Año Nuevo Mapuche

An unexpected, yet welcome ride in the back of the carabineros van began our adventure down deserted La Florida alleys. This was not Revolver going rogue, just a group of foreign writers and photographers who had looked lost, in search of the Mapuche New Year celebration, or ‘We-Tripantu’.

Photo by Oisin Keely
Photo by Oisin Keely

The evening of Thursday June 23rd honored the end of Chile’s largest indigenous group's calendar year as well as the Winter Solstice. At this time, the Mapuche celebrate the return of the sun to the Southern Hemisphere, marking the end of the harvest and welcoming in the new sowing season. Through a series of traditional activities, they cleanse and prepare themselves for a new year while honoring their connection to nature and the cycle of the seasons.

Photo by Oisin Keely
Photo by Oisin Keely

We rolled up to the primarily residential area with our friendly policemen guides, in time for the first rustle of festivities; people gathering, youngsters drumming and clowns juggling. Cascades of ribbons, beads and feathers filled a community room adjacent to the street, where revelers decked out in rainbow-colored traditional dress were gathered to start off the events. A richly adorned crowd formed a circle, prayed and sang to welcome in the evening.

Prominent, mythical figures raised on stilts donned ornate costumes and masks, mimed for the crowd and posed for their many admirers. Fires were lit in wheelbarrows and the sound of hundreds of voices chimed through the air, accompanied by an orchestra of drums, guitars and pipes. After an opening ceremony, the various groups made their way back to the street where flaming torches were waiting to lead the parade.

The joyful procession snaked through the streets animated by choreographed dances and well-rehearsed songs. Girls twirling fire poi, a man wheeling an incense cart and a couple of giant paper-mâché figures accompanied the crowd, which marched from the Laura Vicuña Chapel through the streets of La Florida. It seemed as if the whole neighborhood had poured out of their homes to show their support and join in the festivities. We trailed behind, capturing the jubilant spectacle on film and notepaper and trying to hitch a lift home.

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