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The invisible city: a Mapuche mapping of Santiago, Chile


Marie Slowdoska – Curie Actions Individual Fellowship, Global Fellowship

School of Social Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK

Institute of Urban and Territorial Studies, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile


Principal Researcher: Olivia Casagrande

Research Assistants: Claudio Alvarado Lincopi; Roberto Cayuqueo



A critical consequence of the violent occupation of the territory of indigenous Mapuche (mapu: territory and che: person in Mapudungun) people has been the massive migration from rural areas to urban centres. This has led to a concentration of the Mapuche population in peripheral neighbourhoods of cities such as Temuco and Santiago, where they have come to constitute part of the broader group of pobladores occupying their same residential spaces. Recently, a new term has emerged to identify Mapuche youth living on the outskirts of urban settings; mapurbe, combining mapu (territory) and urbe, as coined by the poet David Aniñir.

The concept of mapurbe expresses how younger generations of indigenous migrants reposition themselves between the city and the mapu in an ongoing negotiation of displacement from the ancestral territory. However, the city of Santiago is at simultaneously shaped by the Mapuche presence, including aspects that are not immediately visible such as collective and personal memories, narrations and imaginations embedded into the urban landscape.


What was initially thought of as collective and participatory mapping to address the experiences of urban space among Mapuche youth living in Santiago over a year of research took the form of different artistic, intellectual and performative practices. This was thanks to the exercise of sharing and co-constructing interpretations and representations, with an active intervention in the research process by its participants.

This collaboration in a critical reflection on the city and the representations embedded in it was framed by a process of the decolonization of knowledge and urban spaces of the Chilean capital. MapsUrbe was transformed into a participatory and decolonizing anti-city tour in Santiago Waria, challenging white and bourgeois urban imaginaries and rethinking the Mapuche transits through the Capital of the Reyno. We walked and talked through the city to create visions, performances and writing, generating an indigenous account of the metropolis:


Mapsurbe is a theoretical and practical exercise to discover our grey aesthetics, our bifurcated biographies and our lost and reinvented chimeras. It begins as an academic project, but in its evolution, it gets blurred, stained with the street, with critical breathing and with the overturning of roles. Thus, we seek to obfuscate our individualities in order to re-emerge as collective that thinks of itself as motley, multiple, polluted and polluting cultural repertoires; anthropophagic in essence, ontological in motion.

Mapsurbe was born under the poetic icon of David Añiñir, who has nurtured innumerable creations, thoughts and anti-discoveries. The constant creation of becoming a mapurbe or a poblache, or of the waria nocturn, pierces the colonial condition of the Capital of the Reyno, our beloved and hated urbe, as we bath with water of the Mapochoto insist on our contradiction, perhaps our only certainty. There, inhabiting the oxymoron that we are, the paradox that we enjoy, we sought for a year to settle our concerns in creations, documents and poetics.

Welcome to them.

Finally, we cling to this reflective, creative and collective walking as the Mapuche who we are. Nestled here, we deny all essentialism. Rather, we seek our realization as a people in the certainty that decolonization is the creation of new human beings, and we are committed to redeeming our vanquished and worthy pasts, bearing them like lightning bolts that illuminate our creativity, imaginations and future dreams.


(Curatorial text for the MapsUrbe Exhibition, by Claudio Alvarado Lincopi)



The MapsUrbe workshops and meetings began in March and continued until November 2018, ending in an art exhibition and in the site-specific performance 'Santiago Waria, pueblo grande de Winkas', in December 2018. The project website has been conceived in conjunction with its book.

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