Photo courtesy of Marketing Chile
Ethno-TourismLong before the Spanish came to Chile, the Mapuche, or “People of the Earth,” lived here. Forced off their lands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, many died resisting domination. Even today, the Mapuche nation continues to wage a campaign to recognize its ancestral rights. Members of this indigenous group—the largest in Chile—live in communities known as lofs under the leadership of a lonco, or chief. Their tradition is oral, and culture is passed between generations in a language called Mapudungún. Lleulleu Lake is an area in the south where travelers can meet community members and learn about their traditions, sample ancestral cooking, and bear witness to age-old rituals. Visitors are welcome to attend winter solstice celebrations, appreciate Mapuche handicrafts—particularly baskets and ornate silver jewelry—and benefit from the nation’s extensive traditional-medicine knowledge. The lake itself is the center of the community, and its pristine condition confirms the abiding respect among the Mapuche for the environment.