Hip-hop Mapuche on the Araucanian Frontera

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Jacob Rekedal
University of California, Riverside

This article analyzes musical activism in Araucanía, a centuries-old frontera (borderland), where physical and symbolic exchange between the Mapuche and other civilizations has long characterized social and cultural life. Discord over natural resources and social organization produces a resonant frequency of political distrust in the region. Mapuche rappers, Jano Weichafe, Danko Marimán, and Fabian Marin, freestyle on this frequency, articulating hip-hop concepts such as “underground” together with local preexisting forms of expression and resistance. Hip-hop also vividly portrays the conditions of life in Araucanía’s interethnic poblaciones (urban neighborhoods). Based on interviews and performances, I describe how groups of inner-city youth, as well as Mapuche organizations, have utilized hip-hop to foment indigenous ceremonies in urban environments, and to involve at-risk kids in constructive activities. Finally, I analyze Jano Weichafe’s fusion rock/cumbia/hip-hop song, “Ñi Pullu Weichafe” (Warrior Spirit), which, as the artist explains, “awakens consciousness” through performed solidarity with Chilean rockers, La Mano Ajena.

On a winter night in August of 2009, Jano Weichafe, a Mapuche rapper, collaborated with the Chilean rock band, La Mano Ajena, performing a piece entitled “Ñi Pullu Weichafe” (Warrior Spirit, in Mapuzugun), in a venue called the Galpón Víctor Jara in the Chilean capital of Santiago. The performance not only left the audience jumping and calling for an encore, but also piqued their interest in the tema mapuche (Mapuche issue), whose epicenter lies some 600 kilometers to the south in the Araucanía region. Jano Weichafe reflects: “A través de la música, uno logra llegar a más gente, y aportar un proceso, sin necesariamente andar tirando piedras . . . [es] más potente . . . de hecho es más peligroso despertar más consciencia, que andar tirando piedras” (Through music, you can reach more people and support a cause without necessarily going around throwing rocks . . . [it’s] more powerful . . . actually it’s also more dangerous to awaken people’s consciousness than to go around throwing rocks; Personal Interview).1

"Ñi Pullu Weichafe"

What does hip-hop tell us about Mapuche culture? How does rap music empower Mapuche people in twenty-first century Chile? What forms of activism does rap offer in climates of political instability and migration? Addressing these questions requires examining the conditions of urban life in Araucanía, a region which bears the reputation of frontera, or cultural borderland, in central-southern Chile. This inquiry also focuses in on more universal quandaries about hip-hop, including its remarkable applicability to pedagogy and community building (see Pardue 2007), coupled with countercultural sentiments that survived its global journeys on the winds of consumerism. This article outlines the history of several rap groups in the urban heart of Araucanía, as well as hip-hop’s relationship to the Mapuche Movement, the region’s most empowered social movement. All told, rap and hip-hop bring a set of dynamic and integral expressions to Mapuche political mobilization, and to urban cultural development in the region. Finally, I analyze a song, “Ñi Pullu Weichafe,” as an example of a genre fusion project and an exercise in crossing cultural borders, or fronteras.

Temuco and the Araucanía Region, roughly 600 kilometers south of the capital, Santiago (Google Earth).2

The Frontera, Conflict, Country, and City
Hip-hop in Araucanía, like in many parts of the world, extends patterns of expression and resistance, which predate today’s hip-hop culture, itself a global phenomenon originating in the Bronx in the 1970s.3 Mapuche society centers around the historic territory of Wallmapu, ranging between the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts in the Southern Cone. Historian, Jorge Pinto (1988, 2003, 2009), regards Chile’s Araucanía region, in the northwest of Wallmapu, as a centuries-old frontera, or borderland, long characterized by exchange between the Mapuche and other civilizations (Tiahuanaco, Inca, Spanish, Chilean). For centuries, the Mapuzugun language and ülkantun (song) have shaped cultural identities and social and political attitudes. Likewise, for the Europeans who ventured to Wallmapu, detailed Spanish reports about the Araucanian natives began largely with the epic poetry of Alonso de Ercilla in the sixteenth century. As Chilean literary scholar, Hugo Carrasco, notes, Mapuche etnoliteratura (ethnoliterature), “el conjunto o sistema de manifestaciones textuales de carácter verbal, consideradas propias por el pueblo que las produce” (the system of textual manifestations of a verbal character, belonging specifically to the people who produce them; 21-22), has interacted with elements from contiguous cultures during the entire history of contact, producing unique discourses about cultural continuity and resistance.

According to historian Pablo Marimán, autonomous Wallmapu had well-developed systems of communication and trade, and Mapuche lived relatively unbounded to specific plots of land (54-55). The Guerra de la Pacificación (War of the Pacification), a military incursion into Araucanía in the 1880s, hemmed Mapuche lofs (family groups) into small parcels based on government land grants and established a small agriculturalist model of rural economics in the region. The Chilean Agrarian Reform of the 1960s empowered campesinos, but fostered a normative model of the Chilean Catholic family, marginalizing Mapuche lifeways from the modern campesino class (Tinsman 2002). In 1978, the government opened Araucanía to free-market investment by removing indigenous land protections. The region boomed with forestry plantations, which further reduced Mapuche lands and dried the soil with non-native trees. Today, Araucanía claims the highest proportions among all Chilean regions of residents living below the poverty line and of indigenous residents per region (MIDEPLAN 2009). Campesino resistance has blurred with poverty and police repression in different areas of rural Araucanía, amounting to what editorialist, Pedro Cayuqueo, considers the “Bronx of the Mapuche.” All of these processes have provoked intense rural-urban migration and a distinct critique of Chilean development policies among Mapuche writers, activists, and artists, including rappers.

A pobla in Temuco, with the Llaima Volcano in the background.

