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General Busyness and Excursion to Temuco

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Currently I am sitting on my hotel room bed in Temuco, a city in Southern Chile (one of the furthest South before you start wondering if you’re in Patagonia). We arrived here on Wednesday and will be here until the 14th.

Last week I was exceedingly busy with a spanish oral exam, attempting to figure out what I want to do for my Independent Study (more on that later), and getting ready to head south for nearly two weeks. Since arriving in Temuco we have been just as, if not more, busy. Though we have time each night to explore the city of Temuco and relax a little our days are chalk full of activities that include talking with a traditional healer (Machi), leaning about traditional medicine while sitting in a circle around a fire pit in a ruka (traditional hut) and wandering through a bosque (forest) while learning about local medicinal plants and the associated curing process.

Temuco is the capital city in the Araucanía region, which is the home to the vast majority of Chile’s Mapuche population. The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group – “mapu” translates to land and “che” is people. The Mapuche are quite literally people of the land and live up to their name quite well. They are a proud and beautiful people who are working hard to keep their culture (especially in terms of their language, belief system, and health practices) alive.

I knew almost as soon as our plane sank below the clouds and I could see the vast green fields, rivers and evergreen trees that I wanted to return to Temuco. Every interaction I’ve had with the Mapuche has confirmed that decision. So in the first week of November I will be returning here to complete a qualitative investigation on fertility in relation to the Mapuche women’s role in their society. I am hoping to conduct a variety of interviews and surveys to determine the impact of fertility (or infertility) on Mapuche society, particularly Mapuche women. It was a struggle to choose which topic I wanted to investigate – to be honest I felt like I came up with a new idea that I “just had to study” each day. But this idea caught my attention in particular and I cannot wait to start my month long study.

Next up for me is an Estudio de Pueblo (village study) in which myself and three other students have been given the name of a village in this region (Cunco), about two a half days time, and an outline of topics for us to search out and discover. So tomorrow we head out for Cunco to complete a mini-investigation (as five other groups are also doing in different villages). Therefore, I will be out of contact for the next three days and then I’m off to Bariloche, Argentina (a supposed mini-Switzerland of South America) for a couple of days to continue to study traditional medicine from Argentinian Mapuche – and eat chocolate!

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Whitman news since 1896
General Busyness and Excursion to Temuco