Courage Tastes of Blood

The Mapuche Community of Nicolás Ailío and the Chilean State, 1906–2001

Courage Tastes of Blood

Radical Perspectives

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Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 28 photos, 4 maps, 1 figure Published: October 2005

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

Until now, very little about the recent history of the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, has been available to English-language readers. Courage Tastes of Blood helps to rectify this situation. It tells the story of one Mapuche community—Nicolás Ailío, located in the south of the country—across the entire twentieth century, from its founding in the resettlement process that followed the military defeat of the Mapuche by the Chilean state at the end of the nineteenth century. Florencia E. Mallon places oral histories gathered from community members over an extended period of time in the 1990s in dialogue with one another and with her research in national and regional archives. Taking seriously the often quite divergent subjectivities and political visions of the community’s members, Mallon presents an innovative historical narrative, one that reflects a mutual collaboration between herself and the residents of Nicolás Ailío.

Mallon recounts the land usurpation Nicolás Ailío endured in the first decades of the twentieth century and the community’s ongoing struggle for restitution. Facing extreme poverty and inspired by the agrarian mobilizations of the 1960s, some community members participated in the agrarian reform under the government of socialist president Salvador Allende. With the military coup of 1973, they suffered repression and desperate impoverishment. Out of this turbulent period the Mapuche revitalization movement was born. What began as an effort to protest the privatization of community lands under the military dictatorship evolved into a broad movement for cultural and political recognition that continues to the present day. By providing the historical and local context for the emergence of the Mapuche revitalization movement, Courage Tastes of Blood offers a distinctive perspective on the evolution of Chilean democracy and its rupture with the military coup of 1973.


Courage Tastes of Blood is a richly nuanced study of the cultural struggles around a Mapuche community in the rapidly changing world of south Chile.” — Tom Dillehay, Journal of Anthropological Research

Courage Tastes of Blood is an impressive achievement that deserves a wide audience for its methodological innovation and for its original contribution to the history of Chile and the Mapuche.”
— Peter Winn, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“[A] unique history of modern Chile from the point of view of a Mapuche community. . . Mallon offers an original contribution to the understanding of indigenous politics and memory, negotiations between indigenous people and the state, and the production of history from the margins.”

— Ana Mariella Bacigalupo, American Ethnologist

“Mallon has delivered a masterpiece of political historiography, which will certainly be of interest for scholars of Latin American indigenous peoples but also deserves to be read by a more general audience that seeks understanding of the complexity of human struggles for dignity and justice.” — P. Alex Latta, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Mallon places herself at the center of the story, overtly acknowledging her own role in collecting and interpreting oral histories and archival documents. The dialogical method of writing a collective ethnography is an innovative methodology...Highly recommended. Upper division undergraduates and above.” — M. Becker, Choice

“Mallon’s book makes a subtle and nuanced contribution to the history of modern Latin America.” — J. Pablo Silva, A Contracorriente

“Mallon’s method is striking. . . . [She] is the first historian working in English to reclaim some of this ground for history by creatively and effectively drawing on these anthropological works, but by moving the anthropology/history methodological fusion back towards the historical.” — David Sheinin, Left History

“Much more than a community study, [Mallon’s] book sheds new light on modern Chilean history by approaching it from the perspective of the often neglected southern frontier. It constitutes the first major work in English on the history of the Mapuche and offers a sweeping revision of the history of modern state formation in Chile.” — Thomas Miller Klubock, American Historical Review

“There are so many good things to say about Courage Tastes of Blood that I have puzzled over how to economize in writing this review. . . . Mallon has artfully captured the interplay between local histories and the national story, the underlayment of ethnic, gender, and class conflicts complicating more universal ideological claims and, perhaps most impressively, the ongoing resistance by local actors to any sort of externally imposed end to this history.” — Brian Loveman, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This remarkable book combines impeccable scholarship, compelling drama, innovative methodology, and a topic of utmost salience. . . . In Mallon’s deft hands, this small, local conflict offers a point of departure for an ambitious, richly layered analysis of Chile’s troubled history of land usurpation, indigenous resistance, democratic promise and failure, the quest for reconciliation, and the perpetual struggle to define Indian and Chilean identity.” — David V. Carruthers, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Through the careful use of oral history and a range of documents from local, regional and national archives, Mallon tells a gripping story that is refreshingly readable… Moreover, the reader will benefit from the book’s glossary and Mallon’s two-page genealogical chart of community members.” — Patrick Barr-Melej, The Americas

"Courage Tastes of Blood is a thoroughly researched, detailed, and at times incredibly moving account of the struggles faced by a Mapuche community in the face of the Chilean state. This book will be of great value not only to those interested in the recent history of indigenous peoples in Latin American, but also to anyone concerned with the inevitable contradictions, challenges, and paradoxes involved in transforming individual memories into a collective history." — Magnus Course, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Courage Tastes of Blood explores how ordinary, marginalized indigenous peoples in Chile construct historical memory in small, discontinuous steps, a process which enables them to sustain a ‘politics of difference’ in a world where globalization threatens to further homogenize diversity in the name of economic progress and stability. Following this logic in her own practice, Florencia E. Mallon highlights the importance of everyday practices in understanding oral sources, and, in so doing, she challenges readers to reconsider the preconceptions of history as a field of knowledge that reproduces the rationality of power. This is a bold, fascinating, and highly original contribution to our understanding of indigenous lives, repression in Chile, and racism, and it provides a methodological lesson in rethinking fields of inquiry from the perspective of alternative knowledge producers.” — Arturo Arias, past president of the Latin American Studies Association

“Florencia E. Mallon combines a historian’s sensitivity to context and an ethnographer’s attention to cultural description, capturing the everydayness of life in the midst of rapid social transformation. While focusing on one Mapuche community, she provides insights into larger histories of social mobilization, state formation, political violence, and community identity.” — Greg Grandin, author of The Last Colonial Massacre: Latin America in the Cold War

“Florencia E. Mallon gives history a human face. Her description of a Mapuche community’s struggle to recover land rights previously lost in extremely adverse conditions underscores the promise of historical work to go way beyond the cold, distanced analysis of things past. The Mapuche navigate the pages of Courage Tastes of Blood with the sturdy competence of devoted craftsmen carving their own destiny.” — Alcida Rita Ramos, author of Indigenism: Ethnic Politics in Brazil


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Florencia E. Mallon is Professor of Modern Latin American History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is the author of Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru and The Defense of Community in Peru’s Central Highlands: Peasant Struggle and Capitalist Transition, 1860–1940. She is the editor and translator of When a Flower is Reborn: The Life and Times of a Mapuche Feminist, by Rose Isolde Reuque Paillalef, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations xi

About the Series xiii

Acknowledgments xv

1. In the Fog Before Dawn: December 1970 1

2. And Then, Suddenly, the Land Disappeared, 1906–1940 34

3. A Generation without Shoes: Enduring in Poverty, 1940–1970 62

4. A Fleeting Prosperity, 1968–1973 92

5. When the Hearths Went Out, 1973–1992 136

6. Settlers Once Again, 1992–2001 184

7. Conclusion: Where the Past Meets the Future in Nicolás Ailío 228

Acronyms 249

Glossary 251

Notes 257

References Cited 297

Index 305
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Winner, 2006 Bolton-Johnson Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3574-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3585-6
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