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Claremont McKenna College

Publication Date

Fall 2006

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


The Patagonia region in southern Argentina manifests the clash of the traditional and the modern worlds. In the same region there are poor indigenous communities and some of the world’s richest men both seeking to utilize its many natural resources for very distinctive aims. For the Mapuche people, the land is part of them, and they are part of the land. For the foreigners that have bought millions of hectares in the area, the land is rich with natural resources that can be utilized for profit and export. With the influx of foreign investors, the minority rights of the indigenous communities to their ancestral lands are even more threatened than before. The state that exists to intermediate between these two opposing forces has not enforced the laws that exist to protect the rights of the indigenous people. In 2003, a Mapuche family, the Curiñanco-Nahuelquir, tried to return to their ancestral lands in Santa Rosa, near Esquel, to reconnect with nature and start a small family enterprise to support their family. They were evicted from Santa Rosa as a result of a court ruling that this small piece of land belonged to Luciano Benetton, the largest landowner in Argentina. As a consequence of this conflict Benetton came to represent the dominating presence of rich foreigners and multinational companies in Patagonia and their power to influence the Argentinean government. The Curiñanco-Nahuelquir family came to represent the poor indigenous communities that are victims of the neoliberal economic model still fighting for the state to recognize and protect their indigenous rights. This conflict reveals the failure of the Argentinean state to apply its indigenous politics as well as its failure to exercise its state sovereignty in order to protect its own people from the influence of global market forces.


Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change


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