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versión impresa ISSN 0716-1557versión On-line ISSN 0719-2789

Cult.-hombre-soc. vol.27 no.1 Temuco jul. 2017 

Artículo de investigación

Vivir la territorialidad: Turismo mapuche y desarrollo

Living the territoriality: Mapuche tourism and development1

Dorian Rommens 1  

1 Unesco, México


Este artículo examina cómo los emprendedores mapuches están modelando el paisaje del turismo en el sur de Chile en el contexto del desarrollo indígena. Basado en la investigación etnográfica en y alrededor de Lican Ray, analizamos los impactos de las empresas turísticas mapuches en el desarrollo y la desterritorialización. Además, consideramos el turismo mapuche como una estrategia de resistencia en respuesta al profundo desplazamiento de la población mapuche ya la pérdida de los valores culturales tradicionales. La primera sección intenta dar una visión general de la complejidad de las cuestiones relacionadas con el turismo y el desarrollo (indígena), así como para introducir prácticas de turismo mapuche. Luego, aplicando los conceptos territorialidad y colectivismo, afirmamos que los empresarios mapuches se están re-apropiando de la cultura mapuche para el desarrollo. El turismo mapuche está movilizando caminos alternativos para el desarrollo, relacionándose con la profunda conexión que tienen con el territorio y el medio ambiente de acuerdo con su cosmovisión. Finalmente, siguiendo las teorías de los antropólogos Charles Hale y James Scott, mostramos cómo el turismo mapuche se plasma en la globalización a través de la política neoliberal de Chile. Sin embargo, los indígenas Mapuche activos en el turismo demuestran que poseen la capacidad para construir estrategias de ‘resistencia cultural’. Este artículo aporta nuevas perspectivas al estudio del turismo y desarrollo indígena y representa el turismo mapuche como una oportunidad tanto para el desarrollo como para la resistencia indígena.

Palabras clave: Turismo indígena; mapuche; desterritorialización; desarrollo; resistencia


This article examines how Mapuche entrepreneurs are shaping the landscape of tourism in southern Chile in the context of indigenous development. Based on ethnographic research in and around Lican Ray, we looked at the impacts of Mapuche tourism ventures on development and deterritorialisation. Furthermore, we consider Mapuche tourism as a strategy of resistance in response to the deepening displacement of Mapuche population and the loss of traditional cultural values. The first section means to give an overview of the complexity of issues regarding (indigenous) tourism and development as well as to introduce Mapuche tourism practices. Next, dealing with notions as territoriality and collectivism, we argue that Mapuche entrepreneurs are reappropriating Mapuche culture for development. Mapuche tourism is mobilising alternative ways for development, being and relating to the profound relationship they have with their territory and environment in accordance to their worldview. Finally, following the theories of anthropologists Charles Hale and James Scott, we show how Mapuche tourism is shaped in globalisation through Chile’s neoliberal policy. However, the Mapuche indigenous people active in tourism demonstrate that they possess the agency to construct strategies of ‘cultural resistance’. This article brings new perspectives to the study of indigenous tourism and development and represents Mapuche tourism as an opportunity for both indigenous development and resistance.

Key words: Indigenous tourism; Mapuche; deterritorialisation; development; resistance


‘The situation which exists here did not start yesterday, it started long ago, but governments and the State of Chile have a historical debt. Therefore, it is our responsibility as a state that we come up with short, medium and long-term measures to face development in this region [i.e. Araucanía region], which is the poorest region of Chile and has a set of very great inequalities and where many victims of rural violence are of the Mapuche ethnic group itself.’ (Michelle Bachelet, 2015)2

The above quote of the present president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, fits in the context of the Mapuche conflict. In December 2015, she travelled to Araucanía’s regional capital Temuco to gather together with victims of the Mapuche conflict, which is rooted in the ancestral land claims of some Mapuche communities. Bachelet recognises the historical debt towards the Mapuche community and the urge to enhance development in this region.

This article does not aim to delve into the violent Mapuche conflict, but instead it wants to determine the circumstances of Mapuche tourism in terms of development. Nevertheless, we consider that Mapuche tourism can be an ethnopreneurial strategy of resistance for reterritorialization and cultural reappropiation (cfr. infra). We analyse the complexities and conceptions of Mapuche culture involved with the installation of indigenous tourism venturesto enhance the wellbeing of Mapuche people in and around Lican Ray.

Indigenous people and social movements, particularly during the last decades, have been seeking political and cultural recognition. Recognition has been identified as the indispensable starting point towards a full development (Bengoa in Salas, 1996). As one of the strategies to attain development for indigenous people emerged indigenous tourism, pinpointed as an economic panacea to alleviate poverty. However, its consequences for social and cultural development have been contested for undermining people’s overall quality of life by selling out their social and cultural systems (Scheyvens, 1999; Hinch & Butler, 2007; Bunten, 2010).

Tourists seem to be drawn by authenticity and the image of otherness. Nevertheless, we need to understand that authenticity is a constructed processandsold in indigenous tourism as a commodity. Anthropological narratives are important because they are used in representing past imaginaries for the narratives and practices of tourist guides (Salazar, 2013). We argue that the importance of this research is to explore the broader issues of development in indigenous tourism, in which territoriality, ethnicity, collectivism and resistance will be negotiated.

The Mapuche are one of the biggest indigenous populations in present Latin-America. The scene described by Bachelet illustrates the ongoing debate and struggle for ancestral lands. The work presented here needs also to be situated in this context of territoriality. It is our aim to explore whether Mapuche tourism enterprises can put a stop to the loss of indigenous lands and set up agendas for reterritorialisation. The research question that have guided both textual and fieldwork-based analyses is the following: How can Mapuche tourism stop the historical deterritorialisation process and be a driver for development to the Mapuche communities in and around Lican Ray? Considering the extent of the question we made two sub-questions: firstly, what are the positive and negative impacts of Mapuche tourism for the indigenous peoples in the studied area? And secondly, does Mapuche tourism illustrate forms of indigenous resistance and how is this demonstrated?


This synthesis of my Master’s thesis is the result of conducting an internship at the research institute for inter ethnic and intercultural studies at the Universidad Católica de Temuco. Core fieldwork for this dissertation was conducted during the four months spent in Chile, from September to December of 2015. My internship involved literature research, interviews with public employees from different institutions and Mapuche entrepreneurs, visits and stays in Mapuche tourism ventures, participation in meetings, attendance at classes and seminars indigenous tourism and weekly meetings with my supervisor in Temuco to discuss my work.

Using the university as a home base for literature research we had the time and freedom to do my interviews. As the interview is the ethnographer’s most important data gathering technique in its fieldwork. The interview questionnaire was based on literature research and various discussions with professors and anthropologists at the university. At the end of my fieldwork we collected a total of 27 semi-structured recorded interviews. Also, participant observation is a useful tool to gather observation. As an ethnographer one participates in the lives of the peoples under study and at the same time one maintains a professional distance that allows observation and recording of data.

The fields of development and indigenous tourism are all fields of power in which a plurality of actors is actively engaged. Entering these fields as an anthropologist or ethnographic researcher can never be neutral (Sluka & Robben, 2012).

The privileges and limitations that my identities as a white, ‘rich’ European provided were not to be avoided. Because of a legacy of repression Mapuche people, generally, distrust so-called winkas (Mapudungún for non-Mapuches) and are not keen to share information. Therefore, it proved useful to have a ‘gatekeeper’ who brought me in contact to different Mapuche people. Via my supervisor at the university we met a Mapuche kimche (wise man) of a community in Lican Ray who helped us a lot in the initial phase of my research. His interposition overcame the initial distrust of the Mapuche interviewee towards me as a (Belgian) researcher.

