Mapuche Epew brings Mapuche folklore to life

The Universidad Autónoma de Chile has launched a new children’s book about Mapuche culture. The writers hope to teach younger generations about their country’s cultural diversity. “As Chile becomes more and more intercultural, it is important to tell children about the different cultures around them.”

On May 11, the Universidad Autónoma de Chile in Talca will host the launch of Mapuche Epew (Mapuche Folk Tales). The book, an English adaptation of Mapuche stories, is an attempt by the university to educate students about the Mapuche and to keep Mapuche culture and traditions alive.

Chile Today spoke with Sofía Valdés Fuentes, an English teacher at the university and co-author of Mapuche Epew. Valdés was born in Norway, but came to Chile for her bachelors. It was then that she came in touch with Mapuche culture.

Valdés noticed that there was a lot of Mapuche culture around but that education about it was lacking. “It is very minimal. There are lots of aspects of Mapuche culture that Chileans don’t know about, or that they don’t understand.”

In an effort to revitalize and broaden the knowledge of Mapuche culture, Valdés, her fellow English teacher Pamela Correa Gurtubay, and María Paz Vargas Quidél (kindergarten teacher and mapuche herself) started working on an English adaptation of Mapuche stories. “As Chile becomes more and more intercultural, it seems like a good moment to start learning about the different people of Chile itself. By means of this book, we hope to contribute to keeping the Mapuche culture alive,” she said.

The result is a 30-page book that includes three stories, a recipe, and “search and find” puzzles. It tells the story of Alen, a young Mapuche girl. She takes the reader by the hand as she wanders through the Mapu (the Mapuche land), telling about fluke mapu (mother earth), mapudungún (the Mapuche language), and Mapuche traditions.

All three main stories represent important aspects of the Mapuche way of life. Valdés explains, “There are many things we can learn from the Mapuche. They have deep respect for our earth, and everything on it. Through storytelling, we can keep their centuries old knowledge relevant and alive.”

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The book is primarily meant for English and education teachers. “Pedagogical standards have changed over the years. Nowadays, there is a stronger focus on culture, diversity, and interculturality. This book is a vehicle to educate the younger Chileans about the diversity in their own country.”

“The book is meant to appeal to children. It is especially important to tell these stories to the younger generation, to teach them about the different cultures around them. Media do not highlight Chile’s diversity sufficiently.”

Available online for free

It is this reason that the book is also freely available online. Valdés: “That way, we hope to reach a broad audience. English and pedagogy teachers all over the country can easily mix it in with other learning materials. They can teach their students about the English language, and about the Mapuche at the same time.”

Valdés sees the book as a trailblazer. “There is a lot more to tell about the Mapuche, but also about different peoples in Chile, about their cultures and traditions. This book is just a start, it would be great if we could continue bringing these cultures under the attention.”

Mapuche Epew is available online on the university’s website. After the book’s official launch, a list of pronunciations will be added to the website so that readers can learn more about the different Mapuche words that appear in the stories.

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