Mapuche poet Lorenzo Ayllapán.
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December 2001

Mapuche poet:
Lorenzo, legally. Llancaleo, ancestrally

Poet Lorenzo Ayllapán suffered discrimination from the day he legally existed. His parents chose Llancaleo as his name, but when trying to inscribe it on the Registry office the functionary said he could not use that name. That`s why he began being called Lorenzo. From that day, this man, born on March 10, 1940, has been using two names. For him, there is only one that matters, because it comes from its ancient culture. The other he uses to sell, vote, apply for the FONDART (State Fund for the Arts) and legally marry on Chilean land. What use does the real name have?


"My first language is the mapadungun, and then comes Chilean or Spanish", says Llancaleo, who was born in Puerto Saavedra, on a small town called Rucatraro, which means "house bird" in mapadungun.

Lorenzo legally, and Llancaleo ancestrally, maintains the legacy that his "lonko" (mapuche leader) grandfather left him: poetry. It is there that his true name is absolutely necessary. Imitating nature's sounds, specifically the singing of the birds, and knowing their habits, Ayllapán wrote poems that he now plans to gather in a book. There, he talks about the main characteristics of the birds that live in the Tenth Region, combining that with personal thoughts.

When listening to his poetry, one understands perfectly the mapuche-music rhythm, and the connection it has with nature. To write poetry, watching the world is fundamental, something rarely done on the "huinca" (white man) world and generally reserved for scientists. But for the mapuches, observation and deep knowledge of the environment are something natural. "No bird sings just for the sake of it", says Llancaleo, when explaining the song of birds such as the tenca.

Movie-kind of lonko
Llancaleo shot a documentary called "Huinchan", where he talks about his father and grandfather being "lonkos" (mapuche leaders). With this movie, people identified him as a "lonko". That was the case with the recent "First Meeting of Chile's Original Cultures. Abya-Yala 2001", made on "Aldea del Encuentro" at La Reina (Santiago), where representatives of different ethnic groups -mapuche, pascuense, aymará- got together. Even though Aypallán doesn't have much of a problem about being called "lonko" —he believes it's a way of being considered as a representative of the mapuche world— he warns that "we have to be careful, because the lonko is elected by the community". About the war connotations associated to this title, he explains that his grandfather inherited poetry and not war. "But if I had to go to war for defending the mapuche land and people, I would sure do it", he says.

The meeting of two worlds
Decades after the incident that determined his double identity -as Chilean and mapuche- Llancaleo knows how much the situation has changed. Probably not of that would happen again at a Register office. Examples of that change are the words used to show the relation between the mapuche and the huinca worlds: war, peace, integration, assimilation, meeting and recognition, among others. But there is a word that still shows some uneasiness: conflict.

Discrimination and the land recovery are current problems for any mapuche that cares about his/her traditions. When one asks Llancaleo about these issues, he immediately talks about his love for diversity. "I was taught by the mapuche wise men, that in the Universe there are all kinds of trees: old, small, thick and full of flowers. They are all together and none is discriminated. That is the base not to exclude". This learning is what allows him to make reference to historical arguments. "The conquerors didn't arrive here thinking about conquering, but about sacking", he assures. "The government gave the colonists too much, 1,235 acres or more, while we got 14 acres for each family".

To this friend of President Ricardo Lagos —he has a picture with him and with the First Lady, Luisa Durán—"mapuches have been mere clients of development. The government has the responsibility of changing that".

On the meantime, Llancaleo keeps on promoting his poetry and his people's culture. In 1992, he went to the World Meeting of all ethnic groups organized in Brazil. He hopes for the Abya-Yala, which means "the continent's verdure" and that will have its second version this year, to be a place for international sharing. Beyond resentment and hate, Llancaleo -or Lorenzo- says with the naiveté and fervor of a child: "Chile is a paradise, a beautiful land, a true postcard".


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