Home Institution

University of Pittsburgh

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Research Question: How do the traditional norms and customs within the Mapuche culture impact their diet? Objective: To determine to if a relationship exists between the philosophy of the Mapuche and their diet. Background: Within their understanding of the world there exists guidelines that are followed in order to preserve the equilibrium of all forms of life that exist in within the universe, Waj Mapu. Within Waj Mapu there are distinct dimensions that contain energy, newen, which all interact to create a circular movement between them. Thus, due to the interaction of the dimensions, when there is a disturbance within one, there is disequilibrium within all. From this perspective the Mapuche have formed customs surrounding the cultivation of crops and the treatment of others and their bodies during illness and specific stages in their life all with regards to their diet. Methodology: Semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions were conducted in the communities of Intinento and Los Juanes. Those interviewed are from traditional Mapuche communities and thus the dietary customs of the past continue to be practiced daily. Furthermore, immersion by living within the community of Intinento was pertinent to the success of the study. Lastly, the analysis consisted of gathering and examining all the transcribed interviews and then systematizing them to find connections and similarities between the responses. Results: There are amplitudes of customs and norms that guide the treatment of their cultivated land and their diet. Within these guidelines they follow the cycle of the moon to cultivate their crops and are not permitted to work on the farm during menstruation or when they have specific illnesses. Furthermore, there exist dietary regulations and customs for the benefit of their health. Conclusions: All aspects of their life and the life forms around them play a role in their well being as well as they play a role in the well-being of all else that exists. In part this is due to their understanding of the world, in respects to the energy all life forms transfer between one another. Thus, it is pertinent to follow the set guidelines for the health of themselves and Waj Mapu.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | International and Community Nutrition | Sociology of Culture