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Statement of Juana Calfunao Paillalef

I am from the Mapuche community of Juan Paillalef in the district of Cunco in ‘IX Region' of Chile.

In 1913 my community - which is comprised of eight families under the leadership of Lonko (chief) Juan Paillalef - was given the title deeds to 120 hectares of land.

Following this, neighbouring landowners began stealing our land. They did this by moving fences and building roads; in this case the Colico road. Our defense of our right to live on the land of our ancestors led to permanent aggression and violence towards our community. A consequence of this was that Lonko Jose Luis Paillalef, son of Juan Paillalef, was arrested and taken to Valdivia prison. After being beaten in prison, he died there. His wife had earlier been raped and kidnapped by rural workers. She disappeared and her whereabouts remain unknown.

In 1950 my mother took on the role of Lonko of our community. She was faced with the continued legacy of violence against our community by these families of landowners. During these years the community was divided up according to a 1931 law (law 4.111) regulating land settlement.

During the military coup of 1973, in the course of our ongoing battle to defend our land, my mother was arrested and imprisoned without charge in Temuco. Here she was tortured, and released after two years of imprisonment. When she was arrested her children, aged 2, 6, 8, and 10, were left utterly alone with no-one to care for them.

During this time two of my brothers were also arrested, Juan and Segundo Calfunao Paillalef. One of them today suffers from mental ill health as a result of the beatings he suffered at the hands of the police.

In 1977, as a result of continuing persecution, we went to live in Santiago. My mother was therefore thrown off her land and forced to live 25 kilometres from her native community. Myself, after living for 10 years in Santiago, during which time I maintained contact with my community, returned and took on the role of Lonko. As Lonko I must work to achieve the return of the land which was taken from us. In 1999 we instigated legal proceedings (case number 94055) challenging the division of our land. The case was listed in the civil courts but was never heard.

As a result of the actions I am taking, I am persecuted by the police and have been arrested on innumerable occasions. As a Mapuche woman, I continue to wear traditional dress. Because of this I am discriminated against. I am regarded by the police as a 'clown' and an ‘Indian'.

On May 12th 2000, while waiting in the bus station at Temuco I was arrested by armed police, together with my husband and my 18 year old son.

We were taken to the police station in Claro Solar Street . Here we were brutally kicked, and beaten with fists and truncheons. I was two and a half months pregnant. In the police station they stripped me naked, insulted me and dragged me around by my hair in front of my son, my husband and other prisoners. They kept me in this condition for many hours. When I began bleeding and vomiting I was taken to hospital and given medical attention. I was then taken back to the police station. The following day at around 4 pm I was taken to the womens' prison. On the 15th we appeared in court charged with assaulting police officers and were then released pending further proceedings.

On Wednesday 16th I suffered a haemorrhage and was taken to the casualty department of Temuco hospital. I was put on a ward and remained there for three days. Several tests were done, which showed that I had suffered a miscarriage.

My hospital papers showed that I had had a miscarriage. I brought an action against the police. The police denied all the events which had taken place and denied that I had had a miscarriage. My husband, myself and my son were sentenced and placed on probation for two years.

On another occasion, on March 6th 2001, during a Mapuche demonstration in Temuco, I attempted to protect one of my sons who was being arrested and beaten by the police. The head of the armed police, whose surname was Palavachino, hit me in the mouth with his radio. I lost consciousness and my tooth was broken off. I have a medical certificate to verify this. I was then arrested, together with my 18 year old son and my 12 year old daughter. In the bus on the way to the police station, and later in the cells, the police sprayed my children continuously with a suffocating substance, until the point where they lost consciousness. We were then charged; my son was taken to court and sentenced to a year and a half in prison, while my daughter was sent to appear before a youth court. I was sentenced to a year's probation.

As a Mapuche woman, I have suffered and been the victim of open discrimination, which has taken the form of verbal, physical and psychological violence.

I currently live in my community on 35 hectares of land. The majority of the 18 other families who belong to our community have been forced to move to Santiago because our remaining land is not big enough to sustain us all. There are now only four families left in the community. We are carrying on our fight to reclaim the 120 hectares of land to which we were granted title deeds in 1913. Today we are faced with the additional problem of FRONTEL, an electricity company which has built a high voltage power line and erected 19 pylons on our land without our consent. This has further significantly reduced the land available to the community. In response, our community brought an action in 2000 in the civil court in Temuco (case number 11157 –2001). The case has not been progressed through the courts.

Juana Calfunao
Temuco, July 20 2003

Translated by Heidi Walter

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