A Brief History of the Minga Tradition in Chiloé

Photo of Lucy Pierce
4 October 2017

The island of Chiloé is found in the south of Chile in the Los Lagos Regions (the Lake District). It is the second largest island in South America, after Tierra del Fuego. Here’s everything you need to know about the amazing local tradition of minga.

La minga de tiradura de casas is a tradition that dates back centuries. The term minga means requesting help while promising something in return, which is still a code that Chilotes live by. Allende’s El Cuaderno de Maya (Maya’s Notebook) depicts these same customs and community spirit in her novel, when the protagonist Maya is banished to Chiloé.

Chiloé | © wikimedia/googleimages

The concept of moving home here, is something a little different to that which we’re used to. With the help of the community they move the existing wooden structures of their entire house! The preparation takes time as the foundations must be cut and pulled out, then the frame of the house lifted onto tree trunks. More tree trunks are then used to create a rolling effect, if they want to travel by land – a lot of man and oxen power is needed to tug the house, yet it must be done slowly and carefully in order not to cause damage. However, if they want to move to the other side of the archipelago, they must attach the house to a boat, and then the same process is used with the oxen when they arrive at their destination.

Minga | © Eduardo Zárate/flickr

During which, the curanto, a typical dish from Chiloé, which includes meat, vegetables, fish and potatoes is prepared. The food is cooked on hot stones in the earth, and then covered with large fern leaves while it cooks. The dish is then served to all who participated in the minga, and the house is in its new location!

Curanto en Hoyo, Chile | © madhseason/Flickr

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