1286884709-march-in-support-of-the-mapuche-people-in-santiago_472646Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner demanded this week that the British government “return” the disputed Falkland Islands to Argentina.

Today the indigenous Mapuche people of Patagonia have in turn asked Kirchner to return the entire country of Argentina back to its native population, from whom the nation was stolen 400 years ago by Spanish colonists.

In a speech delivered in Buenos Aires’s historic Plaza de Mayo, Mapuche leader Ainavillo Chihuailaf requested that President Kirchner immediately hand over control of all Argentinan territory to a group of native chiefs.

“The Argentinian government accuses Britain of ‘colonial behavior,’ despite the fact that they only landed a few hundred settlers on an uninhabited island.”

“I think the real colonialists are the 40 million Spanish-speaking white people who live on my ancestors’ land. We the Mapuche are calling on Argentina to remove its settlers from our land and return them to Europe.”

Islas de Desesperación

The Falkland Islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, form a British overseas territory lying off of Argentina’s coast. They were settled in 1834 by the British Navy and colonized by settlers in 1840. Although they were never part of the Spanish empire, Argentina claims the islands as its own.

The 3,000 English speaking citizens of the islands, however, have several times voted to remain associated with the United Kingdom. Frustrated with this principle of self-determination, Argentina invaded the islands in 1982 and occupied them for two months until their forces were expelled by the British.

The Falklands War was largely seen as an attempt by Argentina’s military dictators to rouse popular support for their flailing regime. In the past few years the unpopular Kircher has attempted a more moderate version of the same strategy, putting significant public and diplomatic pressure on the U.K. to cede the ‘colonial’ territory.

For the Mapuche – who were nearly wiped out by Argentine settlers in a bloody 19th century wars of conquest – the irony of Argentina’s position is clear.

“If we’re going to start returning lands to their rightful owners, Kirchner can start with the presidential palace,” says Chihuailaf. “Native peoples occupied that land for thousand of years before her ancestors came, and frankly we would like it back.”

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