Propiedad del Prof. Carlos López von Vriessen - Valparaíso, Chile



Professor Dr.(Sportwiss) Carlos López von Vriessen
Escuela de Educación Física
Facultad de Filosofía y Educación
Universidad Católica de Valparaíso
November 1997


      This report is a kind of advance of an ethnological research in development, patronized by the “National Fond of Science and Technology Reasearch” (FONDECYT), project Nº 1950890/95 and by the Catholic University of Valparaiso, General Department of Research and Post-graduates (DGIP) project Nº 186.717/97. The aborigines of Latin-America are actually more than 40 millions, in Chili more than a million. As the Mapuche culture is one of the few that survived the aculturation and still maintains certain features of its original identity, this research refers to it. Before the Spanish invasion the Mapuche practiced physical activities for their survival, with ritual, social and recreative sence and as preparation to the war. The present research refers to the games. The relation between aboriginal culture and the game offers a wide field of studies, which has been -at least in Chili- scarcely investigated. The contact during centuries of the people -Spaniards and Mapuche- brings along the cultural, comercial and social exchange, including the games, which develop to sportive activities, without loosing their total identity. Until the beginning of the present century the palin or chueca, the pillmatun, the linao and other games changed to national games. The author employed for this research the ethnohistorical and ethnographical methods. The first is based on testimonies of written sources and iconography since the 16th century until the present, collected in a private archive, initiated in 1972. The second was investigated in Mapuche areas between the latitudes of 38º and 43º South since 1980. This information is registered in videos, films, fotographies, cassettes and ethnographical notes. In order to fulfill epistemology, in this ethnographical research the systems “emic” and “ethic” have been considered. Some 20 interesting and ingenious games have almost disappeared, giving space to foreign games. To-day its rescue is possible, even easy, it´s attractive and necessary to preserve the identity of the ethnic, and to enrich the didactic of Physical Education and popular and national recreation of Latin-America. With this research the results could be a contribution to the Ethnology of the native physical activity in Chili and to the pedagogy of the national and latinamerican Physical Education. Besides, it should invite to future researchers to cultivate it as a new and attractive disciplin of the Science of Physical Education and Sports.


Ethnology, Aboriginal Games, Physical Activity, Latinamerica


Most games studied are aboriginal. Supportive evidence to this are:

a)their inclusion into the “mapudungun” language

b)Chile’s toponimy, names of places related to the games

c) Ethnohistory, with lavish information of Spanish and Chilean witnesses from XVI c. until today

d)the native’s oral tradition
In spite of the war between Spain and Arauco (Mapuche land) in bordering territories like Bio-Bio river (37º 30’ Lat. S.), there was commercial and cultural exchange in which games played a very important role. Invaders and conquerers adopt and adapt mapuche games like “palin”, bean (and other native seeds) games, and the “kechukawe”, or 5 -faced dice. The Mapuche adopt the Spanish horse and create the “lefkawellun” (kawellu=caballo), horse races without saddle, this practice is the taken by the Spaniards, it then evolves to what today is known as “carreras a la chilena” (horse racing in Chilean fashing). Spaniards, criollos, Mapuche peolpe and mestizos (halfx-breed) of both sexes and all ages practiced these games and compete with eachother without any apparent discrimination. The mapuche borrowed from the Spanish people elements like the Spanish cards, horse riding and taming exercises, and possibly a game known as “taba” by the Spaniards and as “tafan” by the Mapuche, played with asthragalus bones of cattle, horse or sheep. The lower-class peasantry and urban people in Chile practice Mapuche games, even women. Apparently, after Independence, with the militar defeat of the Mapuche in the hands of the Chilean Army, the interest on these games and in the mapuche language itself, spoken by the new nation’s war heroes themselves-was lost. Educational efforts, made in order to introduce aboriginal games in Chile during the first two decades of the present century failed completely. Today, a didactic renovation is a must; one that counteracts the excessive competitive and deshumanizing influence of european-born sports. Aboriginal games are a real and interesting alternative. They are motivating and easy to implement in our present reality in Chile. They constitute an imnportant didactic activity, both in the school and in popular recreation for all ages.
      Finally, the author has achieved the gathering of a valuable record of written and iconographic sources from XVI to XX century, an ethnographic diary, didactic elements and audiovisual materials which have allowed him to publish a number of publications, both in Chile and overseas since1982, always within the same subject. In 1990 he gets his Ph D in Germany, with a thesis on the “palin” game (see bibliogrtaphy). He has also been able to get through barter, some games implements. This rich heap has already been used with success in his professorship (1994-1997) and in theses of undergraduate students in Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, since 1989.
      “Palin” or “chueca” is an aboriginal game, typical of South America’s Southern Cone. It was practiced from XVII to XIX centuries between latitudes 32º to 43º S. , from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans, including the Great Chaco and Rio de la Plata’s bowl. Doubtlessly, Chile was the area where this game reached a peak. Its influence in culture, social life and education was extremely important. The fact that palin was once the most popular and outstanding game should encourage future investigators to rescue and reinsert it into today’s recreational and sports life as the major aboriginal game in South America.
Finally, the Ethnology of the Physical Activity of the (Ethnology of game) could become a trend of qualitative research of great potential in the future, in Chile and in Latin America.