Researching tourism and development

Indigenous tourism

Tourism is an important economic activity worldwide, generating several benefits, both economic by generating foreign exchange and social by generating jobs and training. Chile has an enormous potential for tourism because of its geography. Traditional tourism, either sun-and-beach or urban tourism, represents a high concentration of tourists. However, due to its popularity which makes it massive and uninteresting for some, more and more visitors are showing interest for what Chilean public policy describes as ‘specific or thematic tourism’. Chile is a country characterised by its concentration of large natural areas providing opportunities for every tourist and carries all the aforementioned benefits. Specific/thematic tourism, also known as special interest tourism, is a collective noun for activities adjusted to the motivations of visitors who want to go beyond the common objectives of tourism or leisure travel. According to the Servicio Nacional de Turismo (SERNATUR), Chile’s national tourism service, it is characterised not to be massive and ensuring added value to the authenticity of the tourism activity and hence maintain a strong component of environmental and sociocultural sustainability (SERNATUR, 2014). In practice, we have observed that it also risks being massive. In Pucon, close to the area of research, the village is today overwhelmingly touristic which questions the authenticity of its tourism activities.

Among the various forms which offers thematic tourism, we highlight the niche model of indigenous tourism. The terminology used in academic literature varies from author to author but generally the umbrella terms ‘ethnotourism’ or ‘indigenous tourism’ are used (Ryan & Aicken, 2005; Butler & Hinch, 2007). However, ethnotourism may also imply contact with groups who are not native to the destination and some refer to ethnotourism as indigenous tourism without the necessity of indigenous ownership (Zeppel, 2006). Throughout the interviews, it became clear that the Mapuche people active in this type of alternative tourism rather use the term cultural tourism because of the importance they attach to the intercultural exchange with the tourist notwithstanding the distinction made in literature.3 That is why in the scope of this article we will use both the terms ‘indigenous tourism’ and ‘Mapuche (cultural) tourism’.

Indigenous tourism and development

The indigenous tourism business in general is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of these enterprises were created less than a decade ago. Its increase has been attributed to advances in communication and transport infrastructure, the rapid expansion of the tourism industry, the neoliberal policies of governments aiming economic growth, and the recognition of indigenous people (Bunten, 2010). Why have indigenous cultures come to the attention of tourists and became a popular alternative form of tourism? Tourists showing interest in cultural tourism attractions seem to be drawn by the image of the exotic other. Indigenous people have been institutionalised as ‘others’ since colonial times and as part of a society wholly different of the modern world. Both foreign and national tourists want to observe and experience the culture of these ‘others’ by coming in close contact with them and their culture (Suntikul, 2007).

How can we describe the relationship between indigenous tourism and development? The measurement of a nation’s stage of socio-economic prosperity is conventionally regarded through several key economic indicators. Can this type of alternative tourism be a contributor for the wellbeing of indigenous communities? In general, studies about indigenous tourism and development have tended to be overly optimistic from an economic point of view or discrediting it too quickly focusing on the negative consequences as a result of being an example of (neo-)colonialism and dispossession (Scheyvens, 1999; Zeppel, 2006; Hinch & Butler, 2007). The division of the impacts of tourism in positive and negative categories is not absolute, but depends on the goals and values of the ones experiencing the encounter of tourism, both ‘hosts’ and ‘guests’. In any case, such categorisations enliven an ongoing and necessary debate.

Today, national and international agencies consider tourism to be a strong driver for world trade and prosperity and praised it as a strategy for poverty reduction. For example, international agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have promoted tourism because it can directly benefit the poorer groups through employment of local people in tourism activities, having positive impacts on reducing poverty levels (UNWTO & SNV, 2010). But in too many studies and strategies the motivations for tourism development remain largely economic such as generating larger economic revenues, increasing employment opportunities and creating business investment opportunities. Scheyvens strives for a development approach which not only measures the environmental or economic consequences of a tourist attraction but evaluates as well how local communities socially and culturally are affected by the installing of tourism enterprises (Scheyvens, 1999). Donors and (inter) national agencies should consult alternative voices for enhancing community wellbeing (Scheyvens, 2007).

Tourism influences the societal structure and livelihood of indigenous peoples around the world. It has been a driver for modernisation, globalisation and integration. A part of the literature focuses on the dark sides of the story emphasising the deteriorate effect on local resources, the loss of local control, authenticity and identity, as well as the commodification of the subaltern culture (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2005; Pettersson & Viken, 2007). However, according to Bunten the possible commodification of culture does not have to be a negative consequence of indigenous tourism. She regards it as a possible business strategy. The self-commodification of their culture does not necessarily mean to sell out or commercialise their culture but with ‘culturalising’ their commerce they can perpetuate their traditions and identity besides the economic gain (Bunten, 2010). That is also the claim of Comaroff & Comaroff claiming that ‘ethnocommodities’ or the commodification of identity and cultureis a mode of finding selfhood and reaffirming ethnicity (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2009).

On the positive side, there are many examples of tourism as a mechanism for cultural, psychological, social and political empowerment. First, there are several studies showing that tourism improves the preservation of cultural heritage by revitalising it (Pettersson & Viken, 2007). Second, outside recognition of the uniqueness and value of the culture creates pride and self-confidence among many community members (Colton & Harris, 2007). Third, tourism has the potential to improve the community’s cohesion power and its collective identity. Finally, indigenous tourism may develop political recognition through representation at different decision-making levels (Scheyvens, 1999).

An important factor in the development debate of indigenous tourism are the terms of ‘community’ and ‘community-based tourism’ which are controversial among social scientists but nonetheless remain popular in tourism development (Salazar, 2012). Tourism literature tended to see communities as cohesive and homogenous groups with shared interests (Blackstock, 2005 in Salazar, 2012; Scheyvens, 2007). The term ‘community’ must not be romanticised. Considering communities as homogeneous entities fail to acknowledge the existing power structures and the diversity of attitudes and opinions within them. As we will see in this work, the Mapuchepeople have different positions towards tourism. There are competing interests, hence community consensus is rare, surely related to the field of tourism.

In the scope of this research it is important to reflect shortly on the concept of community tourism. Although used by many policy makers and tourism providers its term is questionable (Salazar, 2012). We understand community tourism when in an indigenous environment various tourist services are created. There are some that offer food, others offer accommodation, certain activities, etc. Different types of services or products are available and it is communal in the sense that the generation of income will be distributed among everyone and there is a common infrastructure available for everyone in the community. We believe that this is community tourism in its purest form. Very few Mapuche enterprises are communal in practice. In most cases collectively set up ventures (as in the case of the feria of Pucura) are indeed community-based but consist of family micro-enterprises who collaborate associatively with a shared idea or viewpoint.

Mapuche tourism

In this work, we aim to examine whether indigenous tourism has the potential to be an instrument in providing wellbeing for the Mapuche peoples involved and if we can relate it to the Mapuche conflict with the State. But before delving into the goals and meanings of Mapuche tourism it is necessary to delineate the variety of activities Mapuche cultural tourism offers to so-called wingkas (Mapudungún for Non-Mapuches).

Source: CONADI

Map The Calafquén Lake: the yellow dots represent the Mapuche communities 

From the Bio-Bio river until the island of Chiloé, Mapuche indigenous people are active in tourism ventures offering tourists a variety of activities to visit. During the fieldwork period, we only concentrated on one area: the basin of the Calafquén Lake4. Lican Ray (108 kms away from Regional capital Temuco) is located on the North shore of the Calafquén Lake. All the land at the lakeside belonged in the past to Mapuche communities. After the military subjugation, the local community chiefs (longko in Mapudungún) received so-called títulos de merced and were obliged to live in small reductions. Lican Ray, Mapudungún for ‘flower in the stone’ is a locality in the middle of nature surrounded by mountains landscapes, the Calafquén Lake and the Villarrica volcano (Molina Huenuqueo, 2013). These natural places are of great importance for the local Mapuche people who live according their traditional worldview. They believe that nature and natural places consist of certain forces or energies (newen in Mapudungún).

In and around Lican Ray it is possible to identify more than 15 different Mapuche communities with their own history and biodiversity. Within the different communities, depending on one’s attitude towards it, tourism emerged as an economic option to improve life quality as well as the utmost wish to create an intercultural momentum with tourists who have the respect and interest for the Mapuche culture.

