I want to start this post by thanking the Mapuche people and land for sharing this experience and teaching me so much.
That means hello in Mapuzungo, which is the language of the Mapuche people. The Mapuche are an indigenous people in southern Chile and Argentina. This past week, I had the incredible opportunity to spend a week learning and living with this community. I’m currently writing these words by the warmth of fire overlooking a river in the mountains in my homestay in this community. We were visiting the Mapuche because they are incredible, but also because they have spent years resisting the Chilean government and fighting for their rights. Recently, much of this fight has been focused on water rights because Chile is the only country in the world with privatized water and this has been threatening their livelihood.
Finally, the last food I want to talk about is the pinon. This comes from the a tree and been harvested by the Mapuche people for hundreds of years. It can be eaten raw, toasted, or ground into a flour to cook with. It is used to feed the livestock as well as the community. Traditionally, families would spend months living in rukas in the forest to collect enough pinons to sustain them during the year, but these days that practice is uncommon. This transition has happened recently and the older women in the community who spoke to us had spent their childhood living in the woods for months at a time collecting pinons. The araucaria tree is one of the oldest in the forests found in this region and can live for hundreds and even thousands of years. The tree starts producing pinones when it is 60 years old. For every handful of pinones that the Mapuche collected, they would stop and plant two of them into the ground. This practice helped to create a healthy and sustainable practice of cultivating crops. Since the practice of collecting pinons is something that is passed down through generations, it also meant that they were able to collect fruit from the trees that their father or grandfather had planted.
To me, the practice of collecting pinones exemplifies many of the values that I learned this week. The importance of respecting all living things and understanding we are not apart from nature, but part of the ecosystem too. Sustainable practices can be achieved in individual and community efforts. Also respect to tradition and your lineage, knowing where you came from.