The invisible city: Mapuche mapping of Santiago de Chile


Marie Slowdoska – Curie Actions Individual Fellowship, Global Fellowship

School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester (UK)

Instituto de Estudios Urbanos y Territoriales, Pontificia Universidad Católica (Chile)


Researcher: Olivia Casagrande

Research collaborators: Claudio Alvarado Lincopi; Roberto Cayuqueo


MapsUrbe uses participatory and collaborative methods to investigate experiences of urban space among young indigenous Mapuche living in Santiago de Chile, in order to better understand the daily lives, circumstances and moral perspectives of a growing population subject to displacement and social exclusion, and who are often at the margins of national policy and invisible to the public perception.


A critical consequence of the loss of territory for indigenous Mapuche (coming from mapu: territory and che: person in the Mapudungun language) has been the massive migration from the rural areas to urban centers. This has led to a concentration of Mapuche populations in the poor neighborhoods of cities such as Temuco and Santiago, where indigenous people came to constitute part of the broader underclass, occupying the same residential spaces (poblaciones). Recently, a new category has emerged to identify indigenous youngsters who live in the margins of urban life, the Mapurbe, combining mapu (territory) and urbe (city), as coined by the indigenous poet David Añinir. 

The concept Mapurbe expresses how younger generations of second and third wave migration from the rural communities live a kind of “in betweenness”: the urbe and the mapu, constantly re-positioning themselves in an ongoing negotiation of marginality and displacement from the ancestral territory. Yet at the same time these tensions have led to artistic and cultural production, and political struggle within the urban environment. The city of Santiago is thus continually re-shaped by the Mapuche presence, including realms that are not immediately visible, such as moral conflicts, contested memories, storytelling and imagination embedded in the urban landscape. 


The main aim of the project is to make these invisible elements visible through a process of collaborative mapping of Santiago shaped by interpretations and experiences of the city by young Mapuche through the development of collective workshops and moments of individual reflections. 


Moving from the need of applying academic knowledge to issues of social interest, the main results of the project will be two exhibitions (in Santiago in December 2018 and in Europe at the end of 2019); a final conference about the research process and results at Manchester University; and a collaborative book of which the research participants will be co-authors.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement MapsUrbe No. 707537

Photos/Editing/Graphic design: Nicola Mazzuia

Translation to Mapundungun: Norma Hueche Nahuel

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© 2018 Olivia Casagrande and Colectivo MapsUrbe