SANTIAGO – Angry protestors burned a bus and scattered pamphlets in protest of an upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Araucania region, which has long been a site of attempts by the Mapuche indigenous groups to reclaim land annexed by Chile in the late 1900s.
Police said on Friday that the arson attack took place in the Araucania region, about 370 miles (600 kilometers) south of the Chilean capital. The pamphlets read: “Fire to the churches. Pope Francis: You’re not welcome to Araucania.”
The pontiff will visit Chile from 15-18 January, and he will lead a mass in Temuco, the capital of the Araucania region, on 17 January.
The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group. They resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years until the Chilean military in the late 19th century forcibly “pacified” Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river. The government then encouraged European immigrants to colonize the area.
Most of the indigenous people there now live in poverty on the fringes of land used by timber companies or ranches owned by the descendants of the European colonists.