Nov 22, 2016

EP Documentary Screening Highlights the Plight for Mapuche Language Revitalisation

Photo Courtesy of Izaskun Bilbao Barandica MEP

On 16 November 2016 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in cooperation with the Federación Mapuche de Estudiantes (FEMAE) and the Wvñelfe Foundation, organised a screening of the documentary “Zuguleaiñ” (We Will Speak) at the European Parliament. The event, hosted by Izaskun Bilbao Barandica MEP (ALDE), aimed to raise awareness for the cause of the Mapuche and their struggle to keep their endangered traditional language alive. The documentary focuses on the first Mapuzungun language camp that was organized in 2015 in Wallmapu, the traditional territory of the Mapuche in Chile

Izaskun Bilbao Barandica MEP (ALDE) opened the event reminding the audience of how languages carry within them the fundamental knowledge, perspectives and histories of the people who speak them. She referred to Basque, the language of her homeland, which has been repressed in the past, but managed to reclaim much of the space that was taken away from it in favour of the stronger and widely spoken Castilian language. Mrs Bilbao expressed her solidarity with the cause of Mapudungun revitalisation, urging the Mapuche to continue resisting monolingualism, as “when a language disappears, we all lose.”

UNPO Programme Coordinator Tommaso Nodari spoke about the relevance of linguistic rights to UNPO. Many of the organisation’s 42 members struggle to have their linguistic, as well as other basic human rights respected, as they are often forced to adapt to majority cultures and languages. He also mentioned cases in Europe where governments still fail to protect the linguistic rights of minorities – a recent example being the case of Bulgaria. Mr Nodari also mentioned the work UNPO does within Europe to promote linguistic diversity and minority language rights and in particular the Donostia protocol, which UNPO has helped to draft and that will be adopted in December 2016.

Alina Rodenkirchen – Mapuche Coordinator of the Society for Threatened Peoples and Coordinator of the Mapuche Network in Germany – gave an introduction to the Documentary. She provided a historical context of Mapuche resistance against Spanish rule and Chilean domination. The constitution written in the time of dictator Pinochet, still in force, denies the very existence of indigenous nations or peoples in Chile. She also painted an urgent picture of the current situation of Mapuzungun, which is rapidly declining as more and more Mapuche move to urban centres. Against this precarious background, Ms Rodenkirchen presented the initiative.

The documentary showed the organisation of the first Mapuzungun language revitalisation camp in Wallmapu in 2015. It offered an insight into the organisation of language classes and showed how these classes interact with the rest of the camp’s programme, as everyday activities such as eating and playing football were done in Mapuzungun as well. The documentary also gave a voice to young Mapuches, looking into their motivation to learn the language of their ancestors.

Among those attending the event was the European External Action Service (EEAS)’s desk officer responsible for relations with Chile, who expressed his interest in the language revitalisation project, and posed questions about the constitutional reform underway in Chile and the role that the Mapuche and other indigenous communities can play in it.

In conclusion, Ms Rodenkirchen underlined that FEMAE and Wvñelfe welcome donations to support the organisation of more camps and alternative revitalisation initiatives. Donations can be made through their portal: