Im Süden Chiles, in der 9. Region ‘Araucania’ in der Gemeinschaft Galvarino, setzen sich Mapuche Gemeinden seit 18 Jahren für die Anerkennung, die ökologische und kulturelle Wiederherstellung sowie die Rückgabe des kulturell bedeutenden Ortes ‘Portawe Lelfün’ ein. In ihrer Argumentation stehen dabei nicht ihre angestammten und rechtmäßigen Landrechte im Vordergrund, sondern die Bedeutung des Ortes Portawe Lelfün für die Ausübung kultureller Praktiken und die kulturelle Integrität der Mapuche, die wiederum die Basis bilden für einen respektvollen und nachhaltigen Umgang mit der Natur und damit für den Wald- und Klimaschutz.

Ein Beitrag von Pedro Coña Caniullan

Portawe Lelfün – an area of cultural importance for Mapuche People in Chile

Cultural practices are crucial for Mapuche people to live in harmony with mother earth (Nuke Mapu). Portawe Lelfün is one of the places that Mapuche communities need for cultural ceremonies related to the climate. However, after a process of 18 years trying to reclaim the area, the Mapuche communities are still not allowed to access this area and carry out their ceremonies which form an important part of their culture and the comprehensive process of restoration and restitution that Mapuche people are working for.

Cultural heritage has enormous significance and implications for life, identity and destiny of people (Durán et al. 2012). Portawe Lelfün is one of those places with a strong relevance for the Mapuche Lives or ‘Admogen Mapuche’. In this historical area, important ceremonies such as “kontvtrayenko” were conducted before. This ceremony is related to a body of ancestral knowledge that allows connecting and interacting with the climate of this region. Unfortunately, since the forest companies arrived in the 1970s in the region, negative effects for Mapuche communities have intensified especially in areas such as Portawe Lelfün.

Forest Companies’ operations in the region have been identified by many Mapuche communities as the main factor that produces direct and indirect impacts on carrying out cultural practices. For instance, Forest Companies are holding private property titles over the area which prohibit by enforcement of the law the access to the ancestral places of cultural significance. The implication for the Mapuche, who are characterized by their close relation with mother earth, is an uprooting of their culture disconnected from essential ceremonies which cannot be performed in the area by Mapuche communities who claim their cultural values. On the other hand, highly intensive management of the area to produce exotic trees such as Pine, Pinus radiata and Eucalyptus Eucaliptus globulus, produce a drastic and chronic degradation of soil and water quality as well as water scarcity and loss of biological diversity. These consequences are illustrated, for example, by extreme water scarcity in communities in the district of Imperial, where the local municipality must regularly distribute potable water.

Because of the evident degradation of the ecosystem and loss of the basic natural resources such as water, Mapuche authorities are in a process to claim the recognition and control of the Portawe Lelfün area to maintain, recover and practice their respective ceremonies as well as reestablish biological and cultural values intrinsically connected to Portawe Lelfün. The strategy used by the affected Mapuche communities in this process of biological or ecological and cultural restoration of the area is quite unusual in the context of the overall struggle of the Mapuche people in Chile recuperating their ancestral land rights because it does not primarily follow a rights-based approach but a culture-based approach and argumentation. It is also not for economic reasons but for the cultural values belonging to this place, which are fundamental to the Mapuche culture to practice the Küme Mogen (Buen vivir) based on ancestral knowledge (Kimun Mapuche). The struggle for the ecological and cultural restoration of Portawe Lelfün shows that both, ecological and cultural aspects, values, knowledge and objectives, need to be considered and in fact must go hand in hand to effectively protect and restore forest areas and thereby ultimately contribute to the mitigation of climate change.


  • Durán, Teresa; Berhó, Marcelo; Carrasco, Noelia; Mora, Héctor (2012): Los variados objetos de la antropología. Una relación de sentidos desde La Araucanía, Chile. In Cult.-hombre-soc. 13 (1). DOI: 10.7770/cuhso-V13N1-art251
  • Berhó, M. (2006), “El sitio Portawe Lelfün, comuna de Galvarino, IX Región. Fundamentos para el reconocimiento del patrimonio cultural mapuche”. Informe final, Escuela de Antropología, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile
  • Berhó, M. (2005), “El sitio Portawe Lelfün, comuna de Galvarino, IX Región. Fundamentos para el reconocimiento del patrimonio cultural mapuche”. Escuela de Antropología, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile.