On March 4th, the Italian textile consortium Benetton filed a lawsuit in an Argentinian court that seeks to evict a Mapuche community from the land known as “Santa Rosa.” In February of last year, the Mapuche reclaimed the land after being violently evicted 5 years earlier.
The company claims the tract of land should be returned to them because the Mapuche didn’t listen to the order of Provincial Judge Omar Magellan, who forbade the community from making changes (that irreparably damage) the land.
So what are the changes? A gate, a henhouse, an orchard, a lamb stockyard, a mud oven, a small bridge over a creek and a potato farm. Oh and they brought a horse too. In other words, they’ve done only what they need to sustain themselves on the land.
In any case, the community doesn’t seem all too concerned about the possible eviction. To quote Real World Radio,
In statements cited by Agencia Pulsar, Atilio Curiñanco, a member of the Mapuche communities Santa Rosa Leleque, said that even though the situation is very hard, they are not worried because the members of the community were “fulfilling their mission with mother Earth”.
However, Curiñanco said that despite the native community went through all the proceedings before the Argentine judiciary, they were deceived.
“We will not recognize that they bought or paid for this land, or that they acquired this land. We will not leave this place”, Curiñanco said. He was referring to a donation made in the late 19th century, when the government delivered lands inhabited by native communities to English estate owners. The lands were later acquired by Compañía de Tierras Sud Argentino, owned by Benetton.
The blog Huayra Huasi notes (in Spanish) that following Benetton’s move, the community has filed “a criminal complaint against the businessman Luciano Bennetton on charges of land theft.”
“In defending our Mapu (Earth) we have submitted this claim as a further step to restore and reconstruct the historical truth for which we have been struggling,” said Mauro Millán, another member of Santa Rosa.
Noted in an article by ICT, Santa Rosa sent out a communique last year describing the “historical truth.” Contrary to the limited vision of landlords and bureaucrats, it’s not simply about controlling land. It’s what across echoes among all the world’s Indigenous People.
“Santa Rosa has seen decades of dispossession, of violence, of intolerance, of usurpation, of disappearance, of death. The men and women who walked freely on this land now lie in museum glass, their sacred instruments are exhibit pieces, silenced by the force that now makes them trophies of a culture that destroys anything different: philosophies, spiritualities, ideologies, people. Nevertheless, the footprints left by these ancient ones are inspirational. We are the consequence of these footprints. We will continue to be Mapuche and we have the responsibility and the necessity to reveal historic truth.”
For the People of Santa Rosa right now, that means holding on to 534 hectares, a mere fraction of what Benetton claims as theirs – to do with however they want.
The court will be making a decision on Benetton’s charge of ‘land destruction’ in the next couple weeks.
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