Lican Ray is a popular tourist destiny for Chilean and international visitors because of its beautiful lake and nature. Urbanisation and gentrification led by second homes and resort development have severely affected the local Mapuche population. Exclusion of the tourism sector has been counteracted by local Mapuche entrepreneurs to develop and present the Mapuche culture and identity to visitors. In the policy of the National Corporation for Indigenous Peoples’ Development (CONADI), Mapuche cultural tourism is described as followed:

‘A sustainable economic activity brought by Mapuche entrepreneurs with extensive knowledge and management of their worldview and mastery of their language, in harmony with the environment and its values to deliver to domestic and foreign tourists a genuine cultural and authentic experience.’ (Francisco Concha, interview, November 23 (2015), author’s translation)

There is a wide variety of Mapuche tourism activities. First, there is the common lodging of tourists in wooden cottages. Mapuche people do not live anymore in a traditional ruka but instead live in contemporary wooden houses. Many families, however, rebuilt rukas to provide the opportunity to tourists to experience the traditional way of living by the Mapuche. Second, traditional medicine as well as the Mapuche cosmovision are themes interesting for foreigners who by engaging with Mapuche indigenous people enlighten themselves about the uniqueness of the culture and the richness of the nature. Third, local Mapuche people presenting and making typical gastronomy and handicraft to sell to the visitors. As demonstrated above, there are various examples of how local Mapuche entrepreneurs are engaged in the tourism industry. It is important that all these attractions contain the Mapuche identity which they want to impart to the tourists so they would have a better understanding of the Mapuche culture.

Whereas nearby cities such as Villarrica or Pucon are more popular because of the wider variety of tourism activities which attracts people throughout the year, Lican Ray and other villages surrounding the Calafquén Lake are mainly summer destinations. Because of the seasonality of tourism in this area of the region, tourism is for most of the Mapuche people only a complementary job besides their traditional activities which in most cases are agriculture or smallscale farming. Mapuche people at the Calafquén Lake are trying to break the pattern of seasonality by offering a wide variety of indigenous tourism activities.

Territoriality and Collectivism


Given the contemporary events in Chile of Mapuche people laying claim on lands by using violence, the concept of territory is of great importance for the Mapuche people (Haughney, 2012). Land and territory stands at the centre of Mapuche discourse. Regaining ancestral lands by the Mapuche is an example of the ‘territorial turn’ in Latin America, a process whereby a series of economic, political and legal transformations are taking place towards indigenous and black communities in Latin America (Bryan, 2012). Of great importance was the International Labor Organisation’s Convention Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of 1989 (ILO 169) that put pressure on Latin American governments for recognising indigenous lands and granting certain autonomy to indigenous minorities (Bryan, 2012; Richards, 2013).

According to activists of local social movements such as the Mapuche movement, external actors (governments, paramilitaries, capitalists, etc.) share the same project of controlling people, territories and resources. This does not cope with interests of local indigenous groups. That is why strengthening indigenous people’s capacity to withstand the struggles going aside with capitalist modernity should be connected with place and territory, striving for cultural and territorial rights (Escobar, 2008). Since the ‘territorial turn’ the account of displacement appeared on the agenda of many indigenous groups claiming authority and the return of their ancestral lands. One example is the March for Territory and Dignity by the Bolivia’s Indian Confederation of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB) to La Paz in 1990 (Brysk, 2000; Postero, 2007). Main causes of displacement were/ are: the armed conflict, mega-development projects such as hydroelectric dams, illicit crops and the presence of natural resources (Escobar, 2008, Carruthers & Rodriguez, 2009; Haughney, 2012).

We can compare the Mapuche situation with the social movement of black communities in Colombia described by Arturo Escobar. The movement network Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) adopted a set of principles in order to achieve cultural, social, economic, political and territorial rights. Territory is seen by the PCN as a place of life (territorio de vida), a necessary condition for the development and culture of the black people to live according their own worldviews (Escobar, 2008). Place is thus constituted as acollective ‘framework linking history, culture, environment, and social life’ (Escobar, 2008: p. 68) whereby the sense of ‘belonging’ is linked to the political project. The sense of belonging in relation with the concept of territoriality shapes group membership but implies the effect of exclusion as well which Escobar wanted to avoid in his postmodern approach to define territoriality (Bryan, 2012).

The ethnoterritorial project of the PCN is fundamental in the eyes of Escobar to express an alternative modernity and a political identity. Although the notion of place for many indigenous groups is prior to the modern socio-spatial form, the collective sense of belonging to a certain territory is not only an inherence of the past but it corresponds to a contemporary project (Poulle & Gorgeu, 1997). Territoriality is to be thought of as ‘the ensemble of projects and representations where a whole series of behaviours and investments can pragmatically emerge in time, and in social, cultural, aesthetic and cognitive space’ (Guattari, 1995 in Escobar, 2008: pp. 67-68). The Mapuche movement in Chile share the same objective and principles as the Colombian PCN but until today they lack the collectivity and coordination of the PCN network. Maybe the recent creation of a Mapuche political party in 2005 can take up the role of the PCN in their project of ‘national reconstruction’ to reclaim ancestral lands (Lebonniec, 2009).

Escobar raised awareness to consider the strong ecological and cultural attachment to places and territories that indigenous peoples have when bearing in mind a development model (Escobar, 2000). Historian and director of the Centro de Políticas Públicas y Derechos Indígenas in Chile, Victor Toledo Llancaqueo defined the concept of territoriality as composed of three dimensions: first as a material ground, to be interpreted as a geographical space of natural resources; second as a ‘social space’ built under the historical-cultural and symbolic meaning for people and finally the ‘geographical and political space’ for which political confirmation and control is necessary (Toledo Llancaqueo, 2005).

Natural capital

The natural landscapes of Mapuche communities underwent a metamorphosis throughout time. Native deforestation took place in environments where Mapuche held great significance to the local ecosystem of endogenous trees and plants for medicinal and religious reasons. Because of a discourse of maximising profit, the native trees were replaced by exotic plantations of cereals, pine trees and eucalyptus trees which additionally caused irreparable damage to the natural environment through water shortages and soil acidity. This affected the natural capital of the Mapuche communities.

Environmental degradation and destruction of resources, masked for the purpose of ‘sustainable development’, have been associated to the disintegration of identity and cultural practices of indigenous groups (Leff, 2001). This is due to the fact that indigenous people more than other people value their natural capital. The holistic perception of nature plays a fundamental role in the cognitive systems of traditional societies. Their cosmovision integrate myths and rituals to their production practices and the knowledge of the natural phenomena is associated with the knowledge of topographic conditions, allowing a better use of the ecological space (Leff, 2001).

The various utilisations of natural resources are reaffirming identities and deepen an environmental rationality in cultural territories for sustainable development. Indigenous knowledge is today integrated in various conservation programmes and has been characterised as important in various development policies. Nevertheless, the notion of ‘indigenous knowledge’ is controversial in the field of development anthropology (Sillitoe, Bicker & Pottier, 2002). It is seen as static and bounded, whereas in practice it is long-term, cumulative, and contemporary. It is a growing body of knowledge developed over many generations and is growing as new experiences are added to the account. The incorporation of indigenous knowledge into tourism planning and development is crucial in order to obtain a culturally sustainable environment for the indigenous people (Butler & Menzies, 2007). Ignoring indigenous knowledge and local resource management risks to maintain the pattern of dispossession and exclusion. That is why by using indigenous knowledge as a basis for tourism planning, it can be a decolonising rather than recolonising expression to support a revitalisation of traditional cultural and a driver for economic development (Butler & Menzies, 2007).

Indigenous people are densely related to land & nature and live according the laws of nature. Consequently, the involvement of indigenous groups in the tourism industry, which has the threat of being highly polluting for nature, is not to be considered as evident. Likewise, this was the case for Mapuche people. Some consider Mapuche engagement in tourism a forced integration to the ‘system’ notwithstanding the negative consequences to nature because of tourism (Jaime, interview, November 12, 2015). Nevertheless, tourism can also be a catalyst for a better protection of the environment (José, interview, October 25, 2015). To prevent damage to the environment because of tourism it is important toinclude indigenous knowledge. In this case, Mapuche knowledge (Mapuche kimün) is practical knowledge, based on land, resources and beliefs about human interaction with the ecosystem.

