March 12 2009
Mapuche Indian records Bizet's Carmen - in mapudungun

Maria Curilen

A Chilean Mapuche Indian has recorded an aria from French composer Georges Bizet's opera Carmen in her native tongue, mapudungun, in a bid to preserve a culture whose traditions are disappearing.

Opera student Maria Pasten Curilen, 25, hopes that her version of the aria 'Habanera', translated into mapudungun from the original French, will help rekindle interest among young fellow Mapuche Indians in their own heritage.

"As time passes, often people forget their roots and I think it is very important for us to be able to preserve our traditions," Pasten said, singing the aria in a traditional skirt and head-dress.

The Mapuche, whose name means "people of the earth" in their own language, fiercely resisted the Conquistadors in the 16th century and held on to their bastion in south-central Chile during colonial times.

Today, just 4.6 percent of Chile's population of around 16 million, say they are Mapuche and many live in cities where they struggle to preserve their traditions and language.

Pasten's recording can be heard on the website of the municipality of Cerro Navia (
Opera in Mapuche language.