Padre Las Casas (Google Earth)

In Araucanian cities such as Temuco and neighboring Padre las Casas, burgeoning, mixed-ethnic poblas (short for poblaciones or barrios) roll up and down a hilly landscape and abruptly give way to rural Mapuche comunidades (post-Pacificación reservations) and industrial-scale forestales (forestry plantations), just beyond the urban limits. Rural-urban migration has generated conditions of urban poverty intertwined with the customs of rural life. In these poor, rainy poblas, bright hip-hop tags coat concrete walls alongside makeshift horse pastures crammed between urban dwellings. Some Mapuche rappers have described their music as a kind of electroacoustic artesanía, a term which refers to folkloric artwork. Artesanía is vital in Araucanía due to a combination of cultural and ecological diversity, but also to low levels of income. The region offers ample raw materials for weavers, potters, and woodworkers practicing ancestral traditions, and artisans’ meager earnings nonetheless compete with those of most working-class jobs. Equating rap music with artesanía asserts rappers’ cultural identity, rustic production style, and economic independence, which, as one MC explained to me, translates to freedom of expression.

Album cover by Danko Marimán, aka Gran Massay, depicting woven Mapuche iconography (courtesy of Kolectivo We Newen).

In a uniquely Mapuche way, rappers use the concept “artesanal” (or “artisanal” in English) to articulate their music and activism with pre-Columbian creativity, as well as with the hip-hop concept of “underground,” which translates to the Spanish word subterráneo. Wenu Mapu, a Mapuche rapper from the countryside, sings:

Wenu-mapu avanza, subterráneamente
Nuestra lucha no se transa, nuestro canto no se vende
Canción a la verdad, canción al subconsciente
Canción de apoyo y canción al combatiente. (Kolectivo We Newen, Raizes)

(Wenu Mapu advances, underground
Our struggle doesn’t bargain, our song doesn’t sell out
Song of truth, song to the subconscious
Song of solidarity, and song of the combatant)

“Underground” calls forth a host of meanings in hip-hop and popular music indicating heightened degrees of consciousness, critique, and autonomy.4 Pioneering studies of rock, metal, and hip-hop in Chile have contextualized these local music scenes relative to discourses about youth cultural movements (Muñoz and Peret 2011), foreign imports to a peripheral region (Quitzow), and artistic reactions to the effects of neoliberal capitalism on urban landscapes (Figueroa 2006). Two thesis projects about local popular music at the Universidad de la Frontera in Temuco have dealt with cultural identity and resistance (Sepúlveda 2011), and historical memory (Linconao 2011), and a recent book has even chronicled the history of rock music in Araucanía (Zapata 2009). Yet, the links between rock, metal, hip-hop, and preexisting indigenous cultural practices have eluded most analysis so far. I propose beginning with the terminology at hand: in the Araucanian hip-hop scene, the term “subterráneo” refers to militant advocacy for Mapuche political autonomy, freedom of expression and production, and even the physical setting of certain hip-hop performances in dingy, poorly lit venues. Additionally, for Mapuche rappers the terms “artesanal” and “subterráneo” overlap, meaning that artesanía can be electronic and militant, while “underground” can be traditional.

Hip-hop and the Occupation of Urban Spaces in Araucanía
The first hip-hop groups to flourish in Temuco and Padre las Casas drew inspiration from discontent and an evolving sense of community as the cities expanded in the 1980s and ‘90s, following urban development policies and migration patterns during the previous three decades. Rapid urban expansion had begun in the 1960s and early ‘70s with the government’s ambitious efforts to house and empower landless rural workers through the Agrarian Reform. During these decades, various campamentos (shanty towns) and government-subsidized housing projects sprang up. In the mid-1970s and into the ‘80s, through much different policies, dictator Augusto Pinochet employed military force both to complete housing projects left unfinished by previous governments and to strip Mapuche communities of their cultural and territorial rights. The commingling of construction with physical and cultural violence fit with the dictatorship’s project of forcefully assimilating the Mapuche while cultivating a public image related to progress. Meanwhile, the contemporary Mapuche Movement has consistently emphasized the recovery of rural territory as its primary goal (Mallon 155), yet rural-urban migration has also marked Mapuche life for several generations, necessitating urban initiatives as well.

While the dictatorship’s grip on freedom of expression thawed in the late 1980s, rappers and poets began to sketch out the emerging dynamics of urban Araucanian life in new artistic formats and often in collaboration with new mestizo and Mapuche community organizations conscious of the perils of población life, especially for those previously accustomed to life in the countryside. Through inter-generational teaching and learning, and the participation of politically committed Mapuche artists, rappers and b-boys have developed a sense of community independent of, and critical towards, the state and public institutions committed to social welfare and cultural development. Particularly during Chile’s initial hip-hop boom in the 1980s and early ‘90s, artists’ occupation of open-air urban spaces such as plazas and street corners, through breakdance, graffiti and freestyling, paralleled the Mapuche Movement’s broader goals of reclaiming rural territory. Regional hip-hop has since moved largely indoors, yet critical postures persist, particularly in the music of Mapuche rappers.

Hip-hop culture and rap entered through the body, roughly in 1986, with local Chilean breakdancers such as the Pirañas (Piranhas). Several years passed before these fledgling b-boys began to rap in 1992, inspired by a visit from Santiago-based hip-hop pioneers, the Panteras Negras (Black Panthers). According to rappers from Araucanía, Jano Weichafe, and Óscar, better known as El Mono (the Monkey), the first rap performances in Temuco with homegrown lyrics featured the Brocas de las Naquis (which means, Kids on the Corner, in coa, a street dialect).5 The Brocas were actually a community organization based in Lanín, Araucanía’s oldest and largest campamento, located in the roughest area of Temuco. A resident named Johnny Silva founded the Brocas in 1986 with about sixty young people from Lanín who gathered to practice palín (Mapuche hockey), artesanía, ecological conservation, and music.

Óscar, an original Broca, recently reflected on the group’s public debut. At a cultural festival in the main plaza of Temuco in 1992, Johnny Silva encouraged him to step up to the microphone. Óscar rapped the following lines, which a friend had written:

Somos Brocas de una población
Donde hay miseria y marginación
Pero aquí nosotros venimos a contarle
A todo el mundo queremos demostrarle
Que no es pecado, ni malo vivir
En nuestra pobla llamada Lanín. (Unión de Pobla, Personal Interview)

(We are Brocas from a población,
Where there’s misery and marginalization
But here we have come to tell you
To the whole world we want to show you
That it isn’t bad, nor is it a sin to live
In our pobla that’s called Lanín)

Two years later, a Chilean talk show called Venga Conmigo (Come With Me) traveled to Temuco to broadcast a special episode in the Gimnasio O’Higgins (O’Higgins Gymnasium), featuring interviews and a live hip-hop performance by the Brocas. Óscar, who was twenty years old at the time, recalls bright lights, an elaborate stage, even makeup—“Estábamos metidos en la farándula” (we were like TV stars; Unión de Pobla, Personal Interview). In addition to their original lyrics, the Brocas’ television appearance highlighted the group’s breakdance skills, with footage of windmills, handspins, and other impressive moves during the live performance. Óscar regards the early 1990s as a great period for the Brocas de las Naquis: largely through hip-hop, the group united and motivated at-risk youth, while drawing national attention to both their artistic prowess and the precariousness of life in Lanín.