Until today there are machis (shaman) and longkos (chief of community) who are not in favour of tourism because they consider it a new form of colonisation. Anthropologically, the emic understanding of development is important because it shows a different perspective from the dominant/Western perception of development.

‘Many Mapuche are now involved in tourism for development but development for us is not a highway, development is what el mapú (the land) gives us … at the moment of constructing a highway the link with the mapú and the ngen (spirits) is lost.’ (Sandra, interview, November 30 (2015), author’s translation)

Communality and Collectivism

Today in Chile there is very little communal titling left. Azócar and others mention that there are three Pehuenche communities who still maintain communal indigenous lands in the Bio-Bio region, all in the Queuco valley (Azócar et al., 2005). The usurpation and privatisation of Mapuche lands (Wallmapu)5 began with the re-allocation of the indigenous people into reservations and had its peak during the military regime of Auguste Pinochet (1973-1990). With the application of Decree Laws N° 2.568 and N° 2750 of 1979 almost all communal titling was divided in individual plots of land in order to put a halt to the special status of indigenous peoples and integrate them in Chilean market economy (Aylwin, 2002; Azócar et al., 2005). According to Aylwin, an estimate of 72.000 individual plots were created out of 2000 Mapuche communities between 1979 and 1990 (Aylwin, 2002). Although these laws had as well the aim to prevent the alienation of indigenous lands to non-indigenous people, in practice much land was sold or expropriated through different sorts of contracts, legally or illegally.

The military legislation and state policy did not consider the ethnic character or the communal sense of the indigenous people and was modified in 1993 by the first post-dictatorship government. Indigenous Law 19.253 of 1993 establishedas being the duty of society and the State to respect, protect and promote the development of indigenous peoples and their lands. It originated as well the creation of the National Corporation for Indigenous Peoples’ Development (CONADI) which should buy lands in conflict ownership to return it to indigenous communities (Aylwin, 2002). The 1993 ‘indigenous law’ recognised indigenous individuals but not as peoples and therefore Chile is until today not constituted as a plurinational state (Aylwin, 2002; Haughney, 2012). Furthermore, although the law was clear and promising about the protection of ancestral lands, it did not stop entirely the dispossession of Mapuche people (Haughney, 2012). With the backing of authorities many public orprivate investment projects such as hydroelectric dams or logging companies got off the ground with as result the relocation or displacement of many Mapuche families (Aylwin, 2002; Carruthers & Rodriguez, 2009).

So far for a historical understanding of the division of Mapuche lands but these processes of individualisation or privatisation had serious social consequences for the way of living by indigenous people. The individualisation of the communal lands resulted in a lesser sense of communality and collectivism. Through communality indigenous people express their willingness to be part of the community, it is a sense of belonging to be recognised as part of a collective. The family unit hasbecome more important than the community. This evolution is also significantly noticeable in Mapuche tourism practices:

‘The community spirit practically broke down with the legislation enacted by the military government [i.e. Pinochet’s governing era] ... in 1979 the Law of private property forced communities to subdivide their land and when that happened, it led to organisational breaks, family breaks that up to this day continue to be an irreversible damage. And it also originated the individualisation process which is chasing us since.’ (José, interview, October 25 (2015), author’s translation)

Nevertheless, the Mapuche community still holds a strong collective identity. We already mentioned that there does not exist a single Mapuche identity but ser Mapuche consists of various expressions of identities with a common sense of belonging to the Mapuche movement (cfr. supra). According to Frederik Barth, ethnic identity is a social construction composed of cultural traits that distinguish one group from another in the social interaction between groups (Barth, 1969). The basis of his work lies in the following observation: when taking up a diachronic historical perspective, it is found that the ethnic groups can and do change the fundamental features of their culture while maintaining its boundaries, this means without losing their identity. Ethnic groups may adopt cultural traits of other groups and continue being perceived as distinct. Therefore, ethnic groups are not discontinuous cultural isolates and their identities are the product of continuous so-called ascriptions and self-ascriptions though relational processes of exclusion and inclusion (Barth, 1969).

The strength of an ethnic boundary can remain constant over time despite, and sometimes, through cultural changes. According to Barth, ethnic boundaries and not cultural characteristics define identity through the interconnection between groups. Boundaries are always defined by cultural markers but these markers can vary over time, undergo external influences and it does not mean that their carriers change their identity (Barth, 1969). Identity possesses the quality of distinguishability and is part of a politicised field of indigenous social life that gives meaning to their collective action and its relation to society but it is also associated with everyday life and practices (Bello, 2004).

In this manner, we must understand the idea of collective identities or what Jodelet describes as collective representations (Jodelet, 2008). The main characteristics of collective identities are the ability to distinguish and be distinguished from other groups, to create specific as well as distinctive social representations and to reconstruct the past of the group as a shared collective memory to assign certain attributes as their own (Jodelet, 2008).

That is why Mapuche indigenous people, although today living in distinct circumstances still share the common identity of being Mapuche. Although influenced by cultural traits of other groups, it does not mean that they renounce their Mapuche identity, instead it means that identities are continuous and flexible. That Mapuche people still attach importance to the collective sense despite individualisation is demonstrated by the cultural tradition of the Trafkintu ritual as a pattern of communalisation (Brow, 1990; Briones, 2007). Everyday cultural practices that have been disappearing, gained new meaning with Mapuche actors in southern Chile to resist the dominant culture.

We were invited to a Trafkintu event organised by a primary school in Rulo, a half hour away from Temuco by bus. A Trafkintu is a Mapuche ceremony originated in ancient times, when it was a daily practice of complementation of local economies. It is the exchange (trafkintu is ‘exchange’ in Mapudungún) of seeds, plants, knowledge or other assets, held in different places to go extending their practice and creating networks. According the local traditions, the economic activity was preceded by a ritual of a machi (shaman) thanking Mother Earth. Around 100 Mapuche people of different communities all over the region attended the event exchanging their goods and knowledge, hereby giving value to Mapuche culture and collectivism.

Field of Mapuche tourism

The indigenous tourism industry is an arena showing us how the processes of individualisation and collectivism are intertwined. During the interviews with Mapuche entrepreneurs in and around Lican Ray it is very rare to encounter tourism practises set up in a collective structure. Most indigenous tourism businesses are family micro-enterprises. Only with a collective mind of state and external assistance it seems possible to set up a sort of collective entrepreneurship. But how come it seems so difficult to encounter this type of practices?

‘The majority here we [i.e. Mapuche people] are egoists, you have to say the things how they are. Money causes envy and egoism.’(Victor, interview, October 27 (2015), author’s translation)

‘We as Mapuche are timid, frightened and distrustful.’ (Maria Eugenia, October 27 (2015), author’s translation)

Victor is Mapuche and offers accommodation to tourists in his cabins. He does this together with his wife. He regrets the fact that it is so hard to set up a certain collective network which would benefit all the people interested in offering tourism. Maria Eugenia offers just as Victor accommodation but she does this in a traditional Mapuche housing, the ruka. Both share the opinion that because of historical events the Mapuche today are suspicious, especially when money is involved. Because of this attitude it is hard to collaborate collectively. There is not only distrust to fellow Mapuches but also towards the State.Because of historical antecedents Mapuche people are not eager to collaborate with state actors.

The continuous repression against Mapuche people in history have undoubtedly marked the Mapuche society. According to Jaime, another Mapuche entrepreneur, two specific actions of the Chilean State caused the difficulty to set up community-based tourism today: the compulsory relocation into reductions and the military legislation which had as aim to put an end to the communal properties.

