The Mapuche spiritual leader Celestino Cordova has finally been able to attend his Rewe renewal ceremony after the Chilean gendarmerie granted him temporary permission to leave prison, where he is being held on murder charges he denies.
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Cordova, a Mapuche Machi, has now returned to the Intercultural Hospital of Nueva Imperial, an hour from Temuco, where he is being treated after a prolonged hungerstrike to demand his right to visit his Rewe, a spiritual necessity for every Machi and their community.
The Machi was heavily guarded by 100 gendarmerie officers forming the first security perimeter and 150 police officers doing rounds. Members of the Chilean security Special Forces and a helicopter were also present.
Cordova exited the hospital at 5:25 a.m. local time for Lleupeco Tres Cerros, in the Padre Las Casas commune, home of his Rewe, arriving at 6 a.m., according to Mauricio Ojeda, governor of Cautin province.
Fewla. Nueva Imperial-Vocería Machi Celestino confirma salida al Rewe por 48 hrs. Y se depone la huelga de hambre. Agradecimientos a todxs aquellxs que se movilizaron por este objetivo. No olvidar que los hermanos Trangol continúan en huelga de hambre. pic.twitter.com/nZZT1KJ5CY
— RADIO KVRRUF (@RadioKurruf) 27 de julio de 2018
"Fewla. Nueva Imperial-Spokespersons of Machi Celestino confirm his exit to the Rewe for 48 hours. The hunger strike has been suspended. We thank all of you that mobilized for this objective. Let’s not forget that the brothers Trangol continue on hunger strike."
The ceremony, usually attended by hundreds of members of the community, was sparse because authorities only authorized 30 to be present. Cordova was granted only 15 hours to carry out the ceremony before being escorted back to hospital.
Nueva Imperial.- Momento exacto de la llegada del Machi Celestino a hospital intercultural. Bajo fuerte contingente policial. pic.twitter.com/IQyH2rHSHT
— RADIO KVRRUF (@RadioKurruf) 29 de julio de 2018
"Nueva Imperial.- Exact moment of Machi Celestino’s arrival to the intercultural hospital, heavily guarded by police."
Gabriela Calfucoy, one of Cordova’s spokespersons, said the Machi was not handcuffed and that he was able to carry out the ceremony as expected.
The Rewe is a kind of totem normally made out of an old oak tree. Acorrding to Galvarino Reiman, another Cordova spokesperson, the Rewe’s shape and dimensions depend on the community.
Together, they represent the Mapuche world view and connect their particular spaces on Earth with the rest of the Wallmapu, the sorrounding Mapuche territory. It represents the place where the Machi relates with his tutor spirits that give him strength.
"Through the Rewe, the Machi communicates with nature and the owners of the territory," Caudio Millacura, a scholar at the University of Chile’s anthropology department, told La Tercera.
"They mark the spot where the Machi makes contact with his ancestors. These energies come from the universe and nature."
Millacura says it’s the Machi’s responsibility to keep balance in the community and so he needs to be in contact with those energies. That’s why it’s so important for him to attend his Rewe. Beng imprisoned far away, that balance is broken.
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"Because he’s far he has to come back to that territory to pause those energies and say ‘I’ll be far, but I’ll be in another territory,’" explains Millacura.
"The Machi has said that because he’s not at liberty, he will fulfill his responsibility in the place he is now… he has to come back and pause it. If not, it will remain open and energy will be lost."
The Machi Victor Camilla, a Mapuche health specialist who works at the Imperial hospital, ordered a four-phase medical treatment for Cordova in October 2017, but the government has failed to comply.
Three of the phases were carried out in the same hospital, but the last one, the renewal of his energy at his community’s Rewe, has been blocked by the government.
"The authorities comply with western doctors with no problem at all, but this is about a medical prescription from a specialist in Mapuche health that hasn’t been recognized," said Marcos Rabanal, a lawyer at the National Human Rights Institute (INDH) in Temuco.
"This specialist in Mapuche health is no invention of the INDH, but it’s recognized by the Chilean health ministry."
The Chilean gendarmerie granted Cordova permission to attend his Rewe on Friday after months of rejected requests and two hunger strikes that seriously damaged his health.
Cordova is one of the few people convicted for the murder of the Luchsinger Mackay couple, who died in an arson attack on their home in 2013. Cordova and his supporters claim he is innocent and that the trial was rigged. He is currently serving an 18-year sentence.