The Brocas’ mastery of breakdance relates to the positive occupation of urban spaces, which many rappers and b-boys claimed as their modus operandi during the 1990s. A member of the Panteras Negras once commented:

 . . . Nosotros decimos estilo de vida, porque en realidad el breakdance implica una forma de caminar distinto. Nosotros siempre caminamos con ritmo, y nos vestimos con ropa ancha. No nos gusta la violencia, en primer lugar. Preferimos . . . si hay una disputa en el grupo . . . resolverla bailando, que a combos. Entonces para nosotros, es una solución. (Panteras Negras, Estrellas en la Esquina)

(We say lifestyle, because in reality breakdance implies a form of walking that’s different. We always walk with rhythm, and we dress in baggy clothes. We don’t like violence, first off. We prefer . . . in the case of a dispute . . . to resolve it dancing, and not fighting. So for us, it’s a solution.)

In the 1990s, Araucanian rappers and b-boys converted street corners into venues for making music and movement in the open air. The Padre las Casas scene centered on the triángulo, a triangular intersection between the bloques rojos (red blocks) apartment buildings and the Panamerican Highway. Across the river in Temuco, Óscar, Jano Weichafe, and the Brocas de las Naquis gathered in the Lanín campamento during the late 1980s and in a more visible plaza in the adjacent poblaciones of Sector Pedro de Valdivia as of 1997. In summary, Araucanian hip-hop in its formative years responded to the need for constructive activities and a sense of community and identity for mixed ethnic youth in the expanding poblaciones.

Unfortunately, the local hip-hop scene did not take full advantage of its early role as a positive community force in Lanín, nor did it capitalize on the temporary limelight focus of prime time television. Additionally, regional hip-hop has suffered from weak relationships between rap artists and public institutions, such as the Consejo Nacional de la Cultura (National Cultural Council), which frequently sponsors events and projects promoting folkloric music, classical music, jazz, certain forms of popular music, theatre, and poetry. Araucanian hip-hop artists have maintained this organism largely at arms length, perhaps for lack of interest in the Consejo’s exceedingly bureaucratic funding procedures or the notoriously high rejection rate of applications. Many of the region’s rappers are also markedly irreverent, while by contrast, publicly funded projects in the arts are normally coopted to support a positive image of Chile’s social, cultural, and economic development policies.

By the time of my research in 2010, rap in Temuco (not necessarily Mapuche rap, but rap in general from the poblaciones) had become almost exclusively nocturnal, revolving around smoky beer joints such as the Bar Klandestino (Clandestine Bar), the Bar Sin Nombre (Nameless Bar), and the Bar Sótano (Basement Bar). Rappers argue that their art form has gone underground, both literally and figuratively, because bar owners offer attractive deals for musicians looking for a quick return on their investments in sound systems and promotional materials. Bars charge a cover, sell alcohol, and split the revenue with the musicians, who in turn supply the talent and draw a crowd. The practice of performing in bars has broken down the connection between rap and breakdance, since late nights in these crowded, dank spaces are more inviting to an audience that sits still and drinks than to one that performs athletic break maneuvers. B-boys still gather frequently in plazas to practice, perform, and battle, however nowadays they typically do so without their lyricist counterparts.

Araucanian hip-hop in general has thus assumed a different orientation in recent years, with considerably less emphasis on community-based activities in broad daylight. Nonetheless, Mapuche rappers, such as Jano Weichafe, have developed unique themes and performance contexts, which articulate the social consciousness of the era of the Brocas, with the expression of an urban indigenous identity and a forthright association with the Mapuche Movement. For his part, Óscar carries on the Brocas’ tradition of socially realist rap with fellow lyricist Juan, who is part Mapuche, and the group, Unión de Pobla.

From Hip-hop Poblacional to Hip-hop Mapuche
Jano Weichafe participated with the Brocas since the beginning. Jano soon planted the idea of explicitly Mapuche hip-hop, noting the need for cultural projects designed for Mapuche youth arriving to the city from rural sectors. He recently reflected:

 . . . allí surgió la necesidad de empezar a inculcar a los niños y a los jóvenes . . . que tenemos una identidad propia. Y de por lo tanto no sentir vergüenza de eso, y empezar a rescatar parte de la memoria histórica. Eso yo empecé a hacer a través de la música, a través del hip-hop . . . rescatando a algunos héroes, alguna historia . . . en la ciudad es complicado, por la discriminación, la pobreza, la drogadicción, el alcoholismo.  Entonces, ¿cómo se enfrenta eso, para que nuestra gente en la ciudad no se siga destruyendo? Y allí surgió la propuesta del hip-hop mapuche. Y como grupo de hip-hop mapuche, se llamaba Weichafe Newen. Y yo era Jano Weichafe . . . En esa época . . . 1990, se iniciaba todo un proceso de recuperación territorial. Y empezaron a surgir todas las organizaciones mapuches de nuevo, con fuerza. (Kolectivo We Newen, Personal Interview)

(That’s where the necessity came from, to begin to inculcate the young people . . . that we have our own identity, and therefore to not feel ashamed of it, and to begin to explore part of our historical memory. That’s what I began to do through music, through hip-hop . . . recalling some of the old heroes, some of the history . . . in the city it’s complicated because of discrimination, poverty, drug addiction, and alcoholism. So, how could we deal with all of that, so that the city wouldn’t continue to destroy our people? And that’s where the idea appeared for Mapuche hip-hop. And as a Mapuche hip-hop group, we called it Weichafe Newen (Force of the Warrior). And I was Jano Weichafe (Jano the Warrior) . . . In that era . . . 1990, a whole process of territorial recuperation was just beginning. As part of this process, all the Mapuche organizations began to appear again with force.)