‘Until 1911 (with the mercy title for the community) it could have been a collective form of tourism and afterwards the State delivered individual domain titles, they are the ones responsible! That is why it is hard to go back to how it was before, because you have to build trust. Everyone has to invest the same. Because as Mapuche we also have inherited altogether the same distrust, mistrust, especially with money. That is the reason why it (i.e. tourism) is not set up collectively.’ (Jaime, interview, November 12 (2015), author’s translation)

The lack of education among Mapuche people, mainly in rural areas, is another reason why collective tourism practices are hardly being implemented. Nevertheless, there exist a few number of collective forms of offering Mapuche cultural tourism and many are willing to be part of such a scenario. Where these enterprises are set up there is the presence of external actors who helped to unite the people and carry out a strategy. These external actors can be state institutions as well as NGO’s or fourth pillar initiatives. In Pucura, next to Lican Ray at the Calafquén Lake, the Associación Nacional Leftraru, which represents nation-wide indigenous farmers, served as an intermediary platform between public policy and the indigenous communities. They supported the installation of a community-based tourism project of resistance as a political answer from within the indigenous communities to the loss of territory as well as a response to the process of individualisation. The project is generated from a common view on territory where tourism is only one hub in a global view conceived with Mapuche knowledge on food production, healthcare, agricultural development, etc. (Ricardo, interview, November 20, 2015).

As demonstrated above it is in practice not simple to set up a collective form of tourism in indigenous communities in which communality and solidarity were mainstream. The economic rationality of the neoliberal model is paradoxical to the ecological rationality of collectivism and reciprocity of the indigenous people. This reflection was also made by José:

‘When an economic activity is organised which somehow has a structure or a model that embraces the neoliberal model, somehow it is contrary to the spirit and cultural values of the Mapuche people.’ (José, interview, October 25 (2015), author’s translation)

Nevertheless, the Mapuche tourism business in its concept is a collective idea. That is what the brothers Comaroff meant when they claimed that indigenous tourism as ethnopreneurialism interdigitate with the entrepreneurial subject at a collective level (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2009: p. 51). The Mapuche identity is branded and sold by the ethnic entrepreneur as an ethnocommodity in order to pursue recognition, rights and entry in the globalised world. But although the commodification of culture or identity opens fresh opportunities, it also runs the chance to conduce new forms of exclusion and struggles over authenticity, membership and wealth (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2009, Bunten, 2010).

Development & Kume Mongen

Kume Mongen & Itrofil Mongen

The concept of development originating in Western modern logic has been installed by governments all over the world as a model based on growth and material progress (Escobar, 2010). However, it does not compel with ancient or traditional views on human development. This also applies to a significant part of the Mapuche society who still live according their traditional worldview. During theinterviews, it became clear that the ‘modern’ concept of development has been imposed to the Mapuche while they regard it from a more holistic viewpoint.

‘For us there is no such a concept. Development is seen in a multidimensional form, where the material and the spiritual is present. The Kume Mongen [i.e. good life] of the human being is expressed in harmony with your body, with nature and the relationship with their relatives.’(Jaime, interview, November 12 (2015), author’s translation)

Whereas in the classic human development concept the level of income, the capacity of consumption and accumulation of wealth are of primary importance, for the Mapuche this is not the case. To grasp the understanding of development in the eyes of indigenous people, we mustconsider the cosmovision of these societies. Although in its essence a holistic worldview, we can highlight two notions of the Mapuche’s cosmovison which are related to Development: Kume Mongen and Itrofil Mongen. The former we can translate in Spanish as buen vivir and in English as ‘good life’ although it would be better translated as ‘collective wellbeing’ (Walsch, 2010). The latter must be understood as the ‘whole living world’.

The concept of buen vivir is a balanced engagement model between the human individual and nature to foresee that life is guaranteed. A reciprocal relation between the human race and nature is embedded herein (Benalcázar, 2009). Collective well-being passes through basic issues such as health, cultural dignity, economic justice, etc., mainly enjoying life in all its shapes in harmony with its environment (Figueroa Burdiles & Figueroa Verdugo, 2005). According to Catherine Walsch this buen vivir is a system of knowledge and living at the basis of the cosmovision and life practices of indigenous people anddescendants of the African diaspora (Walsch, 2010).

Whereas kume mongen involves the encounter of the human individual with its environment, the concept of itrofil mongen lays hold on the entire ecosystem understood in its physical, social and cultural dimensions in which the Mapuche is only part of biodiversity. It represents the coexistence of different life forms that need each other to maintain themselves in the territory and therefore must be protected and preserved. Mapuche people believe in the value of the land, left to them by their elders and consider it their duty to safeguard the environment harmoniously and sustainably (Figueroa Burdiles & Figueroa Verdugo, 2005). Therefore, it is important to stress the importance of the Mapuche worldview, just because it presents the value they attache to the balance of life in all their meanings.

Knowledge about the sustainable use and management of natural resources emanating from the Mapuche worldview could benefit the development of rural territories. Reconceptualising development as kume mogen or itrofil mogen aims to articulate economy, environment, society and culture to ensure collective well-being for plurinational use (Escobar, 2010). These concepts with more respect and balance for the relations between humans and their environment question modernity and the Western ideas about development. Although attractive and innovative, Walsch is careful. She is stating that the implementation of traditional knowledge and practices may result in the recognition and inclusion of these subaltern worldviews without necessarily a conceptual rupture in state policies or unequal power relations (Walsch, 2010).

Development in and around Lican Ray

Resulting from the interviews held with both Mapuche entrepreneurs enrolled in tourism ventures and with state institutions dealing with tourism, there was a uniform claim of the positive contribution of indigenous tourism to the development of Mapuche communities. Foremost mentioned by the interviewees is the additional source of income because of the natural and ethnic potential of the region. We may not forget that indigenous tourism in this area is mainly a complementary activity for the Mapuche people due to the seasonality of tourism. By continuing the conventional practices of agriculture, the ethnic entrepreneur avoids dependency on tourism incomes.

Asking for the priorities with the newly acquired resources, Mapuche people in the area responded that they first of alldesire to stop the necessary selling of their lands and consequently obtain a better quality of life. They consider the acquisition of more territory as a driver to prosperity. For the Mapuche, land means space for development. Tourism can contribute to this accumulation of ‘wealth’. Jaime explains this to us:

‘… more land, someday come to more land, more territory. That is why we continue offering tourism. If anyone has land, onehas space to develop. You can have horses because horses will make possible horseback riding, a type of tourism to ascent the hills, the volcano. Hence, tourism opens many doors, to ensure the food issue as well, one can sow wheat, one can have chaká (type of tree), one can have cows, one can have sheep.’(Jaime, interview, November 12 (2015), author’s translation)

Indigenous tourism, thus, promises a direct increase in the income of Mapuche families involved in it, additional to the low contribution of traditional livestock and farming activities for subsistence. Tourism also generates jobs and in some communities, it leads to the inclusion of more families who initially were sceptic about Mapuche tourism but decided to enter the tourism business because they detected its potential. Furthermore, some interviewees observed a break in the pattern of emigration. Young families have decided to remain in the area because of the prospects tourism may provide and newly graduated people are returning to their homes because of the high potential for economic expansion in this area.

Questions are raised about authenticity through commodifying the cross-cultural experience and the self-exoticisation of indigenous culture (Comoraff & Comaroff, 2009, Bunten, 2010). This may be the case in very touristic places where traditional lifestyle is less present but not in the area of Lican Ray. Just because indigenous tourism in and around Lican Ray is only a complementary activity for the people, it has the ability not to lose but to reappropiate and revitalise the Mapuche culture in order tore-enact and transmit the culture and language within communities and with others.

Nevertheless, the Mapuche are aware of the impacts of tourism on their natural environment to which they attach great importance. They, however, feel obligated to engage in tourism because thecapitalist system obliges them to do so to ensure a better quality of life. Tourism nonetheless also learns them to cherish and protect the environment for further generations.

Chile’s neoliberal policy introduced concepts such as individualisation or competitiveness which are traditionally not according the Mapuche worldview. These economic anxieties oppose the traditional principles and cultural values, where wealth and development did not have an individual and economic, but a cultural and collective connotation. Tourism, thus, may generate or reinforce issues of conflict and envy among community members.

