When a Flower Is Reborn

The Life and Times of a Mapuche Feminist

When a Flower Is Reborn

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 36 b&w photos Published: August 2002

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

A pathbreaking contribution to Latin American testimonial literature, When a Flower Is Reborn is activist Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef’s chronicle of her leadership within the Mapuche indigenous rights movement in Chile. Part personal reflection and part political autobiography, it is also the story of Reuque’s rediscovery of her own Mapuche identity through her political and human rights activism over the past quarter century. The questions posed to Reuque by her editor and translator, the distinguished historian Florencia Mallon, are included in the text, revealing both a lively exchange between two feminist intellectuals and much about the crafting of the testimonial itself. In addition, several conversations involving Reuque’s family members provide a counterpoint to her story, illustrating the variety of ways identity is created and understood.

A leading activist during the Pinochet dictatorship, Reuque—a woman, a Catholic, and a Christian Democrat—often felt like an outsider within the male-dominated, leftist Mapuche movement. This sense of herself as both participant and observer allows for Reuque’s trenchant, yet empathetic, critique of the Mapuche ethnic movement and of the policies regarding indigenous people implemented by Chile’s post-authoritarian government. After the 1990 transition to democratic rule, Reuque collaborated with the government in the creation of the Indigenous Development Corporation (CONADI) and the passage of the Indigenous Law of 1993. At the same time, her deepening critiques of sexism in Chilean society in general, and the Mapuche movement in particular, inspired her to found the first Mapuche feminist organization and participate in the 1996 International Women’s Conference in Beijing. Critical of the democratic government’s inability to effectively address indigenous demands, Reuque reflects on the history of Mapuche activism, including its disarray in the early 1990s and resurgence toward the end of the decade, and relates her hopes for the future.

An important reinvention of the testimonial genre for Latin America’s post-authoritarian, post-revolutionary era, When a Flower Is Reborn will appeal to those interested in Latin America, race and ethnicity, indigenous people’s movements, women and gender, and oral history and ethnography.


"[A] fascinating document." — Linda B. Hall , Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"[A]n eloquent testimony." — Rosamel Millaman Reinao , American Anthropologist

"Because the success stories, which inspire emulation, are interspersed with accounts where [Reuque Paillalef] failed to achieve her goals or maintain organizational cohesion, the book presents a balanced perspective. Her honesty and candidness discourage the reader from idealizing Mapuche people or simplifying Chile's recent past, yet by reading the monograph students and scholars alike will gain a more profound understanding of ethnic and gender relations under the distinct political structures of dictatorship and democracy." — David Carey Jr., South Eastern Latin Americanist

"Mallon has crafted a complex, rich, and deeply interesting testimonio of Isolde's life and role in the Chilean Mapuche movement. . . . Mallon's study serves as one model for understanding the multiple and critical uses of oral history and testimonio in crafting important scholarly work." — Nancy Raquel Mirabal, Oral History Review

"This book is a welcome addition to the encouraging and rapidly expanding literature on the many ways in which Native peoples are winning various degrees of recognition, autonomy, and influence in various countries. It is also an excellent addition to the relatively recent genre of testimonios. . . . Editor Mallon skillfully interweaves discussions of history, international relations, the strengths and limitations of testimonios, and other themes with vivid characterization and detailed recounting of a rapidly changing lifestyle. . . . Highly recommended." — D. B. Heath , Choice

"This book is an absorbing study of the past three decades of Mapuche history, through the eyes of a key protagonist of the struggle for the rights of the Mapuche, especially those of Mapuche women." — Margaret Power , The Americas

“A landmark in the history of social movements, indigenous studies, and women’s studies, When a Flower is Reborn tells the story of the cultural regeneration of a whole people. The match between a sophisticated scholar drawn back to the country of her birth and an urbane indigenous woman organizer has engendered an entirely new form of testimonial literature, one that reads like a novel, but has the depth and breadth of the best history. This is not only an innovative book, it is a major achievement.” — Temma Kaplan, author of Crazy for Democracy: Women in Grassroots Movements

“Composed of short dialogues, this testimonio is just made to be read aloud by students who will find themselves drawn into the rich personal experiences of Mapuche cultural resurgence and political activism as related by Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef and her family to Florencia E. Mallon. When a Flower is Reborn is a fascinating account of the renewal and transformation of Mapuche culture and community politics and social criticism as captured through one woman's participation in different social movements across Chile's political history from the early 1970s to 1997. A pathbreaking, thoughtful collaborative work on indigenous activism in Chile.“
  — Kay Warren, author of Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rosa Isolde Reuque Paillalef is a Mapuche feminist and political and human rights activist.

Florencia E. Mallon is Professor of Modern Latin American History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Editor’s Introduction 1

1. Chanco: Family, Land, and Culture 35

2. The Mapuche Movement under Dictatorship, 1973-1989 100

3. The Transition to Democracy 175

4. The Mapuche Movement under Democracy, 1990-1998 223

Conclusion 294

Afterword 327

Glossary 337

Notes 343

Index 363
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2962-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2934-3
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