. Florencia Mallon Florencia Mallon Florencia Mallon
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Chapter 3 excerpts



Mapuche community "It was November, and the days were getting longer.  The sun still came up timidly, covered in fog, and the fragrance of burning wood still lingered over the shivering city in the early hours of the day.  But in the countryside the wheat nursed its spiky golden crown, turning eagerly toward the light, while potato plants hugged the sides of the rolling hills and sent out blue and white flowers that trumpeted the approaching harvest.  In the countryside during this time of plenty, it was only natural for peasants to think about what they had lost, how the big landowners had moved in with their thugs and torched their parents’ houses, the smell of their burned belongings lingering in the air for days.

At least that was what her papa told Sara before he left for the countryside.  There was a small community of Mapuche Indians, he said, near a big river that fed the Pacific Ocean.  The Mapuche were an indigenous people, he explained, which meant they had been there first, before anyone else.  All the land had been theirs, and when the Spanish first arrived, they’d fought to defend it.  But fifty years ago, the Chilean army had finally defeated them.  Like most Mapuche, this community got a small land grant from the government.  It hadn’t been much, but at first it was enough to raise their families, plant crops, and keep a few sheep.  Then a big landowner appeared one day and said that half their land was his.  His gunmen moved the fence, then burned the houses inside his new claim....Like many Mapuche communities, they’d been fighting in the courts for years, trying to get their land back." 




“We lost him a long time ago,” Sara told her rumpled, sleep-deprived Shmooti as soon as he got off the train from Temuco. “But if we’re lucky, maybe we have a chance to get him back.” 

At first Shmooti didn’t know what she meant. They spent several weeks walking the streets of Santiago, through the warm late-summer light. They walked under the weeping willows of the parque forestal, next to the drought-shrunken Mapocho river, and sat on a wrought iron bench near a bridge that, for some reason, day after day, they knew how to find.












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