To counteract the prevailing individualised interests over community interests, there is an aim of both community members as of public institutions to unite the different tourist offers in a collective circuit (as in the case of the Pucura fair) to ensure community membership and social cohesion. Due to a lack ofeducation and formation among Mapuche people the process to unify certain interests seems not simple to obtain. It is, thus, here that external actors such as NGO’s or State-run actors have the task to capacitate the communities. Whereas in Lican Ray most tourism ventures operate on their own, in Pucura there is a collective tourism practice thanks to the mediate role of the Asociacion Nacional Leftraru and the intervention of SERNATUR and INDAP (Institute for Agricultural Development) among others. In Lican Ray there is a tourism network (Red de Turismo Mapuche de Licanray) present but to this day it did not prove to be efficient.

Those collective formations, representing same interests, also make it easier to acquire certain demands or put pressure on the state. This is demonstrated by Ruiz-Ballesteros & Hernández-Ramírez who by conducting research in Ecuador concluded that collective forms of indigenous tourism improve the collective agency and decision-making. Hence, it strengthens and empowers the community (Ruiz-Ballesteros & Hernández-Ramírez, 2010) This is shown necessary around the Calafquén Lake to ensure free access to the water and beaches for the communities. Traditionally, the Mapuche people did not live across the borders of the lake because of the spiritual value it attaches to the water and because of potential eruptions of the volcano. Throughout the 20th century, lands across the borders of the lake came in possession of private actors, sometimes without their consent, closing hereby the community access to the lake. This is however illegal according to the Chilean Code of Water and communities and pro-Mapuche organisations are now putting pressure on the State and the private actors to open up the access to the lake, which is an asset in offering tourism (Calbucura, 2009).

‘The communities in general have a relevant challenge in terms of persisting and pushing the discussion on ancestral lands as a fundamental part of the projection of Mapuche life… we cannot continue losing land. Tourism generates income, allowing families to sustain economically in the territory, improve their quality of life in the territory, improve food quality in the territory. And that is resulting in the fact that people are not leaving and that they refuse and are much more resistant to the temptation of selling their land. It also makes them strive to regain lost territories.’(Ricardo, interview, November 20 (2015), author’s translation)

The above quote of a Mapuche entrepreneur relates the ability of Mapuche tourism to stop the selling of lands and the possible recuperation of ancestral territory. Tourism revenues are impacting community’s life socio-economically in boosting the consumption and quality of life, reducing emigration, improving environmental awareness and empowering communitarian organisation (the latter only seems to occurwhen a collective venture of entrepreneurship is installed). Moreover, it is observed by the interviewees that Mapuche tourism also result in a revitalisation of the culture which due to the historical repression against Mapuche society was getting less popular. Ancient traditional ceremonies are reappearing in the territory. Indigenous tourism contributes to a reappropriation of the culture and a renewed sense of pride to be Mapuche.

Relation with the State

In Chile, private investment is favoured as a means to ensure economic growth. Rural areas are strongly impacted by the installation of forestry enterprises or hydroelectric dams. The Mapuche interviewees narrated about the deteriorate effects of new crops such as eucalyptus or pine trees which lead to soil degradation and produced water shortages apart from the native deforestation. Maria Eugenia also recited the account that a Norwegian company wanted to install a hydroelectric dam but due to a lot of Mapuche protests had to withdraw their base (Maria Eugenia, interview, October 27, 2015). These ‘mega-development’ projects in hydropower and forestry have provoked a distant attitude towards the State as Mapuche people struggle to overcome a legacy of distrust to construct a reciprocal reliable alliance (Carruthers & Rodriguez, 2009).

Hence, here is a contradiction in the State’s policy aiming to encourage private investment, by sometimes overruling the existing legal frameworks, and meanwhile improving life’s quality of the people who are affected by these investments. Considering this and other historical processes resulted in the fact that a significant part of the Mapuche community is not keen to collaborate with the State. This is also a reason why so many indigenous tourism ventures operate on an individual base. Where a collective practice is established one claims a good and supportive relation with State actors where the latter has learnt from its mistakes in the past taking a consulting rather than paternalisticposition. Past projects such as the IDB-promoted Programa Orígenes implemented in Chile from 2001 to 2011 were criticised as failed ethno-development because it did not address the central concerns of the Mapuche people and promoted economic competitiveness contradictory to the Mapuche values (Krell Rivera, 2012).

Chile is characterised by a very centralised government structure and multiple institutions are related to the issue of indigenous tourism (SERNATUR, INDAP, CONAF, CONADI, CORFO, SERCOTEC). These state agencies see tourism as a potential agent for economic and social development and actively support indigenous tourism through policy initiatives, consultant services and financial assistance. Nevertheless, there is a lack of multilateral collaboration between these government institutions. A lot of economic resources intended to invest in indigenous tourism are wasted because of similar practices of different government institutions. The need for a general platform for Mapuche tourism is considered necessary. Gustavo Mena, in charge of tourism development in the Villarrica commune (the municipality of Villarrica comprises also Lican Ray) opts for such a platform which should unite the different state actors in order to cooperate in a more efficient way.

‘There is a lack of communication and coordination. State organisations often do not communicate with each other, for example the one of tourism [i.e. SERNATUR] with the CONADI are not working in a coordinated manner. And that’s terrible because they should have a round table in which they can discuss and share information.’ (Gustavo Mena, interview, November 13 (2015), author’s translation)

The centralised level of decision-making and a lack of communication are also provoking problems for the Mapuche willing to dedicate themselves to tourism. People need to travel to Temuco, the capital of the region, to apply or fill in all kind of administration. Not all Mapuche indigenous people have the possibility to travel such distances. Municipalities have the task to act as a communication agent between the national actors and the indigenous communities but see themselves limited in the redirection of information. Gustavo Mena acknowledges the problem and is aware that a lot of possibilities for the Mapuche are lost because the information does not reach the communities (Gustavo Mena, interview, November 13, 2015).


Above we observed a lack of communication and cooperation at State-level which has its consequences for Mapuche people willing to engage themselves to tourism. Another limitation is what the brothers Comaroff describe as the ‘fetishism of the law’ (Comaroff & Comaroff, 2009: p. 51). The Mapuche entrepreneurs consider the administrative paperwork and requirements their biggest challenge in offering tourism. They are faced with a fiscal issue, according to some it is costly to obtain the legal patent. They are as well confronted with a sanitary question. In Chile one require the same sanitary conditions for a five-star hotel as for a traditional Mapuche lodge. Finally, they are obliged to register their tourist activity at SERNATUR. Apart from the costly price of these requirements, the indigenous people are also faced with the problem of accessibility. The people often do not have access to internet or carry another type of language. Most Mapuches lack a certain level of formation or education to understand a professional terminology.

This problem of accessibility has its consequences. On the one side, it leads to the fact that only a small part of the Mapuche community is benefitting the human and economic assistance of the State. Richard Quintana, director of the regional SERNATUR office acknowledges this situation by stating that today they only reach around 15 % of the Mapuche people active in tourism, which means that the lion’s share is not acquainted with the possibilities (Richard Quintana, interview, November 9, 2015). On the other side, due to the highly-cost price and the administrative obstacles there are Mapuche entrepreneurs who opted to offer tourism without complying with the legal framework.

Among most Mapuche entrepreneurs there is a willingness to collaborate in a collective manner. Doing so they could both embrace the traditional values of solidarity and communality as attract more tourists by promoting a collective tourist route. This has shown to be no easy operation. To implement a model of partnership and linkage between the enterprising entrepreneurs it is necessary to capacitate them and to outline a structural model with a variety and diversification of the Mapuche product. This support through training and funding of projects is surely present. INDAP for example support projects of Mapuche tourism in rural areas. However, state organisations are criticised among Mapuche people for their passivity and a lack of cultural understanding. According to some of the interviewees, there is need for an institution and the help of professionals who understand the culture and dynamics of the Mapuche community to advise and assist them in these matters. CONADI was created in 1993 in order to promote indigenous development but is criticised among the Mapuche people to be very inoperative and deficient in its connection with the indigenous communities.

