A history of German colonial iniquity

Ross presents a critical view of Germans participating in a range of colonial interventions that led to the eradication of the Mapuche people.

Copihue, after which this chapter is named, is the Chilean national flower. Originally red—its petals like drops of “hot, red, blood”—it has been bred into a completely white flower, which serves as a metaphor for the fate of the remaining Mapuche, who are being completely absorbed by the “race of the victors”. Germans have played a role in every aspect of this process. They, too, tricked the Mapuche out of their land by getting them drunk before giving them papers to sign; and, after the Chilean government intervened to end this practice, the Mapuche were simply killed off to avoid having to pay them properly for their land. It was Bavarian friars who came to save what remained of the population, but they did so by bringing the children to their boarding school, where they learned how to read and write, and where their indigenous language was replaced by Spanish. Meanwhile, Ross is reminded of the music of Copihue, the “hymn to the flower” he heard at a concert in Santiago. But this was not an indigenous song, but instead the product of the German composer Hans Oberstetter; just as the Germans helped to eradicate the Mapuche culture, they also worked to replace it with their own contributions.

It is significant that Ross does not shy away from locating Germans as equal agents in the Mapuche people’s demise. In arguing for the return of the colonies stripped from Germany with the Treaty of Versailles, many claimed that Germans had been better colonizers than their French and English counterparts, particularly in their treatment of indigenous populations. Ross’s depictions in this chapter counteract such claims.

Kristin Kopp

Colin Ross. Copihue. In:  Südamerika, die aufsteigende Welt. 1. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1922: 153-157.

Topic: Colonialism
Case: Geopolitics

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