Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mapuche Food: Ethno Tourism/Ethno Gastronomy

In 1540, when the Spanish arrived in central Chile, they encountered the Mapuche, “people of the land,” south central Chile’s indigenous people. Today, when you travel south form Santiago into Chile’s Araucarian Region you also encounter the Mapuche; if only in the faces of the Chileans and in the Mapudungun names of lakes and communities: Curico, "Black Water;" Melipilla, "Four Devils;" Melipulli: "Four Hills;" Panguipulli: "Hill Of The Puma;" Pichilemu: "Little Forest;” Pucón, “Entrance of the Cordillera:” Temuco, “Temu Water” [1]

But if you want to learn more about the Mapuche, you can--and without being intrusive—through “ethno-tourism.” It is tourism based on participation and planning in conjunction with indigenous communities.
… an increasing number of countries are beginning to work to ensure that tourism not only protects the environment, but also benefits indigenous people, in a trend referred to as "ethno-tourism" or "community-based eco-tourism". The main formula for ethno-tourism involves governments working with aid agencies, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, and private partners to help indigenous communities develop sustainable tourism industries. These initiatives are aimed to help local communities escape from poverty and preserve their natural surroundings while avoiding environmentally destructive activities, like hunting and de-forestation. By partnering with the local communities themselves and giving them ownership, governments help protect the human rights of their people and ensure that local communities benefit from the tourists they host. [2]
I’ve been interested in the Mapuche, and especially Mapuche food and farming, since arriving in Chile. I recently had the opportunity to travel to the Araucarian Region and spend an afternoon with Zunilda Carileufu Colipe, a Mapuche woman who opens her ruca (traditional Mapuche house) to visitors for a meal and an introduction to Mapuche culture. After calling for reservations a couple of days before, we arrived around 1:00 PM.

Zunilda invited us in (speaking Mapudungun at first) and showed us traditional tools and pots from her grandmother; how she spins wool; the preserves she had put up; drying herbs, garlic, chilies and corn; and mementos from her family.

And began cooking.

While she cooked she told us a bit about her life and how she became interesting in sharing her culture; with winka (non-Mapuche, from “Inca”) like us, but more importantly, with children and young people from her community. She feels that discrimination and oppression have beaten down Mapuche of her generation and older to the point that few value and feel pride in their cultural heritage, but children are eager to learn. And Zunilda is both eager to teach and a very good teacher.

Almuerzo was a rich cordero arvejada (lamb stewed with peas), potatoes, sopapillas (fried bread), and pebre (herb salsa).

She made the sopapillas as we watched. She kneaded a tablespoon or so of lard into a soft dough of white flour, yeast and salt that had been resting under a towel, formed small balls of the dough, and rolled them out using a wine bottle for a rolling pin. Then she fried them in hot oil.

The pebre was a mixture of cilantro, parsley and basil, mashed with garlic and a little chili pepper in her grandmother’s mortar, and diluted with water and lemon juice.

We began with the sopapillas and pebre ….and a glass of wine.

The lamb stew, made from a lamb she had raised, had been cooking all morning. She simmered meaty chunks of backbone with garlic and thyme and when it was tender she added peas and a hand full of kernels of corn.

While we were eating she formed the rest of the sopapilla dough into a flat round loaf, and placed it in the hot ashes from the fire to show us how she makes a tortilla de rescoldo (ash baked bread).

We finished with a cup of mint tea, sweetened with freshly made caramel and “coffee” of charred wheat.

Our almuerzo was good, healthy and honest… made from local ingredients cooked in a traditional way. Zunilda is especially concerned about the loss of traditional food habits. Mapuches were practically free of diabetes in 1985; but by 2000, incidence had risen to 3.2% of men and 4.5% of women; increases blamed on dietary changes and reduced exercise as well as changing gender roles.[3]

For various reasons, today’s women cannot devote themselves to learning and cooking the ‘good food.’ The need to be involved in new activities and interests prevents women from spending time caring for their gardens that once provided foods and medicinal plants for the kitchen. A pessimistic diagnosis of this reality [by a Mapuche woman] describes the decline and transformation of this role: “now they cook badly, using poor quality condiments and foods,. They do not spend the time necessary to prepare food and the result is that they are eating poorly… for a variety of reasons now people eat most anything.[4]
 Traditional Mapuche foods

“Tradition” is constantly changing. European foods and cooking techniques that did not exist in the pre-conquest diet had become common by the 17th century (see Feasting with the Enemy: 17th Century Mapuche food), and military defeat in the 1890s and subsequent removal to reducciones (reservations) let to poverty and some malnutrition, but the Mapuche remained largely rural and self sufficient until the last third of the 20th century. [5] Their diet was based on locally produced grains, tubers, vegetables, and meats; augmented by increasing (but limited) amounts of purchased flour, pasta, rice, sugar and oils: foods tabooed in many Mapuche areas in the early 20th century. [6]

That diet is the basis for what is now considered traditional Mapuche food. Anthropologist Noelia H Carrasco recorded the following basic glossary of traditional Mapuche foods currently being eaten in her research area [7]:

Recipes? A lot are available although not many are in English. Here’s a simple one:

