Chile agrees to official status for Mapudungun language at the local level

The Contraloría General admits that municipalities have "authority" to make official use of languages in addition to Spanish · Director of Galvarino municipality language service asks for expanded use of Mapudungun in schools, media

In a landmark decision, the Chilean state acknowledged that the municipality of Galvarino (Wallmapu) has the right to grant Mapudungun (the language of the Mapuche people) official status at the local level. Mapudungun had gained official status in Galvarino -named after a 16th-century Mapuche warrior- in August 2013, but the local authorities had requested an opinion to the Contraloría General (Comptroller) of Chile on whether the decision was appropriate or not.

The Contraloría General controls the legality of acts of the public administration. In its opinion 45,010, it says that municipalities have "authority" to "regulate the inclusion" of Mapudungun "as an official language, alongside Spanish, in the field of municipal activities." The decision adds that both languages ​​"are used interchangeably by the inhabitants" of the municipality. "It is not permissible to consider that those people can not use their respective languages on equal conditions​​."

The Contraloría further argues that no provision adopted in favor of Mapudungun can be aimed at limiting the use of Spanish.

Director of Galvarino's Mapudungun language service Rodrigo Marilaf believes that the municipality should now pass a relevant bylaw allowing the introduction of a bilingual language policy. According to Marilaf, Mapudungun needs to be further used in schools and the media, and its knowledge should be expanded to the non-Mapuche too.

The decision by the Contraloría opens the door for other municipalities with indigenous population to declare other official languages at the local level. Apart from Mapudungun, other indigenous languages such as Rapanui, Aymara and Kawésqar (the latter seriously endangered) are spoken in Chile.

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