Since this time, the term hip-hop Mapuche has worked its way into common parlance throughout central-southern Chile; here, the focus remains with the foundational artists from Temuco and Padre las Casas.

The group, Weichafe Newen, has included various members and projects since its beginnings in 1989 and 1990. Alongside his activities with the Brocas de las Naquis, Jano also initially participated in folkloric stage performances called peñas, which in more recent years have embraced rap and cumbia. He quickly began to compose and perform rap songs, sometimes with Mapuche instruments such as the pifilka (a short, wooden flute with one opening), the kultrún (a ceremonial drum), and the trompe (a mouth harp). Jano’s better known songs include “Hip-hop Alternativo” (Alternative Hip-Hop) (1989), “Ñi Pullu Weichafe” (Espíritu Guerrero, or Warrior Spirit) (1997), and “¿Hasta Cuándo Más Vamos a Soportar?” (How Much Longer Will We Tolerate This?) (1999). The song, “Hip-hop Alternativo,” lays out Jano’s prerogative:

Mi hip-hop es indigenista
Rebelde sin previsto
Defiendo las ideas de la gente sometida . . .
Hip-hop alternativo, todos escuchen
Nación del aguerrido, nación del Mapuche.

(My hip-hop is indigenista
Rebellious like never before
I defend the ideas of the subjected peoples . . .
Hip-hop alternativo, listen everybody
Nation of the warrior, nation of the Mapuche)

During more than two decades, Jano has performed at various peñas and actos culturales (cultural stage events), both alone, as Jano Weichafe, and accompanied, as Weichafe Newen.

As noted in the quotation above, during a period of intense, post-authoritarian mobilization in the Mapuche Movement, Jano Weichafe brought a critical posture about Mapuche identity and demands to local rap music, itself an art form based in the poblaciones, the region’s fastest developing demographic. Weichafe Newen and the Brocas de las Naquis coincided with a blossoming of new music, poetry, and visual art allied with the Mapuche Movement as the dictatorship waned. Nonetheless, Jano and other members of the Brocas had encountered frustration as they searched for spaces to play palín and put on music events in the late 1980s, which they now attribute to the dictatorship’s record of repression. The rapper recalls, “No había nada . . . en esa fecha, ‘89, ‘90 . . . ni un espacio donde se pudiese hablar o discutir en torno a la cultura” (In those years, 1989, 1990 . . . there were no places at all for discussing culture in the urban environment; Weichafe and Marimán, Personal Interview).

In 2011, I heard Jano perform at peñas oriented towards urban life, such as those sponsored by a group called Kolectivo We Newen (New Force Collective). The Kolectivo spent much of that year petitioning the government to make Mapuzugun an official language, and music events were key for raising funds and awareness. The Kolectivo held peñas called We Kawiñ (New Celebration, or New Circle), where they charged a cover, sold food and drinks, and invited a string of performers to the mic over several hours at a bar on different Friday or Saturday nights. Whereas local hip-hop in general (not necessarily Mapuche) often relies on bar owners’ co-sponsorship, peñas like We Kawiñ are managed completely by organizations such as Kolectivo We Newen. The Kolectivo rents bars for these events, however they can adjust the lighting, show documentaries, prepare Mapuche dishes, and create their own ambience. Jano Weichafe helped to establish the precedent of performing Mapuche hip-hop at better-organized events, such as these peñas. As a result, compared with other kinds of local hip-hop, Mapuche hip-hop performances are less frequent, but more prestigious and more visible.

Poster advertising a We Kawiñ peña (courtesy of Kolectivo We Newen).

The relationship between hip-hop and more traditional aspects of Mapuche culture signals noteworthy variations on themes of migration and cultural practices, which researchers have described regarding other areas of South America. Working in the Peruvian altiplano, anthropologist, Zoila Mendoza, and ethnomusicologist, Jonathan Ritter, have demonstrated how urbanization and folklorization “[are] frequently characterized by a dialectic between ritual decontextualization and the opening of new spaces for subaltern voices” (Ritter 23). Cultural studies scholar, George Yúdice, argues that the mechanical adoption of cultural practices into state development projects (as if they were natural resources) risks propagating static, consumable representations of marginalized communities, while obfuscating real class and ethnic tensions (217). In Araucanía, the urbanization of ritual and ceremony has involved negotiations of cultural identity and political authority, along with the participation of popular music artists such as rappers.

Jano Weichafe rapping and playing guitar in 2013 (courtesy of Jano Weichafe).

According to Jano, Mapuche ceremonies in urban spaces have expanded noticeably since the late 1980s. For instance, celebrations of We Xipantu, the Mapuche new year, have become large, outdoor affairs in recent years, involving Mapuche and non-Mapuche alike, with sponsorship from municipalities and indigenous organizations with legal status. By contrast, in the late 1980s, We Xipantu was primarily a small, indoor, family celebration. The dictatorship’s Decree Law 2568, which removed indigenous land protections in 1978, took into account the cultural attachment between the Mapuche and their mapu (land), as well as their reluctance to aggressively exploit it. As Diane Haughney explains, by eliminating Mapuche land, the government sought to eliminate the ceremonial practices that honored it (55-57). Mapuche ceremonies then entered into a complex relationship with the authorities. In her detailed testimonio (testimonial account), Mapuche activist, Isolde Reuque Paillalef, describes how the dictatorship sometimes considered nguillatún ceremonies as forms of protest.6 The government, she notes, selectively supported publicly visible ceremonies in order to appear allied with the Mapuche (110).

The situation had changed considerably by 2011, when I had four We Xipantu invitations: at a friend’s home in the seaside village of Puerto Saavedra; at the regional museum in Temuco, with a barbeque and live music; at a Mapuche school in the outlying countryside of Padre las Casas; and at an urban cultural center in Temuco, with Kolectivo We Newen. Whether or not the rogativas (prayer ceremonies) associated with We Xipantu are now “decontextualized” because of where and among whom they take place, they certainly are more common than they were three decades ago. In Temuco and Padre las Casas, hip-hop has aided in developing new spaces for Mapuche ceremonies, since rap and breakdance have accompanied traditional cultural practices on the agendas of urban youth organizations such as the Brocas de las Naquis and Kolectivo We Newen.