Mapuche tourism: integration and resistance

The authorised indian

Neoliberal multiculturalism is a labelled term coined by the American anthropologist Charles Hale as a political discourse of appreciation of ethnic diversity whereby the latter does not challenge the popular notions of the unitary state and corporate interests (Hale, 2002). With the installation of the ‘indigenous’ Law in 1993, Chile wanted to promote multiculturality by ‘development with identity’ and ‘diversity within one nation’ programmes. However, this acceptance of ‘multiculturality’ by the political administrations did/does not embrace the Mapuche demands for recognition of collective rights. It is as Jose Bengoa claims: ‘recognition is the essential starting point for walking towards full development. If there does not exist such a recognition, ways of development continuously fall in an unequal relationship, principally clientelism’ (Bengoa, 1996 in Salas, 1996: 15). Hence, the 1993 law created a novel unequal relationship between the state and the indigenous people where these disadvantaged individuals were to be compensated by the State (Haughney, 2012).

Hale considers neoliberal multiculturalism as a form of governance in which cultural diversity is promoted but nonetheless it is no driver to greater equality (Hale, 2002). Hereby he criticises scholars as Brysk who claims that democratisation undoubtedly leads to the expansion of rights for indigenous people (Brysk, 2000). Hale argues that neoliberal multiculturalism includes a cultural project but however reinforces the racialized inequalities already present. Resulting from of his fieldwork with the Maya’s in Guatemala he states that multi-cultural reforms are affirming new rights and relationships between indigenous peoples and other citizens by conceding limited control (Hale, 2002). Postero in her ethnography of the Guaraní in the Bolivian lowlands claims that the Guaraní along with other indigenous people in Bolivia have overcome the limitations of neoliberal multiculturalism brought up by Hale to engage in new forms of political contestation, shifting away from ‘recognition’ as a central demand. Moreover, she believes Bolivia entered a post-multicultural era with the election of president Evo Morales in 2005 evolving in newly emerged citizenship practices (Postero, 2007). The case of the Mapuche in Chile shows that recognition is still a central demand in their relationship with the State.

We want to continue the work of Hale and the idea of the indio permitido or ‘authorised indian’. This concept, originally articulated by the Bolivian anthropologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui helps us to understand the neoliberal development project. The figure of the authorised indian demonstrates how neoliberal indigenous subjects are rewarded and empowered if they act according the dominant logic but nonetheless are limited in their aspirations (Hale, 2004; Hale & Millamán, 2006). In contrast, the indio insurrecto or ‘insurrectionary indian’ does not embrace the principles of neoliberal multiculturalism and is condemned to the marginalised spaces of poverty and social exclusion (Hale &Millamán, 2006). The creation of these ‘spaces’ allows the state to constrain the behaviour of its indigenous subjects and to cause internal conflicts in the indigenous community. Applied on the Mapuche movement we may consider the minority who violently takes possession of ancestral lands as exemplifying the ‘insurrectionary indian’ while for example Mapuche entrepreneurs represent the figure of the ‘authorised indian’.

According to neoliberal multicultural politics in Chile, integration into the global economy is the most effective way to indigenous development. Mapuche cultural tourism is an example about how Mapuche people operate within the field of the ‘authorised indian’. By entering the neoliberal market one try to enjoy the possible benefits of globalisation and through cooperation and dialogue with state actors some try to obtain personal or communal concessions. However, this space is constrained and limited by the Chilean government.

So, Mapuche entrepreneurship may be seen as a political strategy of multi-cultural neoliberalism to integrate and control indigenous movements. Many indigenous entrepreneurs make use of the space of the authorised indian to increase their incomes. However, placing all cultural tourism ventures under the same heading of the indio permitido would underestimate their agency and ability to transform this field. We believe that in Mapuche tourism entrepreneurship one can challenge the dichotomy of the ‘authorised’ and ‘insurrectionary’ indian. By embracing elements of neoliberalism and outwardly operating in the field of the ‘authorised indian’, Mapuche tourism can, but not necessarily does, contain strategies of resistance.


The Mapuche society faced severe repression and discrimination throughout the 20th century, mainly during the military government of Pinochet. Traditional values inherent to indigenous people such as communality were restricted. Fenelon & Hall (2008) in analysing resistance practices of indigenous people in Latin-America observed that the collective nature of indigenous life in social, political and economic dimension is opposed to modern contemporary systems typified by neoliberalism and therefore is seen as an obstacle.

The work of James Scott was influential in defining the concept of resistance. In its major work ‘Weapons of the weak: everyday forms of resistance’, Scott argues that resistance is ‘intended to mitigate or deny claims made by superordinate classes or to advance claims vis-à-vis those superordinate classes’ (Scott, 1985: p. 32). Studying peasant forms of resistance, his major achievement was his emphasis on everyday forms of disguised resistance discourses apart from public expressions of resistance (Scott, 1985).

Closely linked to his idea of resistance is the notion of transcripts. According to Scott every subaltern group creates a ‘hidden transcript’ through the practice of domination by superordinate groups. The created, disguised discourse consists of gestures and practices which contradict with the dominating public discourse. He denominates this the infrapolitics of the powerless (Scott, 1990). May we consider the Mapuche tourism enterprise as a hidden transcript or as an ‘alternative for struggle’ (a term coined by the Peruvian sociologist Quijano) against modern society (Quijano, 2008)? According to Fenelon & Hall (2008) is the Mapuche community in its whole an example of how indigenous people resist in decision-making, economy, land tenure and community cohesion. Their resistance led to the creation of the indigenous law in 1993 and they continue striving for recognition and the revitalisation of their culture.

The recovery of the peninsula of Lican Ray in hands of the Mapuche, is an example of indigenous public resistance. Since the 1990s the communities in Lican Ray collectively put pressure for the recovery of this space with spiritual meaning for the Mapuche which was in the hands of the State and certain individuals. Since 2008 the administration got in hands of the Mapuche community Rudecindo Ancalef and some families set up tourism activities. The recovery of the peninsula is nevertheless contested. Although administrated by Mapuche today, other Mapuche communities are not satisfied because it used to be an uninhabited spiritual space for all Mapuche and today it is in the possession of only some families.

The recovery of ancestral lands by putting pressure as in the case of the Lican Ray peninsula or the sometimes violent occupation of territory by Mapuches are illustrations of public resistance. However, is there a hidden transcript which we may call ‘cultural resistance’ in offering indigenous tourism activities? Is the implementation of Mapuche tourism connected to strategies of ‘everyday resistance’ (Scott, 1990; Lebonniec, 2009)?

‘The community tourism here was born as a political proposal from within the communities to this situation of lost territories ... We shaped a new model to establish the territory, recovering sustainable practices, recovering the cultural practices and recovering the language as well [i.e. Mapudungún].’ (Ricardo, interview, November 20 (2015), author’s translation)

One can observe that the implementation of what Ricardo erroneously describes as community tourism (cfr. supra) contains a ‘hidden transcript’ of cultural resistance. In this case, it leads to a revitalisation of traditional practices and the original language. Other Mapuche entrepreneurs mentioned the fact that by tourism they were able to stop the dominant migration process of young people to the cities. There is also the desirability among the ethnic entrepreneurs to counter the general prejudices about the Mapuches who are publicly considered as ‘drunks, lazy workers or terrorists’.6

Hence, we might say that turismo Mapuche which is set up mainly as a strategy for economic subsistence from their original territories can imply a hidden discourse of cultural resistance against the Chilean cultural hegemony. This has its impacts on territorial and socio-linguistic level by stopping the selling and in some cases the recovery of (ancestral) lands as well as a revitalisation of traditional values and language. Hence, Mapuche cultural tourism is not only set up from an economic perspective but has also an educational or conscienticising strategy to re-appropriate the Mapuche culture and identity.