Mapuche Food Links:
Mapuche Cooking: From the web site “Being Indigenous” includes a small collection of recipes in English. 
Arte Culinario Mapuche (Mapuche Culinary Art) Includes 27 recipes, in Spanish.  
Cultura Y Alimentación Indígena En Chile (Culture and Indigenous Food in Chile) Includes introductions to each of the indigenous peoples of Chile (including Easter Island) with recipes for traditional foods and new “fusion” recipes. In Spanish.
Manual De Gastronomía Con Identidad Local, Región Araucanía (Manual of Gastronomy with local identity, Araucarian Region). 80 page book about a cooking school for Mapuche women includes many of their family recipes, in Spanish.
Mapunyague:  From the earth to your table. Mapuche food  A blog by Carmen Caripe Catricura, a Mapuche woman who caters Mapuche food.  No recipies, but lots of photos of Mapuche foods. In Spanish.
Lunch at La Nana, Mapuche Cuisine:  A set of excellent photos of Mapuche food by Robyn Lee on flickr.

Mapuche ethnotourism links:

Ruca Mapuche: Zunilda Carileufu Colipe, pictured and discussed above, offers visits to her ruca (traditional Mapuche house) near Caburga including a meal and introductions to Mapuche weaving, cooking, etc. Web site and photo gallery, in Spanish. Reservations: 9-7948180 or 9-5752682
Travel Aid: Located in Pucón, Chile, this organization offers tours of and workshops on Mapuche weaving, language, pottery and cooking. Website in Spanish, English and German.
Trafcura Expediciones: Tours with Spanish/English/French speaking guides centered in the Saltos de Trafcura refuge, near Melipeuco Chile. Web site in Spanish.
Kola Leufu Casa de Campo: Located near Pucón, offers tours, farm day visits, accommodations and Mapuche food.
Mapuche Ethnotourism in Argentina - Ethnotourism near Bariloche.

(Oops, sorry some of  the links above are down.)

More posts on Mapuche food in Eating Chilean:

[1]Toponimia de Chile: Hoy, Puerto Octay, Hullliches… La gente del sur. On line at http://huilliche.blogspot.com/2009/09/toponimia-de-chile-hoy-puerto-octay.html ; Pucón, Wikipedia. On line at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pucón; Temuco, Wikipedia. On line at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temuco.
[2]Eco-tourism expands into ethno-tourism. Sustainable Travel International. On line at http://blog.sustainabletravel.com/ecotourism_expands_into_ethnot.html
[3]Barcelo, Alberto and Rajpathak, Swapnil. Incidence and prevalence of diabetes mellitus in the Americas. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2001, vol.10, n.5 pp. 300-308 . On line at http://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=S1020-49892001001100002&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en
[4]Carrasco, Noelia H. 2004. “Antropología de los Problemas Alimentarios Contemporáneos. Etnografía de la Intervención Alimentaria en la Región de la Araucanía, Chile”. Doctoral dissertation, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. p. On line at http://www.tesisenxarxa.net/TESIS_UAB/AVAILABLE/TDX-0216105-161938//nch1de1.pdf
[5]Arauco Chihuailaf. 2006. Migraciones mapuche en el siglo XX , Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire. Les Cahiers ALHIM, 12. On line at http://alhim.revues.org/index1212.html
[6]Clark, Timothy David. 2007. Culture, Institutional Change, and Food Security: The Case of Three Mapuche Communities in Region IX, Chile. Paper prepared for presentation at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Political Science Association, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, June 1, 2007. On line at http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2007/Clark.pdf
[7]Carrasco, Noelia H. Op sit Appendix III, p. xlv


  1. Tortilla de rescoldo, what a treat!
    I'm so jealous.

  2. Ah Pilar....
    But you have tortillas de maiz, chile con queso, carnitas, Chiles rellenos !

    I'm jealous too.

    Saludos - Jim

  3. Hi really enjoyed your blog - thanks. I'm about to go to Chile with my sister and this is exactly the sort of thing we would love to experience. I clicked on your link to 'reservations' but the link no longer exists. Could you please offer any advice on how we might book this or something similar?

  4. Sorry about the links, but the one to Travel Aid (http://www.travelaid.cl/eng/excursions/ethnotourism/ethnotourism.htm) still works, and if you Google "mapuche ethno tourism" you will find several other possibilities.

    Best wishes

  5. Thanks for the quick response Jim. I'm actually an Australian anthro and about to visit Chile for the first time - one of my long held dreams. Have you got any suggestions on must do ethno tourism experiences?

  6. Emma,

    Click on my profile and email me and I'll give you some suggestions.

  7. Your photos are always so gorgeous and cosy. It really seems you had a lot of fun! You all seem so happy.I do hope you will blog once or twice a month, I love reading your traveling stories. As I don't have the money or resources to travel like you do, I read about it instead :)
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  8. Samual,

    Thank you for your kind comments. Eating Chilean is winding down a bit, after 60+ posts, but there are still a few left to be written.

    Best wishes - Jim

  9. What a wonderful article! My next trip to Chile will include a visit like yours. I am currently in Panama and spent 4 days with the Ngabe Bugle to see and write about their sustainable tourism project in Soloy. You should submit your article to www.indigenouspeoplesissues.com.

    1. Thanks, Lana. There are a lot of ethntourism opportunities in the Araucania region; you should be able to find some interesting ones.

      Best wishes

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Sorry, no more anonymous posts. I was getting too much spam. Email me (see my profile) if you would like to comment and have no account. Jim