Wenu-Mapu: Mapuche Hip-Hop from the Countryside
Lyricist, Fabian Marin, aka Wenu Mapu (Star Realm), began to freestyle and compose militant rap songs as a high school student in the late 1990s, nearly a decade after Weichafe Newen’s initial work. He draws inspiration from his cultural heritage, the struggles of rural life, and a sense of reivindicación (resurgence or protest). Marin recorded most of his songs in the early years of Kolectivo We Newen, 2006-2008: “Wenu Mapu Avanza” (Wenu Mapu Advances), “Diez Veces Venceremos” (Ten Times We Will Overcome), “Rap Reivindicativo” (Protest Rap), “En el Nombre del Progreso” (In the Name of Progress), “En el Nombre de los Kaídos” (In the Name of the Fallen), and “Usurpación” (Usurpation), which I quote here:

Con la Cruz, la Biblia y la espada
Las tierras siguen usurpadas
Desde el engaño, vidas asesinadas
Y mujeres y niñas ultrajadas
Comunidades a vivir en reducciones destinadas
Mientras que extranjeros y colonos
Lucrándose en las tierras que de las manos
De nuestros hermanos han sido arrebatadas. (Kolectivo We Newen, website)

(With the Cross, the Bible and the sword
The lands become usurped
Out of deception and from assassination
And the women and children wrenched
From communities to live on reservations
While foreigners and colonists
Profiting on the lands that from the hands
Of our brothers have been snatched)

Fabian hails from a rural area called Wilio, fifty kilometers southwest of Temuco. He describes where he grew up:

Es un territorio que consta de treinta comunidades Mapuche . . . [con] un promedio de treinta o treinta y cinco familias por comunidad . . . entonces eso lo hace un territorio bastante grande, bastante extenso. Además . . . culturalmente es uno de los territorios más vivos . . . [donde se] conserva mejor y más intacto lo que es el nguillatún, y todas las ceremonias Mapuche . . . Allí pertenece mi familia, mis abuelos, mis bisabuelos . . . y mis tatarabuelos.

La mayoría que formaron ese territorio, muchos arrancaron de la guerra [de la Pacificación], otros eran por la cuestión de los peaje, donde se robaron a los niños, y [los mismos niños cuando ya grandes] llegaron después y no tenían idea de dónde venían . . . Los españoles y los mismos Mapuche también lo hacían.

En esencia Wilio se desprende del territorio que se llama Boroa . . . Boroa es el territorio más grande . . . es más antiguo . . . Allí se pusieron fuertes, los españoles, militarizaron esa zona, evangelizaron esa zona . . . (Marin, Personal Interview)

(It’s a territory made up of thirty Mapuche comunidades . . . [with] an average of thirty or thirty-five families per comunidad . . . so that makes it a pretty large territory, pretty extensive . . . Culturally, it’s one of the most lively territories . . . where they’ve conserved most effectively and most intact what we call the nguillatún, and all the Mapuche ceremonies . . . That’s where my family comes from, my grandparents, my great grandparents . . . and my great great grandparents.

The majority of the people that formed that territory, many were running from the war [of the Pacificación], and others were there due to this whole issue of the peaje (toll), where they stole children, and later [the same children, when they had grown up] arrived and had no idea where they had come from originally . . . The Spanish did this, as did the Mapuche.

Essentially Wilio is part of a territory called Boroa . . . Boroa is larger . . . [and] older . . . The Spanish installed forts there, and they militarized and evangelized that whole zone . . .)

Wilio and Boroa are known for the fertility of the soil, on the banks of the Toltén River.  Fabian describes the effects of land reduction:

Mis padres . . . viven del campo, trabajan, cultivan, tienen sus animalitos . . . Después de la Pacificación vienen las reducciones de tierra . . . y todo ese cuento. Entonces allí cambia todo, y cada familia llega a tener cinco o seis hectáreas, diez hectáreas. Después se multiplican con los tres hijos que tenían, y cada uno tocaba a tres, cuatro hectáreas . . . Por eso también hoy en día se están recuperando tierras. (Marin, Personal Interview)

(My parents . . . live off the land, they work it and cultivate it, and tend to their animals . . . After the Pacificación come the land reductions . . . and that whole story. At that point everything changes, and each family winds up with five or six hectares, ten hectares. Then they have children, and with three children, let’s say, each one inherited three, four hectares . . . That’s also why today they’re recuperating lands.)

Faced with farming these small plots, many young people move to the cities and study or work. When Fabian and I met in 2010, he was studying information technology at an institute in Temuco, and living in Padre las Casas in a resident hall for Mapuche youth.

Fabian Marin, aka Wenu Mapu, rapping at a gathering of musicians and poets in 2010.

Fabian began rapping as a secondary student in the late 1990s, while also playing in folkloric music groups. A teacher asked him to research a project on hip-hop, and after gathering articles and recordings, he began to identify not only with the sounds, but also with the sense of struggle associated with so much rap music. Ironically, he had never lived anywhere but the countryside, traveling to the small town of Freire, on the banks of the Toltén, to attend school. By the time Fabian finished high school, the Panteras Negras had built a major reputation in Santiago, as had the Brocas de las Naquis and the Pirañas in Temuco and Padre las Casas, respectively. However, as he notes:

Cuando ya me quedó claro lo que era el hip-hop . . . yo no pude hablar de poblaciones, [como] la mayoría de los grupos de hip-hop que conocí—incluso aquí mismo en Temuco había un grupo que se llamaba los Pirañas, y otro grupo en Pedro de Valdivia que se llamaba los Brocas de las Naquis—entonces allí yo decidí, voy a hablar de la problemática Mapuche, que en aquel entonces no era [gran cosa en el rap] como hoy en día. (Marin, Personal Interview)

(Once it was clear to me what hip-hop was . . . I couldn’t talk about the poblaciones, [like] the majority of hip-hop groups I knew—including right here in Temuco there was a group called the Pirañas, and another group in Pedro de Valdivia called the Brocas de las Naquis—so then I decided, I am going to talk about the problems facing the Mapuche, which at that time was not nearly as big a deal [in rap music] as it is today.)

At the time, the only other group performing hip-hop Mapuche in the region was Weichafe Newen, whom Fabian first heard perform at an event in a rural comunidad.