Mapuche cultural tourism operates within a accepted (but limited) space regulated by neoliberal multiculturalism in Chile. The field of the ‘authorised indian’ provides the Mapuche people the opportunity to enter the neoliberal market and generate more income. However, we illustrated that there may be a more profound strategy present beyond economic reasoning. Following the idea of James Scott, we analysed the hidden transcripts of some tourism ventures around the CalafquénLake. However, we cannot put all indigenous tourism practices under the same heading of carrying a disguised discourse of cultural resistance. Many cultural tourism practices are established mainlywith a goal of economic profit.


Considering the market’s need for increasingly more differentiated tourism products, a growing interest in experiencing close contact with indigenous communities maintaining their traditions, and the willingness of these to display it, raised questions about the implications of indigenous tourism in terms of cultural patrimony and social development. Throughout this article, we have explored that Mapuche tourism ventures such as those present in the Lican Ray region can be sites of action for both development as resistance discourses. Reflecting on our research questions, we must conclude that, at least around Lican Ray, indigenous tourism has a positive effect on deterritorialisation and indigenous development. The recently emerged indigenous tourism business adds value to indigenous lands causing a decrease in the selling of land and emigration. It contributes in general to a better quality of life and in some cases also to a revitalisation of the culture.

This article reinforces the need to take into account indigenous agency in development models (Andolina, Radcliffe & Laurie, 2005). The Mapuche case illustrated that still a significant part of their community believes in a different understanding of development, one closely linked to nature. Mapuche concepts of kume mongen and itrofil mongen, which aspire a more respectful and balanced relationship with the environment, challenge universal modern approaches to development, mostly focusing on economic growth. We compared the Mapuche situating with Escobar’s Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN) in assigning the strong ecological and cultural attachment to territories (Escobar, 2008). Territoriality in relation to indigenous people does not only entail the physical dimension of land but has also social and cultural significance (Toledo Llancaqueo, 2005).

Undoubtedly, the development of Mapuche tourism implies a significant increase in income for the Mapuche families and contributes to a better quality of life in the territory. Indigenous tourism result also in decreasing emigration because of a renewed value of indigenous lands and is, thus, contributing to put a hold on the historical deterritorialisation process. Furthermore, indigenous tourism triggers a process of socio-political empowerment in recuperating ancestral lands and revitalising Mapuche language and ceremonies. The latter mostly occurs when a collective venture (comprised of micro-enterprises) is installed. However, considering the main economic transformations in the indigenous communities in and around Lican Ray, it is possible to note that tourism development accentuates economic differences at the community level, producing a new economic stratification among families who participate in the tourism industry and those who are not.

Following the work of Charles Hale, we argue that multicultural neoliberalism in Chile privileges an entrepreneurial approach to indigenous development in which a symbolic field of the ‘authorised indian’ is created to control the behaviour of the state’s indigenous inhabitants (Hale, 2002; Hale, 2004; Hale & Millamán, 2006). Mapuche entrepreneurs operate in this field to increase their revenues. However, using the authorised indian for personal or communal concession, Mapuche tourism also symbolises acts of cultural resistance. Revitalisation of the culture and recuperation of ancestral lands are hidden transcripts of the goals and objectives of inserting indigenous tourism in and around Lican Ray (Scott, 1990).

What can we conclude out of this research about indigenous tourism and their role for development? Although there is no guarantee that Mapuche tourism practices in and around Lican Ray will continue to exist in their current configuration, they are rooted in an explicit desire to be and remain indigenous. The aspire to remain in indigenous territory and if possible recover more land is considered by Mapuches themselves to be the foundation for their development. Mapuche tourism is as well an opportunity to strengthen and empower the community by a process of ethnocommodification.

Considering the development of indigenous tourism in the world, the Larrakia declaration can be a foundational instrument and a big step towards a global recognition for indigenous tourism to be a driver for development.7 This document is the culmination of the first Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism conference where in 2012 tourism industry leaders gathered together with Indigenous community members and government agencies. The principles adopted in the Larrakia Declaration welcome the fact that indigenous peoples are organising for economic, political, social and cultural development (PATA & WINTA, 2012). Nevertheless, the need emerges from this thesis to continue cross-cultural and participatory research for indigenous tourism and its role in Development.


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1This article is a synthesis of my Master´s thesis conducted at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) to obtain the degree of Master of Science in Cultures and Development Studies: Rommens, D. (2016). Living the territoriality: Mapuche tourism and development (Unpublished Master’s thesis). Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

2Anonymous (2015, December 30). Bachelet encara el conflict mapuche. Página 12. Retrieved from

3To know more about indigenous tourism´s definition and the differences between indigenous tourism and cultural tourism we refer to the works of Zeppel (2006), Butler & Hinch (2007) and Bunten (2010).

4The Calafquén Lake is located at the border between the Araucanía Region and the Lakes Region

5Wallmapu is the name given to the territory that the Mapuche have historically inhabited.

6This is illustrated by the places of origin of Chileans interested in Mapuche tourism. Almost 90% are not living in the Araucanía region but come from Chilean regions with none or less Mapuche population (Richard Quintana interview, November 9, 2015).

7For the principles of the Larrakia Declaration see appendix

Appendix The Larrakia Declaration


The first Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference was held in Darwin, on the traditional lands of the Larrakia people on the 28th-30th March 2012. There were 191 delegates from 16 countries representing Indigenous communities, government agencies, the tourism industry and supporting bodies, resolved to adopt principles to guide the development of Indigenous tourism through the following declaration (PATA & WINTA, 2012).

Recognising that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted on the 13th September 2007, provides the foundation for this declaration.

Recognising that whilst tourism provides the strongest driver to restore, protect and promote Indigenous cultures, it has the potential to diminish and destroy those cultures when improperly developed.

Recognising that as the world becomes increasingly homogenous Indigenous cultures will become increasingly important for tourism to provide differentiation, authenticity and the enrichment of visitor experiences.

Recognising that for Indigenous tourism to be successful and sustainable, Indigenous tourism needs to be based on traditional knowledge, cultures and practices and it must contribute to the well-being of Indigenous communities and the environment.

Recognising that Indigenous tourism provides a strong vehicle for cultural understanding, social interaction and peace.

Recognising that universal Indigenous values underpin intergenerational stewardship of cultural resources and understanding, social interaction and peace.

It is hereby resolved to adopt the following principles:

Respect for customary law and lore, land and water, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, cultural heritage that will underpin all tourism decisions.

Indigenous culture and the land and waters on which it is based, will be protected and promoted through well managed tourism practices and appropriate interpretation.

Indigenous peoples will determine the extent and nature and organisational arrangements for their participation in tourism and that governments and multilateral agencies will support the empowerment of Indigenous people.

That governments have a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples before undertaking decisions on public policy and programs designed to foster the development of Indigenous tourism.

The tourism industry will respect Indigenous intellectual property rights, cultures and traditional practices, the need for sustainable and equitable business partnerships and the proper care of the environment and communities that support them.

That equitable partnerships between the tourism industry and Indigenous people will include the sharing of cultural awareness and skills development which support the wellbeing of communities and enable enhancement of individual livelihoods


Recibido: 05 de Diciembre de 2016; Aprobado: 08 de Junio de 2017

Sobre el autor Dorian Rommens (Bélgica, 1992) es Especialista de Programas en Cultura y Ciencia en la Oficina de la UNESCO en México. En 2014, obtuvo el grado de maestro en Historia por la Universidad de Gante; en 2016, se graduó con distinción en la Maestría Avanzada de Estudios de Cultura y Desarrollo de la Universidad Católica de Lovaina. En 2013, obtuvo una beca para estudiar una especialización en historia moderna española en la Universidad de Sevilla en España. En Sevilla, empezó a interesarse por el estudio de América Latina y más específicamente por las culturas indígenas. Dos años más tarde, de septiembre a enero de 2015, realizó una pasantía en la Universidad Católica de Temuco (Chile), para desarrollar un trabajo de campo relacionado con su investigación sobre el turismo mapuche.

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