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by Eduardo Luna

Translated by Catherine Boyle 

Head for Heights Workshop 17 – 19 December 2019 


In 1960, after the violent earthquake in Valdivia, a Mapuche community near Lago Budi undertook the sacrifice of a boy to calm supernatural forces and avoid a major catastrophe. Back then, those responsible for the act were put on trial; however, they were declared innocent, and, over the years, the records of the judicial process disappeared. In the present day, a group of law students has been assigned this case for their legal clinic course exam and must speculate about the judge’s decision in the past, due to the absence of a sentence of reference, confronting their own cultural and social prejudices. The play received the following awards: “Juan Radrigan” for Best Play in 2018, the “X Contadores Awards” for Best Ensemble, and the Premios Literarios del Ministerio de las Culturas, Artes y el Patrimonio (Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage Literary Awards) for Best Play in 2018.

Physical copy available at Editorial Cuarto Propio at the following link 

The following text is an excerpt from the play.

This play is fully protected under Chilean copyright laws.

The sound of the frogs of Lago Fudi, ex Budi. The awakening of Alberto / a cry. Melisa / Domo Wesakelu white, has not slept, distracted. 


ERNESTO: (Lost in time / space) What time is it? 

MELISA: Seven thirty. 

ALBERTO: We fell asleep!!! 

RODRIGO: Melisa, why didn’t you say? There’s no time at all ‘til the exam! 

MELISA: Ernesto’s phone was ringing for ages and none of you woke up, so I turned it off. 

RODRIGO: We hadn’t even agreed on the final statement for the defence! Melisa, did you do it deliberately? 

ERNESTO: Rodri, stop it, we fell asleep and now we have to sort this out. 

ALBERTO: What should we do? Get dressed? 

ERNESTO: I think so. 

All three of them start to dress formally for the exam. 

MELISA: Did you know that dreams tell the Mapuches how to live, what decisions to take, how to die or even when to help someone else to die? 

RODRIGO: (To Melisa) Why are you dressed like that? 

MELISA: I’m going to do the exam like this. I’m to be the Machi, that’s what you said. … I changed my statement … (To Rodrigo) After listening to you explain how you had decided to solve the trial, I thought … And then I carried on thinking, while you were all sleeping. The guys / you are right, Juana Namuncura did sacrifice the boy. 

RODRIGO: (Ironic / Annoyed) I’m so glad you gave it some thought. I’m pleased. I’m pleased that you agree with us, because we’ve got no time left now to rethink it all. 

MELISA: Yes, I realised that defending her as I was trying to defend her was a mistake. I was trying to use minor issues that could suggest REASONABLE DOUBT, when there is no doubt whatsoever. 

She dreamt about the end of humanity and she dreamt what she had to do to avoid it. 


MELISA: I looked over the report about seismic activity, the nguillatún for the sacrifice started at 20.00 on the 5 June 1960 and the last movement of the earth was at 1.55 a.m. on 6 June, probably just after the end of the ceremony. Juana Namuncura sacrificed José Luis Painecur to save humanity, she even sacrificed her own image, becoming for ever in history a Mapuche witch. 


RODRIGO: Meli, you went on some strange trip. 

MELISA: Since you all told me the details of the case, I was sure that the death of the boy had happened, but I also knew that it wasn’t a MURDER. The death of that child is part of the very darkness of life. I didn’t know how to explain to you in a sufficiently convincing way that Juana Namuncura, having killed the child, was not guilty of murder. So I had to lie, using the instruments that Chilean legislation offers, knowing that none of them is of any use. 

ERNESTO: (With the delicacy of fear) Meli, are you Mapuche?

MELISA: I was born in Recoleta, my parents too, always in Recoleta, am I or am I not Mapuche? 

They all shrug their shoulders. 

MELISA: Since I was a girl, I’ve been told that I look Mapuche, but always said with a tone of deep disdain. 

[It is so Chilean to create your identity from what you are not, from deep disdain for what (they believe) THEY DON’T BELONG TO. With so much emphasis on what they aren’t, they finally stray from what they are.]

I didn’t know what people meant when they called me ‘Black pine-nut eater’. What was a pine nut? Was I supposed to be ashamed to look like someone that eats pine nuts? Was I supposed to be ashamed to look Mapuche? Just to know if I should be ashamed, I forced myself to investigate, to know who these people were that I was confused with. 

Rodrigo want to stop the story. Alberto stops him and asks a question so that she will carry on. 

ALBERTO: And what did you find? 

MELISA: I found the exact opposite of what I knew, my parents were not like them, my classmates, my teachers, people. But I did find something of myself, I found my name, but not by accident. For the Mapuche, things don’t just happen, accidents don’t exist. 

MY NAME … My mother can’t explain why she called me Melisa, she said it was a name that simply came into her head. She didn’t know that Meli in mapudungún means four, I am four. That simple number is the seasons of the year, the cardinal points, the needs of the tree and the very needs of the tree should be the needs of the human being. To call me four is not an accident, it is not a coincidence. 

Right now, in this room, we are four, a council of four. On 5 June 1960, Juana most certainly was part of a council of four, because the four most experienced members of the community always get together to decide. The sacrifice was not the unbalanced idea of the Machi, she dreamt it, but it was a necessity for the whole community. 

