SANTIAGO – The newly created “Mapuverse” comic book saga seeks to bring Mapuche legends in to the mainstream. Streaming giant Netflix bought the rights to adapt it into an animated show, which is set to air in 2020. It would mean an historic step for Mapuche representation in modern media.
Chile has never been known for comic books. Only Condorito comics have left a lasting impression on the public. But things could change with the upcoming “Guardianes del Sur” (Guardians of the South) comic book and its adaptation as animated series that will air on Netflix in 2020.
This saga is written by Sebastian Castro and drawn by Guido “Kid” Salinas. Their comic tells the stories of legendary Mapuche warriors that fought in the war against the Spanish Conquistadors, but are reimagined as comic book heroes in a “Mapuverse.” So far, the creators have released three of the planned four heroes. The ones available are Galvarino, Caupolicán, and Janequeo, with Lautaro being the last hero left in the saga.
The idea behind the comics is to tell people more about Chilean folklore and about the heroes who helped create the identity of the modern Mapuche people. This idea is more relevant today than ever, considering the Catrillanca case, in which an innocent Mapuche was killed by special police forces.
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“Kid” Salinas got the idea for the Mapuche comics while he created a fan art of Galvarino reimagined as Wolverine. His followers liked it so much that they kept asking for a follow-up, which turned into the basis for the Guardians of the South comic books.
The story begins during the Spanish conquest of Chile led by Pedro de Valdivia in the 16th century. In this context we are introduced to the first hero of the Mapuverse. Galvarino was a noble Mapuche warrior who had his arms amputated after the battle of Lagunillas. But he put blades on the stumps to keep fighting the Conquistadors.
The second hero is Caupolicán, the leader who helped general Lautaro unite the tribes to push back against the Spanish. The third hero is Janequeo, considered the Jeanne d’Arc of Araucanía, even if her actual existence is disputed among historians. Her story begins when her husband is murdered by the conquistadors forcing her to lead her own tribe against the Spanish and aid Lautaro’s rebellion. General Lautaro, the fourth hero in the Mapuverse, is yet to debut. He organized the tribes and created strategies to counteract superior Spanish firepower.
Mapuche in Chilean Pop Culture
This comic book and its upcoming Netflix adaptation are a big leap in Mapuche representation in popular media. So far, the closest comparable adaptation was the 2017 movie “Rey,” which tells the story of a French lawyer who declared himself King of the Araucania. But that movie didn’t involve the Mapuche as much as it should have.
The need for these types of representation in the media is so big that the creators of the comics receive photos and videos of history teachers who buy the comic books to help their students learn about the history of their own country.
However, the Netflix animated show, set to premiere next year, is a step in the right direction and should help bring to life many Mapuche legends that have existed in Chile and that most students don’t ever learn about. The ignorance of most Chileans of their history is so big that the creators of the comic books said they often get asked if they themselves invented these characters.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.