Hip-hop and Local Meaning
One of Fabian’s sources of information about hip-hop was a revista (magazine) called Kultura Hip-hop, which only ran four issues, all during 1999. Between feature stories, visual art, and notices about events, Kultura Hip-hop also documented an aspect of the relationship between Chilean hip-hop culture and the Mapuche Movement. Issue number four contains a lengthy interview with “don Gervasio,” a member of the Coordinadora Arauco Malleco, a militant Mapuche organization working to recover territory in the south. The Coordinadora’s representatives in Santiago at that time raised awareness by passing out information on the crowded city streets. Hip-hop and the Mapuche Movement share an aesthetics of protest, visible both in Kultura Hip-hop and in the graffiti art of the poblas in Araucanía.

Graffiti art in Temuco.

However, the relationship is more than aesthetic; rather, it corresponds to demographic patterns, along with an entire discourse about development and cultural adaptation. Lyricist and anthropologist, Danko Marimán, summarized this discourse in a 2006 interview in English:

When we talk about “Mapuchifying” hip-hop and poetry, we mean incorporating them into our culture. Through both these art forms we bring to light our personal and collective struggles . . . [O]ur culture isn’t immobilised or fixed in books, quite the contrary, it’s alive in those of us who are alive today . . . As we engage in cultural contact with other human communities, we acquire new tools that we can incorporate without losing our Mapuche identity. (Estrada)

That same year, Danko, along with Fabian Marin, poet Kvyen Tranamil, and several other Mapuche artists and activists, formed Kolectivo We Newen, originally focused on hip-hop and documentary filmmaking.

Danko Marimán had started with rap in the mid-1990s, when he participated in a growing hip-hop scene at the triángulo in Padre las Casas. In 2005, he recorded the album V.I.D.A. D.E. A.R.A.U.K.A.N.O. (L.I.F.E. O.F. A.N. A.R.A.U.C.A.N.I.A.N.) under the epithet Gran Massay, which he earned for his height (like a Maasai Tribesman) and his short hair. The album elaborates a proposal for peaceful interculturalism between Mapuche and non-Mapuche, combined with regional autonomy from an indigenous standpoint. That same year, the political party, Wallmapuwen, was born, aimed at uniting regional voices and votes behind an agenda of increased autonomy and Mapuche self-governance—a platform that coincided with Danko’s album.

Danko Marimán at a gathering of musicians and poets in 2010.

Danko Marimán taking images in the hazy winter air, in front of the Mapuche flag, at a We Xipantu celebration in 2011.

In the liner notes to a 2008 album, Danko and Fabian claim that seventy percent of Mapuche people now live in cities, making hip-hop an apt expression of Mapuche identity.7 During a 2011 interview, I asked Danko and Jano Weichafe about Mapuche hip-hop relative to Chilean hip-hop. Danko explained rural-urban migration among the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group in Chile:8

En las décadas de los ‘60 y ‘70, todas las familias [Mapuche] tenían un inmigrante [desde el campo hasta la ciudad] en su familia. Entonces después, se pasa el tiempo y se masifica, y llega un punto en que es un cincuenta-cincuenta de la población Mapuche: [cincuenta por ciento] en las comunidades, y otro cincuenta en la ciudad. Y de ese cincuenta que está en la ciudad, que eran 400.000, setenta por ciento se fue a Santiago . . . diez por ciento aproximadamente a Temuco, y el otro porcentaje a otros pueblos y ciudades. Pero lo que no se dice allí, que es parte de la realidad, es que todos llegaron a las poblaciones marginales. Todos llegaron a los campamentos, los cordones, a todo lo que era la marginalidad de la ciudad. Bueno, el rap también, empiezan a hacer en las poblaciones. El rap chileno, por decirlo, tiene mucha influencia de esos Mapuche que migraron, porque muchos raperos fueron los hijos de los que migraron, o los nietos de los que migraron—la diáspora Mapuche, que se le llama. (Weichafe and Marimán, Personal Interview)

(In the decades of the ‘60s and ‘70s, all the [Mapuche] families had one migrant [from the country to the city], one in each family. So later, some time passes and the phenomenon grows, and there comes a point at which it’s fifty-fifty in the Mapuche population: [fifty percent] in the [rural] comunidades, and the other fifty in the city. And of that fifty in the city, which was 400,000 people, seventy percent went to Santiago . . . approximately ten percent went to Temuco, and the remaining percentage went to other towns and cities. But what they don’t say there, which is part of the reality, is that all of those people that migrated wound up in the poor neighborhoods. They all went to live in the campamentos, the outer limits, the margins of the city. Well, rap also begins in the poblaciones. Chilean rap, as it were, has a lot of influence from those Mapuche that migrated, because a lot of rappers were the children of those who migrated, or the grandchildren of those who migrated—the Mapuche diaspora, as they call it.)

The influx of Mapuche migrants and rap music shaped Chilean cities at the same historical moment. Jano and Danko have expressed that all Chilean hip-hop has something Mapuche in it. Even if a rapper is not Mapuche, if s/he grew up in a población, they probably had neighbors who had migrated there from the Mapuche comunidades in Araucanía and Wallmapu.

Kolectivo We Newen catalyzes this intercultural demographic in a social movement favoring Mapuche autonomy. In 2009 and 2010, they hosted a music festival in Temuco called We Rakizuam (New Wisdom). In 2010, the festival served to criticize the Chilean bicentennial, with the subtext “nada que celebrar” (nothing to celebrate), and to raise awareness about an eighty-two day hunger strike by Mapuche political prisoners—activists facing trial without due process under the government’s Ley Antiterrorista (Antiterrorist law). The remainder of this article deals with the song, “Ñi Pullu Weichafe,” as a response to the call for this type of mobilization, both within and outside of Araucanía.

“Ñi Pullu Weichafe” (Warrior Spirit)
The track, “Ñi Pullu Weichafe,” is a classic from Jano Weichafe’s repertoire. In 2009, Jano performed the piece with Santiago-based rock group, La Mano Ajena, in Santiago’s bohemian Galpón Víctor Jara. The performance generated roaring applause, as well as interest in the tema Mapuche (Mapuche issue) among audience members. I propose understanding this piece as an exercise in crossing borders: the fluid combination of musical and cultural references in “Ñi Pullu Weichafe”—klezmer, Gitano music, blues, cumbia, and hip-hop—indicates interethnic solidarity with the Mapuche Movement.

