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Likantatay is an Atacameño urban indigenous community located in Calama mining town in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. In 1991, a group of 36 Atacameño immigrant families from interior rural villages, driven by the marginal conditions in which they lived, decided to petition land to the Ministry of Government Property and started a squatter settlement down in a former pasturing zone in the poverty belt of the city. It was barren land with no public services or houses to live in. These families had to build their homes from the ground up. Most were slum dwellings, with dirt floors, and shantytown construction. From its very beginnings, the people of Likantatay assert that their main objective has been to reconstruct their “traditional” Atacameño community but in an urban space.
In The Invention of Culture (1975) Roy Wagner develops an interesting perspective of culture as a work of art, where creation plays a central role in making culture visible. His approach fits the case of Likantatay quite well. Wagner argues that creation is embedded with invention, which is not to say that people are fake, but rather that, the power of invention is what gives the people of a culture some control over the opportunities they create for themselves, in their collective struggles for their rights and recognition.
This talk addresses the story of Likantatay's resilience. They have resisted the manifold aggressions of copper mining on their community, from displacements from a rural lifestyle because of mining company’s voracious extraction of water in the desert, to the threat of a forced resettlement due to the existence of copper ore beneath their land. They are still fighting today.
Anita Carrasco is associate professor of Anthropology at Luther College. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in northern Chile for two decades. Her forthcoming book Embracing the Anaconda: A Chronicle of Atacameño Life and Mining in the Andes with Lexington Books, will be available in bookstores at the end of the spring of 2020.