10 Characteristics of the Mapuche People You Should Know

Some Characteristics of the Mapuche people Are their peculiar language, their cuisine, their religion, their houses and their social and family structure.

Mapuche (mapudungun) means people of the earth. The Mapuches are native Amerindians that still subsist and that live mainly in the region of the Chilean Araucanía, reason why also they are denominated them araucanos.

Tribe mapuche where you can observe some of its characteristics as clothing and typical instruments. Image recovered from donquijote.org.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards to Chile and Argentina, in the southern territory of these countries there already existed this indigenous people, who inhabited this zone and opposed resistance in the period of colonization.

The Mapuche are characterized by a deep sense of attachment to the land and the natural environment. Nature makes sense in its religious dimension, warrior and social organization. The territory, for them, is not owned by anyone, because it is shared and is patrimony of the whole community.

Here are ten characteristics of this indigenous people. You can also learn more about other indigenous people, the Taironas: culture, customs and art .

10 peculiarities of the Mapuche people that you should know

1- Original language

It has its own called language Mapudungun . Traditionally, it is spoken, scarcely seen in writings. At present, it is still spoken in almost all the rural communities that subsist in the Chilean and Argentine South.

According to current data, the active number of speakers of this language is estimated between 100 thousand and 200 thousand people. Spanish has gradually been incorporated in its lexicon, and vice versa. It is not yet classified by linguists, so it remains an isolated language typical of this town.

2- Work in community

Araucanians usually work as a team, in groups, in a community. This allows them to maintain strong family ties.

The social activities of this culture, as well as other Andean cultures, were designed to form collaborative works.

This form of work is called" Mingaco "And urges this people to work together on the land during cropping periods for the development of artisanal agriculture. This practice can be seen in the central zone and the south of Chile, where the Mapuche are.

3- Traditional houses

Another of the characteristics of the Mapuche people is that they have constructions of their traditional houses, that are covered with junquillos or thatch brava.

This type of building receives the man from" Ruca "(Of the mapudungun ruka, 'house') and is the most important within the architecture of this ethnic group. In these spaces, which vary between 120 and 240 square meters, where they lived traditionally.

The dwellings of the Mapuches were constructed with materials that offered them the nature like the walls of table or the sticks of coligüe. They were reinforced with wooden posts and upholstered with totora.

The Araucanian family met in these rucas to share daily routines or to celebrate some event they organized.

4- Own musical instruments

In the cultural sphere, the Mapuche also excel. It is a village with a deeply rooted folkloric base.

In fact, they have instruments like the" Trutruca "and the" Kultrun ". The first, also called petranca, is a trumpet-like aerophone, made by hand. The second is percussion, membranophone and direct hit.

These instruments are used in ceremonies and rituals that allude to their traditional music, traditional songs and dances, such as the" Palin ".

Palin refers to the so-called"game of the chueca". It is a typical activity of this town that has religious or sporting purposes.

It looks like hockey, since it is played with wooden stick and leather balls that they manufacture. It is played on a ground court ("paliwe") that is 200 meters long by 12 meters wide.

5- Mapuche cuisine

On the other hand, it is also worth mentioning the Mapuche gastronomy, which is varied. At the moment it is part of the Chilean and Argentine kitchen. The Mapuche have their own meals and drinks.

An example of this is the"muday". This kind of alcoholic beverage is made through the fermentation of cereal grains such as corn or wheat, in addition to the pinion. This drink has a resemblance to the"chicha de maíz", which this town also prepared.

In addition, there is a spicy seasoning typical of the Araucanians: the" Merk ". It is a dried smoked pepper dressing containing other ingredients. It looks like red powder with scales of different shades. It resembles red pepper or"chile"of Mexican tree.

6- Family social structure

The Mapuche people is a town of warrior origin. It is organized with a social structure led by a warrior chief.

It is the"lonko", or cacique. This term points to the leader or leader of an extended family or Mapuche community. The position reports political, administrative and religious power. It was designated by family descent, tribute or by appointment of his community.

This cacique is the boss of each family group (" Lof "), Or caví (Spanish: Cahuín), which is the basic structure of Mapuche social organization. He appeals to a family clan who recognizes the authority of a lonco. That is, l People who live in rucas and live with neighbors of the ethnic group and share a common ancestor.

In times of war, when they faced the Spaniards, they met all the loncos to choose a"toqui"; Which is the title given to military leaders. Generally, they were seniors who had experience in Mapuche battles and traditions.

Also this word of toqui was used to refer to the head of stone ax that the loncos used like insignia of control.

7- Religious people

A people so ingrained in their land could not fail to have a belief system. The Mapuches p They have a deep spiritual religion, which combines Christian dogmas with mystical ideas created by them.

