September 25, 2021

Elisa Loncon, Mapuche native at the head of the Constituent Assembly, promises “a new Chile”

Elisa Loncon dreams of a Chile “Plural, democratic and participatory”. His election, Sunday, July 4, to the presidency of the Constituent Assembly responsible for drafting the new Basic Law is historic in more ways than one. Woman and Mapuche, the majority ethnic group in Chile, she embodies the main aspirations of the popular revolts of October 2019: a fairer and more egalitarian society and economic model, the recognition of indigenous peoples and a better distribution of power.

“We will call to the last corner of the country for the rights of our indigenous nation, mother earth, water, women, children”, she declared, Sunday after her election with 96 votes out of 155, at the end of the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly. Dressed in the traditional dress of her ethnic group and brandishing the Mapuche flag, this academic knows that she is living an unprecedented moment, the result of a series of historic events: the social revolt of 2019, the referendum of October 25, 2020, during from which the Chileans overwhelmingly expressed the need for a reform of the Constitution, and the selection, on May 15 and 16, of the 78 citizens and 77 female citizens who now make up the Constituent Assembly. Their mission will be the drafting of a new national constitution, replacing the current text inherited from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

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The election of Elisa Loncon, 58, who until then occupied one of the 17 seats in the Assembly that were reserved for indigenous peoples, is therefore the product of a democratic process unique to Chile, but also of an extraordinary personal journey.

“A sense of happiness”

The fourth in a family of seven children, Elisa was born in 1963 in the Mapuche community of Lefweluan, in Traiguén, in the Araucania region (south). Her mother is a housewife and her father is a carpenter. Self-taught, he learned to read on his own at the age of 17. As for his great-grandfather, head of the community, he had opposed the Chilean army in the middle of the 19th century.e century, even fighting against the occupation of the region alongside the great Mapuche leader and historic resistance, José Santos Quilapan.

Elisa Loncon says that, as a child, she sometimes had to walk eight kilometers on a dirt road to go to school. “I come from a simple family, like all Mapuche families affected by poverty, but integrating from the point of view of our codes, inspired by collective standards, memory, social narrative, history, she explained to the Spanish daily The country just before his election. My family left me with a sense of happiness. “

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