Mapuche communities resisting land grabbing by Benetton, Argentina

Mapuches communities in Santa Rosa Leleque fighting for decades to regain their ancestral lands, under the Benetton's brothers property.


In 1991 the Italian company Benetton purchased 970,000 ha of land to Compania de Tierras Sur Argentino S.A., then the biggest landowner in Argentine Patagonia. Much of this land was the ancestral home of the indigenous Mapuche people, yet they were expelled from their traditional home. In August 2002, two Mapuches Atilio Curianco and Rosa Nahuelquir occupied, 385 hectares of land in Santa Rosa - Leleque, Patagonia that had been sold to the company. This led to a media campaign and Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel also supported the Mapuches claim. The company offered the community 7,500 ha of land in the Chubut province instead but the community and Province government have refused, stating the land is not productive. In 2007 a group of Mapuche re-occcupied Santa Rosa. As the conflict had not been resolved, the occupation persisted. In late 2014, the Chubut Government recognized to the Mapuche people the use and the ownership of 625 ha in Santa Rosa, under the framing of the the law 26.160.

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Basic Data
NameMapuche communities resisting land grabbing by Benetton, Argentina
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Logging and non timber extraction
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesLand
Live Animals
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsBenetton used this land to keep 260,000 animals, including sheep, goats and rams, which produce 1 million 300 thousand kilograms of wool every year, for export to Europe, and 16,000 cattle destined for the slaughterhouse. They also use the land for forestry.
Project Area (in hectares)970000
Level of Investment (in USD)130000000
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date1991
Company Names or State EnterprisesCompanyia de Tierras Sur-Argentino from Argentina
Benetton from Italy
Relevant government actorsProvincial Governor of Chubut, INTA, IAC
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersMapuche International, Organizacion Mapuches Tehuelches 11 de Octubre, Comunidad Santa Rosa, Movimiento Mapuche Autónomo (MAP)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Criminalization of activists
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesReturning the complete area to the Mapuche.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.In 2004 a judge in the town of Esquel ruled in favour of the company in the dispute over the ownership of some 500 hectares of pampa in the Patagonia region.

In 2010 the litigation between the Mapuche community and the company Benetton continues.
Sources and Materials

ILO 169

Law 3657 in the Province of Chubut

Argentine Constitution (section 17 of article 75)

Law N°26.160


Asuntos Indigenas 4/2004, Derechos Territoriales. Iwgia. 2004

Indigenous peoples. Their forests, struggles and rights. World Rainforest Movement. 2005

La tierra que nos quitaron. Carrasco, Morita; Briones, Claudia. Iwgia. 1996

EL CASO LHAKA HONHAT. Titulacion de tierras indigenas. Carrasco, Norita; Zimerman, Silvina. Iwgia. 2006


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The invisible colours of Benetton
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Mapuche International (English)
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In Search of Their Roots: The Mapuche and Modern Society, Safiullina, A., The Argentina Independent, 29 April 2013.
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La Comunidad contra la Compañía: Mapuche vs. Benetton & Co, Kosovsky, D., Voces del Fenix,
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Benetton, otra vez con visitas, Aranda, D., Pagina12, 23/04/2015
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Argentina. La justicia de Benetton contra el Mapuche “Se está judicializando un reclamo social” afirmó la defensa, 6/06/2015
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Media Links

Documentary SUR, by Tommaso Barsali. SUR is a documentary project about a Mapuche family reclaiming the right to live on their ancestral land in Patagonia, Argentina, in a major case of post-colonial landgrabbing. Free access in Vimeo
[click to view]

Other Documents

A sign reads: ‘Santa Rosa community. Recovered Mapuche territory.’ Photo: Fabio D’Errico, on
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Mapuches occupying and claiming their ancestral lands "Mapuche Territory retrieved", Vocesenelfenix
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Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update10/08/2017