On the topic of fusion, Chilean scholar, Mabel García, writes that Mapuche artists incorporate diffuse, often non-Mapuche materials, “ . . .  y organizar con ellos un discurso que enfatiza problemáticas de la diferencia . . . [mientras] construyen el decir propio, autónomo o apropiado . . . ” (. . . and organize them into a discourse that emphasizes the problematics of difference while . . . [constructing] their own, autonomous vernacular; Crítica situada 13). García argues that those political discourses in Araucanía which are based in Mapuche language, cosmology, and social life, appropriate the power of the occidental sociopolitical structure to which the Mapuche are forced to conform, while conveying messages of resistance related to conflicts stemming from inherent differences in concepts of social organization and resource exploitation (“El discurso político en la lírica Mapuche” 103). García’s position articulates with a wide range of scholarship concerning empowerment, performance, language, and vulnerability. Drawing on work by Judith Butler, Deborah Wong expresses that “‘linguistic vulnerability’ . . . puts agency and trauma into dynamic relation” (7), which I understand as meaning that cultural groups subject to derision or linguistic discrimination also potentially subvert the discourses associated with their marginalization. Mabel García argues likewise for both artistic expression and political discourses from Mapuche perspectives. The song, “Ñi Pullu Weichafe,” like a lot of hip-hop, falls into both categories (the artistic and the political), demonstrating points of articulation between social movements, popular music, and pre-Columbian language and cosmology.

The piece opens with no sonic reference to hip-hop, but rather with an accordion riff, and almost immediately a swaggering cumbia beat follows on light percussion. María Fernanda (of La Mano Ajena) opens the chorus, singing over the following melody in the key of G-minor:

            Nuestro latido                                        Our heartbeat
            Es azul                                                     Is blue
            La voz de los cuatro vientos                The voice of the four winds
            Nación en el sur                                    Nation in the south

The word, nuestro (our), invokes a collectivity among those represented in the diverse musical and cultural attributes of the song. Latido signals a powerful pulse, or heartbeat. Beyond a musical characteristic, the word invokes something visceral, corporeal, and alive, perhaps the beat throbbing from the head of a kultrún, a drum that anthropologist, María Ester Grebe, describes as a microcosm for the universe, and the most important object in Mapuche cosmology. There is no kultrún in the song, as the instrument’s use in popular music could be spiritually problematic (Grebe 28), but listeners with even minimal consciousness of Mapuche culture are likely to make the association.9 Azul refers to the color blue, sacred in Mapuche culture, a visual referent for vitality and for the continuity between earthly life and the cosmos.10 Azul is polysemic, also referring to the blues, powerfully present in the musical attributes of the song, and reinforcing the sense of solidarity between the marginalized groups who participate here through musical references. “La voz de los cuatro vientos” (the voice of the four winds) refers to the sound, literally and metaphorically, of the land, which in Mapuche culture has four cardinal directions and divisions (Grebe 34). “Nación en el sur” (nation in the south) asserts the territorial and political autonomy of Wallmapu, here with the solidarity and support of non-Mapuche music and musicians.

A kultrún (drum), the most important Mapuche ceremonial instrument, and a microcosm for the universe.

Suddenly, Jano Weichafe enters, rapping forthrightly with no attention to the minor key from the previous section. The bass and percussion transition fluidly from cumbia to an old-school hip-hop beat. A xylophone melody accompanies Jano, bridging the sounds of La Mano Ajena and hip-hop. Whereas the opening chorus section featured an accordion, Jano raps over a synthesizer, evocative of hip-hop from the 1980s and ‘90s. The lyrics focus the collaborative energy of “Ñi Pullu Weichafe” around the tension between Mapuche lifeways and the destruction of the natural environment, a cost of development in central-southern Chile. The first verse alternates between condemnation of the winka (invasive) forestry industry, responsible for drying and scarring the land, and celebration of Mapuche culture, territory and spirituality:

Agua, aire pide la vida de la hermosa mawiza11
Para seguir latiendo y bailando con el kurruf del sentimiento
Verano primavera otoño invierno
Wekufes de metal moderno imperialismo winka del norte occidental
Nuestros anumkas ancestrales los han devastado
A danzar con la muerte los han condenado
Agua, agua, piden las llagas de la tierra
Provocado por el árbol que seca sus venas y las condena
Eucaliptus pino insigne es el emblema
Del winka transforestal que envenena nuestro sistema
De la vida nuestra hermosa vida, Genechen creador que nuestro mapu siga
Dando latidos como el pewen muy aguerrido
Ha resistido más de cinco siglos, no ha cedido
El tugun de nuestro mapu se ha pronunciado
Sangre de mi sangre tierra de mi tierra, cóndor dorado
Esencia de tres pumas espíritu de plata tugun sagrado.

(Water and air required for the life of the beautiful mountains
To continue moving and dancing, with the wind of sentiment
Summer spring fall winter
Evil spirits of metal and modern imperialism, occidental winka of the north
They have devastated our ancestral plants
They condemn life here to dance with death
Water, water, plead the wounds of the earth
Provoked by the tree that dries their veins and leaves them condemned
Eucalyptus and pine are the emblems
Of the winka forestry industry that poisons our system
Of our life, our beautiful life, Genechen creator of our land continues
Giving heartbeats as the embattled pewen
Has resisted more than five centuries, it hasn’t given in
The origins of our land were proclaimed
Blood of my blood earth of my earth, golden condor
Essence of three pumas spirit of silver sacred origins)

The words “Genechen creador,” referring to the much debated concept of a creator entity in Mapuche cosmology, fall right before a pronounced phrase on the synthesizer. The resulting contrast between a supposedly traditional cultural element and a high-tech musical sound reinforces the contemporaneity of the issues at the core of Jano’s verse.

