In Argentinian Patagonia, a group of native Mapuche families, namely the one formed by Atílio Curiñanco, Rosa Nahuelquir and Franco Curiñanco, are resisting and peacefully battling against the italian Benetton Group, for the right to live in their ancestral land, where they were born and which belongs to them by oral tradition.
The extension of the lands acquired by Benetton in the 90’s - from a then near-bankrupt Argentinian government in search of fresh capital -, is estimated to be approximately 900.000 hectares, nearly the size of a country like Cyprus.
The land reclaimed by the Mapuche families is around 500 ha.
The Benetton Group can provide legal documents attesting ownership of the land.
The Mapuche families claim that the right to live there belongs to them by traditional, oral, pre-colonial law. In addition, they claim that the sale of such a vast amount of previously public land to one single private entity by the government should have been considered unacceptable.
Each part conducts a legal battle for the recognition of what they consider their full rights, although economic, communicative and legal forces are overwhelmingly more powerful on one side.
In hashtags it would be #landgrab #mapuche #patagonia #benetton #davidagainstgoliath
The story, the words
“A man with the purest Mapuche blood in his veins is nothing without his land, because at the moment he leaves his land, he looses his culture, and his identity. La sangre no es nada sin la tierra.”
“There is enough land here for the two of us.” *
I think this story deserves to be told beyond the dualism of a global legal battle, and to become the start of a much broader reflection on the vital relationship between man, nature and land, that cannot be synthetized only through possession of the land, but also with the meaning of belonging to the land, as it is so intensely exemplified by Atílio’s words.
I met Atílio, Rosa and Franco by pure coincidence (here is the story of the coincidence), during a journey to Esquel, Argentina. During the hour or so I passed with them, in which I could only take the few pictures above, I found fascinating the way they spoke about their intimate relationship with land, almost as if land was a member of the family.
Unfortunately we couldn’t spend more time together, but since the first moment we said goodbye I decided one day I would come back and try to tell their story.
* the words may not be exact, this is what I have memorized, retranscripted and translated after our meeting.
Franco Curiñanco and Rosa Nahuelquir
Atilio and Franco
The Mapuche flag at the entrance of their house.
The facts around the legal battle have been properly accounted for already**, and should obviously not be overseen.
But I am very much interested in how this community lives the everyday relationship with land and nature, and this I will try to investigate visually, in texts and multimedia.
I feel that the resistance of this family is only the actual episode of a longer story: battle for land is battle for belonging, and ultimately there is no life without belonging.
These fundamental values have been either widely overlooked, forgotten, exploited, distorted and even despised for a number of reasons by the mainstream culture, and this is why I think this story is important.
My objective is to try to explore the vital and direct relationship that this community lives with nature, and to to tell a positive story about man, nature and land.