The Chilean national identity and the indigenous peoples of Chile
This research was prompted by the questions 'What is being Chilean?, Who are tile Chileans? Do all those born in the country feel the same about their nationality and about their fellow nationals? A large number of Chileans will describe their country as culturally and ethnically homogenous, probably because they do not include the native peoples in their description; least of all would they acknowledge that mestizo blood runs in their veins. Therefore, my objective has been to deconstruct the myth homogeneity in the Chilean identity. Moreover, this research, which started as an exploration into tile complex terrain of tile Chilean identity, finally turned into a rather painful soul-searching process. It is obvious that having been born in Chile, it was impossible for me not to become involved, not to feel touched more than once, not to feel guilty more than once. The identities of the indigenous peoples and the descendants of Spanish colonisers have been profoundly transformed during 500 years of social, cultural and political change. Tile rise of the nations states and tile construction of national identities after the wars of Independence were key moments for Latin America, but although no longer tinder colonial rule, the social and cultural differences between 'Indians' and Spaniards continued into the republic, based on the imagined superiority of the Spanish culture, language and religion. Currently Chile, where in recent times - and in the past as well - the military played a crucial role, is in a process of globalisation and reconstruction of the national identity. The research was framed by the understanding that the imagined community of the nation is formed by 'us' and 'them', and a distinction which does not indicate a binary opposition but a complex articulation which both supports and fractures tile nation. In the imagined community of tile Chilean nation identities are multiple and cultures are multiple too. They are constituted in relation to dimensions such as history, place and culture. Geography, in Chile, is also a defining marker of national identity that does not imply inert geography, but an essential dimension in the cultural and social dynamics of tile nation. I challenge the view, long sustained by many Chileans that their country is culturally and ethnically homogeneous. In order to achieve this end I explore the 'skeleton in the cupboard' of the Chilean identity, that is to say, their mestizo origin. With that objective in mind, this research was conceived as a contribution to make Chileans come to terms with the fact that they have some amount of 'Indian' blood in their veins. Only when they are able to take that step, will they be able to appreciate and take pride in the ancient cultures they descend from because in that way they will shed light into that dark comer of their identity. National communities are not only in people's heads or in the imagination of a nation of citizens, but are projected and articulated through channels like the media and educational practice; they are also embodied and practised. From the moment that identity is conceived, not as a fixed ethos formed in a remote past, but as a future project, Chileans great challenge now is to define what they want to be. There may be different projects, alternative proposals and different versions of national identity that will lead on to different roads, but they must include a notion of collective identity that is open to alterity, invention and transgression and also a diversity that Chileans have so far refused to accept.