In a nguillatún it’s normal to sacrifice chickens or lambs, but at that moment, the imbalance seemed enormous. For the earthquake, and we saw what happened in the earthquake, they had to offer something bigger, something that it would hurt them to lose, they had to lose a brother. José Luis Painecur, like all Mapuches, knew his destiny from his birth. The Chilean often doesn’t even know their destiny before they die. José Luis Painecur always knew it, he came to die for us, for all of us, and the council of four knew it. 


RODRIGO: (With the strangeness of someone who has just heard a foreigner, of someone who has heard another language, a language that can’t be understood) And with all of this, do you want to convert us to some type of religion? Do you want us four to become that council of four, to finally decide that what they did was okay? Melisa (Four), I think it’s great that any one of us at some point in their life has found an ancestry that gives a meaning to their life … I especially don’t have anything against faith, or people who profess a Faith in Christ, in marijuana or even in a footballer, but mixing faith with justice, that’s something else. 

MELISA: Why did you invite me into the group? 

RODRIGO: It was an impulse, Meli, I’ve already SWORN before you and my classmates that that’s what it was.

MELISA: Nothing happens just because, Rodri, but it’s so difficult to open yourself to other forms of perception that aren’t the rational / traditional / formal ones we were taught, that they want to keep teaching us. 

The Judge at the time didn’t free Juana Namuncura, Juan Nahuelcoy and Alejandro Caniulaf because of their poverty or their ignorance, but because he understood something that maybe Chilean justice will never be able to understand again. 


RODRIGO: Understand that the Machi saved humanity through the death of a child, understand that she pacified two ancestral serpents? Is that what Chilean justice would have us understand?


MELISA: Yes, that the lost balance was re-established. 

RODRIGO: All of this, what you’re saying – is that how you want to defend Juana Numancura, Juan Nahuelcoy and Alejandro Caniulaf? The commission will laugh at you, Melisa. 

ALBERTO: And what if they don’t laugh? What Melisa said sounds strange, half supernatural, but it could be right. 


RODRIGO: (Laughs ironically)


ALBERTO: What are you laughing at? 


RODRIGO: At you. At how easily you follow fashion, any idea you hear doing the rounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after hearing everything Melisa’s said, you post something on Facebook DEMANDING that the Mapuche people have their own legal system. 


ALBERTO: All I meant is that maybe you shouldn’t laugh at Melisa. 


RODRIGO: Were you moved by the story of her childhood or were you convinced by the bit about the Machi saving humanity? Or, as usual, are you so drunk that you’re not here and someone we don’t even know is speaking for you. Do you know who you are, Beto? 


ALBERTO: I’m not drunk, Rodrigo! 


RODRIGO: So she really convinced you? 


ERNESTO: Guys, we’re not doing ourselves any favours if we start fighting now. 


ALBERTO: And what if the report on seismic activity was right and the earthquakes really stopped after the Machi killed the boy?


ERNESTO: Beto, what’s wrong with you? 


ALBERTO: Melisa was right, I’m prejudiced … I’m prejudiced because you hear  and read lots of things, but you never know. I read and heard lots of things, but never anything like what Meli said. It’s true there are people that post things on Facebook, claiming one thing or another about the Mapuches, but a lot of them really pity them, put them down, think that they’re the poor cousin you have to look after to feel good about yourself, but don’t understand them. They’re prejudiced, just like me, only they express it in a different way. Maybe my prejudices had nothing to do with the Mapuches, but with people that are prejudiced and speak and post things without knowing anything. 


RODRIGO: (He laughs with irony / let down) This is bad, very bad … I swear I tried my best to do a good exam with you, but not one of you deserves to pass this subject … And neither do I. 


ERNESTO: No! (To Melisa) Meli, if you repeat in the exam what you’ve said to us, we’ll fail, and I can’t fail. 


MELISA: Yes, I know. I said it; they’re not arguments for a defence. 


ALBERTO: So, what did you write in your final statement? 


MELISA: I modified my final statement to say what you all wanted me to say, what a panel expects us to say. I’m not going to fail the exam. None of us is going to fail the exam. What I really want to say, I’ve said it, but I’ve kept it for myself. What I want to say, I won’t say in an exam, in a moot court. An exam is a step, to a later moment in a real court, to defend what I said and kept for myself. 


(She looks at her watch) 


Pelao Castillo will be here soon. … Straighten your ties. 




Text and Direction: Eduardo Luna

Assistant Director: Nicole Morales 

Cast: Pamela Alarcón – Sebastián Silva Rodríguez – Alexis Moreno Venegas – Felipe Lagos

Stage Design: Javiera Severino y Karla Rodríguez

Musical Composition: Daniel Cartes

Sound Design: Franco Peñaloza

Audiovisual Design and Production: Pelochuzo Producciones

Dramaturgy and Graphic Design: Javier Alvarado

Acting Coach: Daniela Venegas

Stage Realization: Gian Reginato 


Written in: 2017

Premiere: 30 de noviembre 2017

Theater: Sala La Comedia. Teatro Ictus. Santiago de Chile.

If you wish to contact the author, write to us.

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