December 10, 2020 | Life & Culture

Llelliuquen in Puerto Saavedra: Tourism with a Mapuche worldview

Llelliuquen in Puerto Saavedra: Tourism with a Mapuche worldview | Marca Chile

Llelliuquen is a Mapudungún word that means the maximum expression of love and respect for Mapuche culture. Mapuche businesswoman Genoveva Neculman, who lives in Piedra Alta in Puerto Saavedra, seeks to imprint this concept onto the experience that she offers the visitors who come to her property, which is named for the term.

Ügnü Llelliuquen is the tourism project that Neculman manages with her husband and three daughters. It has cabins for lodging, a ruka or communal structure and a garden where they grow murtillas, a local fruit that is the main raw material for the organic products that they sell.

She describes this initiative as much more than merely a vacation destination, explaining that it is a family experience. “My visitors are not visitors. They are part of my ruka. They are my family,” Neculman explains, adding that her greatest wish is to provide excellent service to those who pass through Llelliuquen: “That is everything to me. That is what fulfills me.”

In addition to offering lodging and handicrafts, Neculman tells stories and shares her culture’s worldview with her visitors. “They drink mate (a tea that is enjoyed communally) with us, and talk to us. I give them talks,” Genoveva explains about the days spent by the bonfire, adding that one of her main lessons is that anything is possible. “If you can dream it, you can do it. That is what I have tried to do throughout my whole life. I am a 61 year-old woman, and I am proud of it because those years have not passed in vain. It has been a struggle.”

Genoveva reflects on how the social unrest in Chile and the pandemic that followed have impacted her business. Although the number of visitors has decreased, she prefers to look at her situation optimistically. She believes that these are simply signs from her creator: “This is supposed to tell us something. Hopefully, something beautiful is coming our way- something that will allow us to come together.”

Neculman’s final reflections are about the values that motivate her, her culture and her tourism business. She says that respect, which is part of the word Llelliuquen, is essential to her life. Respecting others regardless of their culture, politics or the color of their skin.

“I am a Mapuche woman: a woman of the land, of work, of struggle. Our visitors experience that, and they end up wanting to return,” Genoveva explains. “I’m not putting on a show for tourists. This is just who I am.”

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