Categories Blog, Chile, Latin America, Newsflash, Participative stories, Stories

The Caylin Island community, Chile, creates its ECMPO: Coastal and Marine Area for Native People

Text written by David Núñez, anthropologist, Honorary Member of the ICCA Consortium

Caylin is an island in the south of the Chiloé archipelago. In the seventeenth century, Jesuit missionaries settled several families of the nomadic navigating Kawésqar and Chono peoples, who, together with the Mapuche Williche of Chiloé, became the current indigenous community of Caylin Island.

Caylin Island’s wide bay, or inland sea, has been invaded in recent decades by marine cultures, which have generated dramatic amounts of garbage on its beaches and pollution in the sea.  This pollution has had the additional effects of obstructing ancestral navigation routes and creating a blight on the landscape.

In 2015, the community of Caylin petitioned the national government to create a Coastal and Marine Area for Native People (ECMPO) around the entire island and the adjacent Chaiguao Peninsula, in order to allow the communities to regain control over their territory and to play an active role in finding ways to protect the environment..

ECMPOs are a territorial protection entity under Law 20.249, promulgated in 2008. This law was promoted by the indigenous communities themselves, especially the Mapuche, after a long struggle that began in the mid-90s. However, due to a lack of political will, along with the pressure exerted by large business interests and the political sectors aligned with them, the process of granting ECMPOs has been extremely difficult and slow: currently more than 80 applications are pending, and fewer than 10 ECMPOs have been effectively granted.

Caylin Island’s request was brought to a vote on May 22, 2018, in the regional capital of Puerto Montt, before a mixed commission made up of public officials and representatives of aquaculture companies. This commission has generally shown itself to be adverse to the requests and interests of the indigenous communities, so the result of the vote was felt to be very uncertain.

The lonko (traditional leader) of the community was given only three minutes to defend the communities’ request in front of the commission. However, with the help of capable collaborators, they were able to present a compelling series of photographic slides. Their presentation contributed decisively to the outcome of the vote. The ECMPO was approved by an absolute majority: 31 votes in favor and only 5 abstentions.  (See the link below to view the slides).

The community, of course, celebrates this great achievement. They are aware that they now must work on the great task of managing this space, and to seeking agreements among all members of the community, as well as with other users of the marine space, such as artisanal fishermen and other non-indigenous neighbors.

[The slide show was prepared a few years ago by Benjamín Colivoro, a native of Caylin Island, and a member of the group Cantares de Quellón.  The Cantares group interprets the song that accompanies the slide show: “Desagravio”, written by Hector Leiva. For the presentation in front of the commission, the slideshow was updated with new photos by Cristian Colivoro].

Read more about the positioning of the Oservatorio Ciudadano, Costa Humbolt and the ICCA Consortium in this article: Coastal Indigenous Communities in Chile: the Historical Struggle for Access to Marine and Coastal Areas and Resources