessary in our country.

“We must aim at education and clear public policies that facilitate dialogue between peoples, and recognize the culture and worldview of indigenous peoples, with the goal of healing wounds, generating a better relationship between Chileans and their roots,” concluded the researcher.

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