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The Nation-State According to Whom?

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Mapuches and the Chilean State in the Early Nineteenth Century

image of Journal of Early American History

In the early nineteenth century Chilean elites centralized political power and forged a national state independent of Spain. The new government’s main goals were to expand Chile’s national territory as far south as Cape Horn, a region that included the frontier zone known as Araucanía (between the Bío-Bío and Toltén Rivers), and assimilate Araucanía’s inhabitants, the “barbaric” Mapuche Indians- several ethnic groups that shared a language and cultural traditions- into Chilean society. Some Mapuche groups such as the Trapatrapa Pehuenches and the Abajinos became ardent supporters of the state’s territorial ambitions. They allied with the Chilean government and fought against a common enemy that included a few remaining Spanish officers, soldiers, and other Mapuche groups such as the Arribanos and Pehuenches of Chillán. This article will analyze the Pehuenches of Chillán and the Arribanos. The Pehuenches of Chillán resisted the Chilean government’s efforts at territorial expansion on to their lands. The Arribanos initially resisted with the Pehuenches of Chillán, but in the mid-1820s switched sides and became a supporter of the Chilean state. This article will address why these two groups were divided and the actions each group undertook to achieve its desired outcome. Ultimately it took most of the nineteenth century for the Chilean state to acquire national territory that extended as far south as Cape Horn, and those that lost the most were the Mapuches.

Affiliations: 1: University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Greensburg, PA, USA,


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