The book chosen for this review is Courage Tastes of Blood: The Mapuche Community of Nicolas Ailio and the Chilean State, 1906-2001 by Florencia Mallon. The book is based on the thesis that the Mapuche community of Nicolas Ailio has had a long history of struggle in the first decades of the twentieth century as they fought for the restitution of their lost land. They also had to deal with abject poverty and repression in Chile. In summary, the book effectively talks about how the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group in Chile, endured land usurpation in the early decades of the twentieth century. It also highlights how they were motivated by the agrarian reform of the 1960s as they tried to find their way out of poverty and repression. However, their survival during these difficult times became possible because they subsequently became a significant part of Chile’s culture and political history. Florencia E. Mallon was born in Santiago, Chile, but grew up in both the U.S. and Latin America. This explains her clear approach to the writing of this book. She works as a professor of modern Latin history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has written a number of relevant works on other Latin American communities. This essay explicates the view that Courage Tastes of Blood: The Mapuche Community of Nicolas Ailio and the Chilean State, 1906-2001 is an interesting book, which offers a distinctive perspective on the evolution of democracy in Chile and its subsequent collapse with the military coup of 1973.
The most significant aim of the author of the book was to highlight the plight of the Mapuche community in Chile. As noted earlier, they suffered from the loss of land, discrimination, and repression in their own land. Notably, Mallon achieves this aim through her striking interviews and dialogues with members of the community. She calls her approach to these interviews dialogical, and it effectively uses oral history and ethnology techniques. Overall, the book is organized in such a way that Mallon begins with interviews before presenting her findings on the real sufferings that this community went through. For instance, she is open from the beginning and sympathizes with the Mapuche community and their conditions on matters related to land and power. This enables her to make friends in the community and collect as many details as possible in order to complete the book and achieve its aims. These aims are justified because no other author had ever thought about writing about the Mapuche community in English. However, Mallon decided to collect such details and interpret them clearly in English for better understanding of the issues. Generally, the organization of the book follows the author’s aims because most of her interviews begin informally, continue with a formal set of questions, allow the subject to discuss different issues, and get back to the dialogue between the author and different subjects. These aims support the author’s thesis on the sufferings of the community because they offer a primary insight into the real issues on the ground.
Mallon’s main points in the book are organized in the best way possible. The most interesting aspect of the organization of her points is that she fully discusses every issue raised without contradicting her ideas. The presentation of thoughts is clear because of the transitions used in the book. For example, it is good to know that she is moving from her interview sessions with members of the community to the presentation of the information gathered. She explains her main points in the most appropriate manner utilizing ethos, pathos, and logos. For instance, the emotional appeal of the history of the Mapuche community is reflected through her own personal touch to their plight. She makes it clear that history could have been tough for any community to bear. The most appealing aspect of the presentation of these points is the way Mallon supports them using primary evidence and researches related to the Mapuche. She talks directly to community members and uses the same information to support her argument. Interviews on the land rights and powers offer her the opportunity to support the main points in the book in the most appealing manner possible. Her main points are based on the assumption that the significance of the Mapuche community in Chile’s history has been ignored by authors all over the world for a long time, and it is time to show in detail what the community endured in its journey to cultural and political recognition.
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The use of evidence to support the author’s claims and the thesis statement of the book is impeccable. It is notable that Mallon relies on appropriate evidence to support the claim that the Mapuche community of Nicolas Ailio has been crucial in shaping the historical background of Chile. For instance, Mallon makes claims to substantiate her thesis by seriously considering the divergent subjectivities and political visions of members of the Mapuche community. It would have been extremely difficult for her to make such claims without serious analysis of the shared visions of the members of the community. These views are also made clear through the use of an innovative historical narrative, which is reflective of the collaboration she has with the residents of Nicolas Ailio. She does not take individual credit for the work but believes most of this is attained through the views offered by members of the community. Additionally, the connection between the claims and evidence are made clearly and logically throughout the book. For instance, she talks about the historical land injustices affecting the entire community and clearly links this to the accounts of individual members of the community. This signifies the shift of her claims from her broader perspective to a narrow one facilitated by concrete evidence from the individual community members. Thus, she effectively combines a historian’s sensitivity with the context of the community. She also combines an ethnographer’s attention with the excellent description of the culture of the Mapuche community, capturing their everyday life as an indigenous community in the midst of rapid social transformation catalyzed by emerging globalization. With this approach to claims and evidence, she is able to support her thesis in the most satisfactory manner possible, which appeals to all readers.
In the book, Mallon arrives at several key conclusions that come directly from the thesis and the aims of the book. One of the key conclusions is that in contrast to how the Mapuche community has been traditionally understood in their country, they are not uni-dimension, independent from the state, or from the powers of the society. They are similar to other communities in Chile but have a distinct history because of the numerous problems they have had to deal within the country. The second crucial conclusion in the book is that the entire Mapuche community has grown over the years despite the repression and the resistance they had to offer to defend their own land rights and powers. They are not a traditional community that individuals are likely to mistake because its members have positively responded to the changing global and trends around the world. The last key conclusion of the author is that there existed legal and political tensions between the Chilean legislation and policy created to protect the aboriginal land rights and the Mapuche community. This happened especially because the policy promoted private and non-native ownership of their land. These conclusions are presented clearly, and they are connected with the author’s thesis, showing the long-term resistance and suffering that the community had to undergo to reclaim its own land. It is worth appreciating that the conclusions follow directly from the thesis and the claims and from the ways they are developed. The thesis has been developed from the perspective that the Mapuche community has fought for its rights for a long period and has ultimately gained cultural and political recognition, and the three conclusions logically emanate from the perspective.
Mallon specifically sees history as primarily influenced by politics, the individuals, economics and nationalism. In the view of the author, politics influence history through the centers of power within the country. For instance, the center of power in Chile at that time was the democratic presidential government that was subsequently overthrown in 1973, which led to the continued repression of the Mapuche community. It would have been a different case for the community if such political events had not occurred in the country. More so, the history is made by economics as seen from the arbitrary marginalization of the Mapuche. With economic power, the Mapuche community would have fought easily against their oppressors. The forces that consisted of people of different races also played a role in the development of history because the land was given to non-natives for racial reasons. The most significant impact of the author’s view about the way history was influenced by the development of the book is proper investigation of the issues. Mallon does not give general information about these historical events, but she moves forward to give an accurate account through her direct interviews. These views made her dig deeper into the nature of living and the contemporary political aspirations of members of this community.
In conclusion, the author’s interpretation of claims and the thesis of the book is fair and accurate because it does not rely on her subjective judgment of events, but follows from close interviews with the members of the Mapuche community. The entire presentation of information is impeccable and does not have any form of flaws and generalizations because the specific focus here is the Mapuche community of Nicolas Ailio. The overall point of the book is that the Mapuche community must be appreciated more when analyzing Chile’s history. It is not easy to study Chile’s history without considering the land injustices and repressions that the Mapuche community faced in its efforts to redeem the long-lost independence. The most significant advantage of these points is that they present an appealing insight into the indigenous Chilean communities and the history of the whole country. It is also advantageous in the reflection of the importance of globalization in the transformation of indigenous communities. This could be directly applied to all other communities around the globe. The points presented in this book have impacted the way I view history. I now view history as something that is not only based on positives but also negatives, such as the suffering of the Mapuche community and their subsequent redemption as a culturally and politically strong community. Again, I also gained the view that history is a gradual notion that passes from one aspect to the next with the determination of individuals involved in it.
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