Araucanians - Orientation

Identification. The name "Araucanian" is of Spanish origin. Historically, Mapuche or "people from the land" was the term used to designate the Araucanians occupying the south-central area of the Chilean territory but now is the term used by all Araucanians. The terms "Huilliche" (people of the south), "Pehuenche" (piñon-eating people of the mountains), "Lafquenche" (people of the coast), and "Picunche" (people of the north") were used by the Araucanians to differentiate their regional areas. The term "Promaucae" (rebellious people) was given to the Araucanians by the Incas.

Location. Aboriginally, the Araucanians occupied the region between the Río Choapa (32° S) and Chiloé Island (42°50′ S). The majority of Araucanians live in the Chilean provinces of Arauco, Bio-Bio, Malleco, Cautín, Valdivia, Osorno, and Llanquihue between 37° and 40° S. (In 1975 the twenty-five Chilean provinces were reorganized into thirteen regions. Arauco, Malleco, and Cautín are now in the ninth region; Bio-Bio is in the eighth region; Valdivia, Osorno, and Llanquihue are in the tenth region.) Within this area summers are warm and the winters characterized by heavy rainfalls. The annual average rainfall is over 200 centimeters and the average temperature is 10° C. In Argentina, the Araucanians are found in the provinces of Buenos Aires, Río Negro, Mendoza, Chubut, La Pampa, Santa Cruz, and Neuquén (between 41° and 36° S and 73° and 78° W. Neuquén has the largest concentration of Araucanians.

Demography. The aboriginal population of the Araucanians has been estimated to have been between 500,000 and 1,500,000 at the time of the Conquest. Today it is estimated that there are about 400,000 Araucanians in Chile and 40,000 in Argentina.

linguistic Affiliation. The Araucanian language, Mapudungun, belongs to the Mapuche Stock and is comprised of several dialects. In Chile these are: Mapuche proper, Picunche, Pehuenche, Huilliche, and Chilote. Mapuche proper was spoken from the Bio-Bio to the Token rivers at the time of the Conquest; at present it is spoken in the provinces of Bio-Bio, Maule (in the seventh region), Arauco, Cautín and Nuble (in the eighth region). Picunche was spoken from Coquimbo to the Rio Bio-Bio. Pehuenche is spoken from Valdivia to Neuquén. Huilliche is spoken in Chile in the province of Valdivia and in Argentina in the Lake Nahuel Huapí region. In Argentina, Moluche or Nguluche and Ranquelchue are also spoken. Moluche is spoken from Limay to Lake Nahuel Huapí. Ranquelchue was spoken on the plains of La Pampa and can now be heard in Chalileo, General Acha, and on the Rio Colorado.

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