South America


IES: Argnt.SCCS:

Mapuche: 3-,3-,3-,3-,2,2;7,5

ARAUCANIANS (Chile, Argentina)


IndexAmericasSouth AmericaArgentina→ Araucanians, Mapuche

Also featured: Pilagá, Mataco, Ona, Teheulche






Sister Hilger (1957)[1] states that child betrothal was rare, in which case marriage would be delayed till fifteen (p329, 389). Hilger (1957) has no arguments on child sexuality. Among the Argentine Araucanians, a girl is prepared for menarche, but not explained its purpose. (p293). “Neither boys not girls were given sex instructions. Speaking of sex matters was practically taboo. “We would not talk about it; it was too delicate. Things were very strict formerly. A girl of 20 years old knew nothing about sex; today very young girls know everything they should not know [ch. Chippeway]. Formerly, if a young man touched a girl, like putting his hands on hers of holding hers, his father had to make a payment in animals to the girl’s father”. In rare instances, however, a mother or a gandmother told the girl the purpose of menstruation” (p292). At menarche, girls are secluded; boy’s pubescence is not ritually marked.

Thus, among the Araucanians of Chile, girls are not instructed about sex or menarche (p57), and there are no puberty rites for either sex. Children among themselves are said to be “modest” (p57, 244).

The Mapuche feel that premarital sexual experimentation is “natural and even desirous”, but also urge their children to settle down to married life after a few years’ sexual freedom (Faron, 1968:p40)[2]. At age twelve a boy may be told about “manhood” and the rules of marriage. Faron (1961:p157-9)[3] states that senior members of children’s play groups act as “[…] founts of information about sexual matters. By and large, these groups are composed of closely related youngsters who are members of the same lineage and who tend not to engage in sexual experimentation among themselves, although they discuss sexual matters avidly. Children are aware of their parents’ sex activities and occasion make lewd reference to them among their peers. […] Parents do not inform young children about sex and its functions and, indeed, there seems no appreciable difference in this knowing between adolescents and their elders. […] very little information about sexual functions passes directly from father to son. Mothers usually advise their daughters at the onset of their first menses with regard to bodily cleanliness and the care of soiled garments, but again little or nothing about sexual activity is transmitted from mother to unmarried daughter”. Nevertheless, “[p]remarital sexual activity is expected to begin at about the onset of puberty, though parents restrict their children’s opportunity for sexuality in an attempt to keep it within respectable bounds. […] Sexual intercourse is often first experienced by boys during early adolescence, while still attending school. For most girls, however, it is said that this experience comes a few years later and usually under the guise of courtship”.










Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Hilger, M. I. (1957) Araucanian Child Life and its Cultural Background. Washington : Smithsonian Institution

[2] Faron, L. C. (1968) The Mapuche Indians of Chile. New York [etc.]: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

[3] Faron, L. C. (1961) Mapuche Social Structure.Urbana: University of Illinois Press