TEMUCO, Chile – When Pope Francis visits the de facto capital of Chile's Mapuche people this week, he'll be inserting himself into an extended and sometimes violent conflict involving indigenous populations.
Both Mapuche and the Chilean government leaders have said in recent weeks they hope Francis can "facilitate dialogue" on disputes dating to the late 19th century. That's when the Mapuches were definitively defeated by the Chilean military are centuries of resistance.
At stake are many thorny issues: ownership of ancestral lands, legal recognition of the Mapuches' language and culture, and discrimination that their leaders say permeates all facets of life.
How far the pope goes in any statement supporting the Mapuches will be closely watched, and even fretted over. Francis has shown strong support for indigenous peoples during visits in other countries.