The Mapuches live mainly in the rural zones of the Araucania, and the lake districts, as well as the Metropolitan one (i.e Santiago, the capital). Born in Chilean Andes, from the XVIII to the XIX centuries, from the Pampa to Argentinean Patagonia, they have propagated their culture to the "Het" and "Tehuelche" tribes. They have remained unsubtle under Incas' and Conquistadors' yokes. The Mapuches' creed is mainly based upon ancester spirit worship, and animist practices, quite different from our western religious ones. Although they worship numerous spirits, they have never erected pantheons in their images, contrary to other Andean civilizations.
Around 1880, Argentina and Chile wedged conquest wars against the Indians (Mapuches and Patagons) living in the Southern part of the continent, in wild and inaccessible areas. This extermination wars caused casualties by ten thousands among the Indians. But these exactions pursued as well another plan: gaining access to both Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Chile aimed at an opening to the Atlantic by the South, the same as Argentina as regards the Pacific coast.
The current border was only finalised at the end of the XIX century.
In the Argentinian zone, the pacification achieved by the future Argentinean President Julio Argentino Roca was equally ruthless.
Julio Roca began his military carreer in 1858. As a veteran of the fatricidal war between Buenos Aires and Argentina Confederacy (from 1859 to 1861) he took part as well to the Triple Alliance war against Paraguay, which took place from 1865 to 1870, in which his father and his two brothers were killed.
Roca was appointed War Minister. On August 14th 1878, he convinced the government to wedge a war against the natives living in Patagonia, in order to broaden the territories ruled by Argentina. By doing so, he also aimed at getting the better of Chilean government'similar ambitions.
He achieved the misnamed Desert Conquest (1879-1884), in fact a sheer genocide aming at ethnic purification. The very name of that campaign bears witness to the way these native populations were percieved at that time: mere wild, uncivilised people just good to be eradicated, so much so as the land on which they were living was called a desert.
With a powerful and numerous armies at his disposal, Roca subdued Patagonia, taking advantage of the tenacious resistance of the malpuche people, and causing an incredible havoc with the native populations. Current estimations state that such war caused more than 20,000 casualties among the non fighting people...
But sheer victory was not enough. The survivors were transported to the farthest, wildest and most arid districts in Patagonia. Some 3,000 natives (men and women) were taken prisoner and tranported to Buenos Aires, men being separated from women, to prevent them from procreating...
Thus Argentina had acquired million acres of new lands. These large estates were sold at cut-prices, or even simply bestowed to politicians or influent landowners. To vindicate such a cruel operation, it was alleged that these territories were about to be conquered by Chile, which had been keeping an eye of them already. That situation prevailed until the Argentina-Chile treaty was signed in 1881.
The Falkland War (March - June 1982) has been fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom, following an invasion of the so far British claimed territory by Argentinian troops. To sustain its popularity, the military junta had thrown into military action, maybe assured of US government support, without which it wouldn't have dared defy Britain.
Although surprised by the Argentinian attack, British PM Margaret Thatcher immediately reacted, and Argentine suffered both a diplomatic and military defeat.
The political impact of that defeat provoked the fall of the military junta, but democratic transition has been by no means immediate. Although it is curently admitted to be utterly achieved, some military actors of the previous regime are still free, and - as a tragic clue - even a new key witness inexplicably diappeared... in 2006.
The May Square Mothers' Movement is a women's Argentine association who have been daily demonstrating there about the fate of their missing children and relatives, probably assassinated during the years of military dictatorship (1976-83). Military power admitted that more than 9,000 kidnapped people haven't so far been acknowledged. Since the fall of the dictatorial regime, the civilian govenment has estimated that the number of missing people averaged 11,000. The May Square Mothers assert that they would be closer to 30,000.
The May Square Mothers' Movement is the only women organisation in Argentina dealing with human rights. For more than 30 years, they have kept fighting to find their kidnapped children.
As a protest token, they'll wear white cloths on their heads (originally their babies' flannel clothes) to recall their children's disappearance, never giving up hope of reunion. Their first demonstration took place on April 30th 1977, in front of the Casa Rosada presidential Palace.
Every Thursday afternoon, the Mothers will keep demonstrating round the May Square for half an hour. Anti clockwise: that's their personal and symbolic way to recapture time, and to denounce the military torturers' and murderers' impunity.
Patagonia in all seasons menu. For example, according to the climate, from Bariloche, in Patagonia Argentina, it is possible to go to Puerto Montt, in Chile, crossing successively three lakes by boat, as did the Jesuits and the first German settlers. I offer a tour that leads to the Pacific Ocean. It is quite long, but the beauty of the sites - forests, volcanoes and crystalline lakes - is such that it is worth to be carried. The Argentine side, cross the west arm of Nahuel Huapi and Lake Puerto Alegre and, the chilen side, Lake Todos los Santos. Moving from one lake to another by bus. This tour is feasible in all seasons, but in winter, it takes two days to reach Puerto Montt, stopping for one night at Peulla. We returned to Bariloche by air or by the same way, after a night in Puerto Montt. Borispatagonia is also responsible for visas to go to Chile and to book hotels. In Patagonia, winter and summer are tourist seasons. In summer, besides explore the surrounding, many activities are available: climbing, torrent fishing, sailing, horseback riding, hiking, rides, visits to Aciendas... In winter, the main activity is, of course, skiing, especially in July and August on the side of the Andes, but not only: snowshoe hikes, thematic tours, many walks to admire the beauty of Patagonia Argentina and Chile in this season, due a unique light, the warmth of the people of Patagonia... Just to talk about, I get goose bumps!