Home Institution

University of Virginia

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Chile: Cultural Identity, Social Justice, and Community Development


This study investigates the daily lives of Mapuche women who have migrated from the south of Chile to the city of Reñaca in the north and more specifically, how they’re lives as women have changed from living in a rural area to an urban one. This study also investigates urban Mapuche women and their relation to the Chilean government, with specific emphasis on political organizations such as the National Women’s Service, the Foundation for the Promotion and Development of Women, and the National Corporation for Indigenous Development. Interviews, research, and a month long anthropological observation provide the information for this study.

The results of this project are composed of two parts. The first, what I’ve concluded to be the largest aspects of the women’s daily lives: the connection to family, the daily struggles and rewards of work, the attempts to retain Mapuche traditions in an urban setting, and finally the political consciousness of the women as a collective group. In regards to the familial connection, the women have centered their identity and primary source of happiness on their children, which is primarily exhibited in their intense desires for their children to take full advantage of their education and get well paying jobs. The greatest struggle the majority of the women expressed was the need to work due to living in the city, the absence of their husbands who work in other cities, and the type of work being done. Since the majority of the women work as domestic employees, they discuss that they are often bored with their work, because they essentially have to work two shifts; one at work and the second when they return home. The women as a Mapuche group both face discrimination for being Mapuche, but it is also a driving factor in their unity. Although this identity is often compromised, they are creating a new Mapuche identity, and in some ways are re-connecting with Mapuche customs that no longer exist in the South. Finally, the women are aware of politics on a very basic level, but have a general apathy towards exhibiting any initiative to be involved in politics, because they state that politics has little affect on their daily lives.

The second part of the results of this project is in regards to the policies of SERNAM, PRODEMU, and CONADI and whether they have any affect or specificity for urban Mapuche women. SERNAM has absolutely no politics regarding Mapuche women, nor do they have an intention to consider ethnicity in their policies. PRODEMU has policies that relate to the economic situation of the women of Reñaca Alto, but also do not take into account a main source of vulnerability that these women face through their indigenous heritage. CONADI is specifically geared towards providing services for indigenous people, but they did not respond to my solicitations for an interview, and therefore my conclusions are based upon their website. It appears that CONADI has initiatives to assist indigenous people in urban environments. However, they have relatively nothing specific towards indigenous women. In all three cases, the particular demographic that these women pertain to are not fully represented.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Urban Studies and Planning | Women's Studies