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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 4 / 46





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440                           Politics of Latin America

mon lands called reducciones, which they worked communally or as indi­vidual family parcels. Communal property and a separate identity for in­digenous peoples clashed with the dictatorship's free-market ideals. In 1978 it broke up the reducciones and replaced them with the family farm, which could be bought, mortgaged, and sold to cultivate individualistic, competi­tive, and economic maximizing behavior among the Mapuche. The demo­cratic governments of Patricio Aylwin and Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle have at­tempted to redress some of the worst discriminatory policies of the military government and earlier. A vibrant indigenous peoples' movement has also emerged. All told, approximately 900,000 people claiming Mapuche heritage currently live in Chile, most of them exploited and poor.


Chilean women have also suffered from a long history of second-class citi­zenry and discrimination, albeit in relation to men. However, as the twen­tieth century progressed they made advances; After World War II they won the right to vote (1949) and obtained wide access to education, including university education. Yet even well. into the 1960s, debates over whether women should have unrestricted access to higher education were common. Many men argued that because of marriage women frequently did not fin­ish their degree programs; thus, given the limited size of entry classes, they represented a waste of scarce educational resources. Such views notwith­standing, women have steadily gained entry into the professions. Women have also become more visible in the business world at the midmanagerial level, although the board room still remains a predominantly male preserve. Female participation in the nonprofessional labor force has also increased since the 1970s, especially in nondomestic services (food services, sales, sec­retarial) and nontraditional industry (fruit packing, canneries, poultry dress­ing and packaging). Thus, traditional gender roles are increasingly under challenge among both the middle and working classes.

Women have become an important political force in Chile as well. At the most basic level, since obtaining the right to vote in 1949 they have had a significant impact on elections. But they have also played a more direct role in politics as of late. To begin with, the women's movement was a vital force in the opposition to the military regime, especially in organizing the vote that defeated Pinochet in the decisive plebiscite of October 5,1988. In newly redemocratized Chile, female politicians in municipalities and in the national legislature are more numerous than ever before, representing the full polit­ical spectrum. They also occupy numerous government posts, although not the most sensitive and visible ones.

Despite these advances, women still suffer from gender discrimination, not only in the workplace but also socially. Women, and married women in particular, are subjugated to men where property and the legal guardian­ship of children are concerned. Consequently, the lack of a divorce law dis­proportionately affects women, especially after married couples separate.

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