In view of the Mapuche, the planet is in balance. " Ngenechen ", Is one of the most important gods of this culture. It is a deity of life, creation and love.

While" Wekufu "Is the god of death and destruction. It is the evil spirit that is used in black magic and Araucanian mythology. To this last deity, the mapuches attribute the arrival of the Spaniards. They sought gold, for which they enslaved the Araucanians, invaded them and caused them suffering.

8- Women's role in health

The role of women in this town, in addition to begetting children, is to protect the health of their loved ones and verbally transmit the culture of their ethnicity.

The"machi"is the religious person, doctor, adviser and protector of the Araucanians. It is the woman who communicates with the gods of life. For its part, the"kalku"is the one who knows the deities of death.

The machi is the one who performs" Machitun ". This is a ceremonial ritual in which Mapuche ancestors are invoked that live in the spirit world and predict evils and diseases. Usually, it is performed inside the ruca of the patient next to their loved ones.

9- Legend of the Flood

Such is the cultural richness of the Mapuches, who also have their own mythology, which happens to be typical Chilean. This is how the Araucanians have their own version of the great biblical deluge, of the well-known Noah's Ark.

According to this ethnic group, there is the god of the sun and the goddess of the moon. They tell in their legend that the sun dropped their two children to Earth, causing large holes in the earth's surface.

The moon, for its part, cried. This caused the formation of lakes and the bodies of the broken children were converted into snakes (filu, in mapupungun), a call Caicai Vilú , Of the waters, that inhabited in the seas of South America.

Then there was a flood caused by Caicai Vilú against the creator Sol. For this reason, the Sun created the serpent Trentrén Vilú, of the earth, as guardian of Caicai. It inhabited terrestrial surface, valleys and mountains.

The sun educated the Mapuches to treat nature well and apply fishing in a moderate way, but they forgot this education and acted badly in the eyes of this deity.

As a result of that, the sun punished them and left Caicai Vilú, who with the scourge of his tail on the sea waters caused a great tsunami that flooded the Mapuche lands, eliminating many people.

However, the other serpent, Trentrén Vilú let the hills rise, counteracting the onslaught of his enemy. He allowed many Araucanians to climb his back to take them to the top of the mountains and thus save them from the flood.

Those who did not reach were converted into fish or marine species and others into birds so that they could fly and escape. He saved a couple and two children and requested a sacrifice of the only remaining bus, as an offering for having rescued them.

Then there was a clash between the two creatures that lasted for years, until the serpent of the earth vanquished, Caicai Vilu dying in the titans fight. As a consequence, the geomorphology changed and the islands and archipelagos were formed, like Chiloé or Juan Fernandez, of Chile.

They survived a Mapuches boy and girl, who gave way to a new lineage and made the Araucan people reborn.

10- War of Arauco

The Mapuche felt and feel love for their land. They were able to resist and many lives were lost for centuries.

The so-called Arauco War was the conflict between the Mapuches and the Hispano-Creoles and the Chileans themselves for almost three centuries. It should be noted that there were more and less intense periods of this war.

Stages of war

  • Offensive War : From the arrival of the Spaniards until the disaster of Curalaba in 1598.
  • Defensive War : From 1612 to 1626.
  • Offensive War : From 1626 to 1662.
  • System of Parliaments : Since 1654.

However, it is said that this war is one of the longest in history. Given that in addition to these periods, there have been a series of altercations with the Chilean people of which they are part.

To this day, there are incendiary attacks attributed to Mapuche extremists, through the Coordinadora Malleco-Arauco (CAM), who want to recover land lost in the war or expropriated by the Chilean state. For them, the war continues.

Others are planning to establish an Araucanian nation within the territory of Chile. A kind of Vatican of the Mapuche people. These are the wishes of an entity rich in culture, folklore and traditions that refuses to give truce and forget its origin of"people of the earth".


  1. Book:"The Mapuches: history, culture and conflicts"(2011). Bengoa, José. Cahiers des Amériques Latines, Paris, France.
  2. Book:"History of the Mapuche people: centuries XIX and XX"(1996). Bengoa, José. Ediciones Sur, collection historical studies. Santiago, Chile.
  3. Exploratory study:"State of Chile and Mapuche people: Analysis of trends in violence in the Region of Araucanía"(2014). National Institute of Human Rights. Santiago, Chile.
  4. Study"Diagnosis of the cultural development of the Mapuche people. Region of the Araucanía"(2011). National Council for Culture and the Arts. Chile's goverment.
  5. The Mapuche People. Retrieved from: donquijote.org.
  6. Characteristics of the Mapuche people. Recovered from: educacionmulticultural.blogspot.cl.
  7. Legends of the Mapuche world. Recovered from: am-sur.com.
  8. War of Arauco. Recovered from icarito.cl.

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