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Graphic and Ethnographic Study of Funeral Practices in the Mehuín Bajo Cemetery


Seminar on Vernacular Expressions of Southern Chile, Between La Araucanía and Aysén.

National Monuments Council, Ministry of Culture of Chile

The study in question explores vernacular funeral manifestations within the Lafkenches Cemeteries, located on the Coast of Los Ríos, with a particular focus on the Mehuín Bajo Cemetery. Founded in 1965, this cemetery is a fascinating crucible that intertwines ancestral traditions with contemporary elements, incorporating industrial materials and modern ornaments into its aesthetic and structure.

Adopting an approach that amalgamates graphic and ethnographic techniques, the investigation delves into the symbology and meanings that lie in the funeral practices of the Mapuche culture present in this cemetery. The graves are perceived and analyzed not merely as burial sites but as narrative mantles that display a "makuñ" of flowers, dialoguing with the traditional Mapuche looms.

The arrangement of flowers, meticulously organized around the perimeter of the graves, creates singular geometric figures, which not only fulfill an aesthetic purpose but also seem to reveal the deceased's social and parental connections. Through interpreting these patterns, the study deciphers symbolic relationships, such as those existing between mother and child, marriages, and other social linkages.

Moreover, the color wheel utilized in the floral arrangements introduces a play of complementary colors that hypothetically bear an additional level of symbolism. The study speculates that these chromatic choices might be communicating specific cultural messages or codifications, turning each grave into a tapestry of visual and symbolic narratives and beliefs.

Framed in a blend of antiquity and modernity, the Mehuín Bajo Cemetery serves as a canvas that reflects not only the Mapuche funeral practices but also a window to profoundly understand the cosmogony, social relations, and spiritual beliefs of the community. Through this integrated analysis of visuality, symbology, and cultural practice, the study provides a respectful and holistic recounting that honors and seeks to comprehend the complex web of life, death, and memory that intertwines in each burial, within a context that mixes tradition and contemporaneity.


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