Now that I gave the concrete background of Chapod, a little bit on all the questions (preguntas) racing around in my head as a result of my stay there. On Thursday of our week there (we arrived on a Sunday morning), we had the afternoon free in Temuco, the nearest city. It’s really not a very exciting city, and I found the “artesian market” dissapointingly touristy, so I left without buying anything. Walking around that afternoon, all I wanted to do was buy things for my host family. Not things they needed necessarily, not expensive things like a DVD player or a dryer, little things I knew would light up their faces. A set of colored pencils for Favi, chocolate, a board game, a new soccer ball.
Kate put it best when she suggested that perhaps this desire came from wanting to give something back to them after feeling like I’d received so much from my stay there. “And the easiest most automatic way to do that,” she said, “is to buy them something”. I think she’s mostly right, but it got me thinking. There are more substantial things I find myself wanting to provide for them too—mostly access to higher education, and motivation to achieve it, but also opportunities to learn in less concrete ways, like travel. I want to give them things I think they need. But I question my own motives. Where does this come from? Do these desire come from needs I see them expressing, or have they grown out of my own cultural biases about what people should want in life? Do I want to provide these things because I want the family to have them or because I want them to love me as much as I love them?
And then I thought about the balance of Mapuche cultural too. Another of my desires for this Evangelical Christian but also Mapuche family is that they maintain their culture in the face of globalization. That their language– one which my host siblings learn in school as part of their intercultural education, not in the home because their parents are products of a dictatorship era education and don’t know it– not get lost. That the value of family and community hold strong. But who am I to decide what constitutes Mapuche culture, what is important enough to withstand the test of time? Cultures are not stagnant, so who decides which parents continue on and which aspects are okay to label as outdated? How does that process happen? Whom does it hurt? What does it really meant to “maintain a culture”? Where do all my hopes for my Mapuche family fit into that cultural context? And, are they even thinking about any of that stuff as we sit in a classroom in their school and study it?
I didn’t really answer these questions. What I did end up realizing though is that I don’t think most of the desires I talk about (from college to the maintenance of Mapudungun, the Mapuche language) come solely from me because I’ve heard them expressed by Mapuches. And, if they are influenced by the culture of which I am a product, that’s not necessarily negative. As I said above, cultures aren’t stagnant. Right now wheat is an integral part of Mapuche culture, but it came with the Spaniards. What’s I think more important and more practical than trying to make sure the Mapuche don’t change to trying to help give them the tools to keep up so that they can be the directors of their own evolution. Of course a college education for Favi and Ezequial doesn’t have to be in opposition to their roots— in reality it should serve them to help them become leaders and ambassadors.
My week in Chapod made me even more aware of the existence of my own biases, but even more so of how hard it is to figure out how they’re influencing me. It also sent me even deeper into my already initiated contemplation of how globalization of the economy is influencing cultural change. It left me with more questions instead of more answers, but that’s probably a good sign. It also left me with an appreciation for the opportunities and amenities in my life, and a shit ton of flea bites.