To assess the reception of the performance of “Ñi Pullu Weichafe” at the Galpón Víctor Jara, I refer to Jano’s description, since his words adequately address the questions at the beginning of this writing:

. . . fue bien potente, más que nada para la gente de Santiago, que nunca había escuchado una propuesta así; o sea, se ha escuchado, pero [no] en el sentido y de la forma [de “Ñi Pullu Weichafe”] y el mensaje que se entrega . . . La gente, después que terminé de cantar el tema . . . [estuvieron] saltando abajo, toda gritando, preguntando por el tema de la lucha y todo. Así, a través de la música, uno logra llegar a más gente, y aportar un proceso, sin necesariamente andar tirando piedras . . . [es] más potente . . . de hecho es más peligroso despertar más consciencia, que andar tirando piedras. (Weichafe and Marimán, Personal Interview)

(. . . it was pretty powerful, most of all for the people in Santiago, who had never heard ideas like this; that is, they had heard this type of discourse, but not in the same format [as “Ñi Pullu Weichafe”] and the message it delivers . . . When I finished singing the song . . . [they were all] jumping up and down, shouting, and asking about our struggle in the south. Through music, you can reach more people, and support a cause, without necessarily going around throwing rocks . . . [it’s] more powerful . . . actually it’s also more dangerous to awaken people’s consciousness than to go around throwing rocks.)

As Danko Marimán points out, arguably the most salient event affecting rural families in the last half-century is migration to the cities. Migration implies the reorganization of physical space in addition to new forms of thought, communication, and expression. The dialectic between urban, industrial society, and rural-dwelling indigenous peoples is no longer the only adequate analytical framework in regions with major indigenous populations. Hip-hop heralds other networks of information and identification along with other sites of confrontation in the ongoing struggles of Araucanian life. While the artists whose lives and music I have described sing of rural territorial disputes (among many other things), the fact that they do so as rappers calls attention to urban life as well. The object of this writing is to seek out more complex ways of understanding these disputes and patterns of change based on a style of music that arrived to Araucanía three decades ago, but whose roots wind all throughout the preexisting etnoliteratura.

Works Cited
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1 The words of Mapuche and Chilean scholars and artists in this paper are subject to my own translations.

2 All images are by the author, unless otherwise specified in parentheses.

3 Originally understood as African-American artistic discourses from the United States, rap (the music or vocal style) and hip-hop (the broader set of expressions subsuming rap) have pushed scholars of music, social movements, and indigenous cultures to rethink hip-hop’s cultural “authenticity” as it has become entwined in movements for social justice worldwide. Generalized frameworks for resistance in hip-hop scholarship have not emerged without debate, due to the wide geographic and cultural expanses that hip-hop now encompasses. In the introduction to his edited volume from 2001 entitled, Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, Tony Mitchell calls for further study of hip-hop globally, and criticizes scholars Tricia Rose and Russell Potter for their shortsightedness on international rap music, despite the quality and depth of their work on hip-hop in the United States. Mitchell claims that Rose, while acknowledging the need for increased information about global rap, considers it a mere foreign appropriation of a North American black art form. Potter, a postmodernist, links hip-hop’s rebelliousness to critical African-American postures regarding modernity—postures generated by centuries of enslavement as Black Americans’ primary form of participation in capitalism, which is a modernist project. Mitchell regards this thesis as “a misappropriation of [Paul] Gilroy’s concept of ‘populist modernist’ black Atlantic diasporic vernacular . . . [in Potter’s] ‘resistance postmodernism’ . . . [which] sounds like a parochial attempt to deny its appropriateness to other localities outside the USA” (5). I value Mitchell’s critique, regarding Potter’s flexible reading of postmodernity onto the politics of hip-hop. However, Potter’s thesis helps to understand these politics in places like Araucanía, where the state, “progress,” and neoliberal capitalism are frequent adversaries of social movements and their music.

4 In her study of Cuban hip-hop, Sujatha Fernandes explains how the term “underground” refers to social or political consciousness and artistic autonomy inflected through notions of black nationalism (576). The same term also represents a dynamic evolution on the concept of subcultures, in the sense that British cultural studies scholars developed it. In her work on Japanese hardcore, Jennifer Milioto Matsue writes that, “As with subcultures . . . ‘underground’ does imply that there is some related activity occurring ‘aboveground,’ and that such a distinction requires the continued existence of a hegemonic system, yet it is more current and flexible” (33).

5 The rappers I met and interviewed use a variety of names, including stage names, given names and nicknames. I refer to them by the names they most frequently used in dialogue with me.

6 The nguillatún, one of the principal Mapuche ceremonies, is a large communal affair for honoring the mapu, or land.

7 In 2009, a government MIDEPLAN (Ministerio de Planificación, or Ministry of Planning) survey, entitled CASEN (Encuesta de Caracterización Socioeconómica Nacional, or Survey of National Socioeconomic Characterization), found that nationwide, 69.9 percent of indigenous people live in cities.

8 MIDEPLAN’s CASEN survey from 2009 shows that the Región Metropolitana (the capital region) of Chile is 4.1 percent indigenous, accounting for 24 percent of the indigenous people in Chile. The Araucanía region is 30.1 percent indigenous, accounting for 24.6 percent of the indigenous people in Chile.

9 Opinions vary as to whether Mapuche sacred instruments are appropriate for popular music and fusion projects.  The rock band Pewmayén has developed some remarkable sounds by combining a kultrún and a truk-truka (a cow-horn trumpet) with electric guitars and a hard rock vocal style. Jano Weichafe has used a kultrún in place of a bomba y caja (beatbox) during hip-hop performances. Juan, of the group Unión de Pobla, once told me that he prefers not to mix Mapuche instruments with hip-hop, out of respect for their ceremonial uses, a sentiment which María Ester Grebe also records in her ethnographic work on the kultrún from 1973 (28). On the other hand, Pablo Sandoval Hueche, the vocalist of Pewmayén, has commented that older Mapuche people in the rural comunidades often embrace his fusion music.

10 Among the most iconic expressions of the significance of the color blue in Mapuche culture is Elicura Chihuailaf’s poem entitled “Mi sueño azul” ("My Blue Dream") (42-49).

11 Jano Weichafe provided me with these lyrics, in this exact format, through personal correspondence. The only alteration I made was the addition of the emphasis (italics) on words in Mapuzugun. The lyrics in Mapuzugun translate as follows: mawiza, mountainous landscape; kurruf, wind; wekufes, malignant spirits; winka, destructive outsider; anumkas, plants; genechen, creator; mapu, land, in both a territorial and a spiritual sense; pewen, araucaria tree, a unique millennial tree that grows in the Araucanian highlands; and tugun, origins.