Afro Chilenos
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Arica, Camarones
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Latin Americans, Africans

Afro-Chileans are citizens of Chile, descended from Africans who were brought to the New World with the arrival of the Spaniards toward the end of the slave trade.

Slavery in Arica

The black population in Arica was considerable. The city of Arica, Chile was founded in 1541 and was part of Peru until 1880, when it was taken by Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific. At the beginning of the Colonial era, Peru was one of the frequent destinations for blacks that had settled at the coast to work in rural and domestic occupations. It was a different immigration compared to the rest of the continent.

Most of the black people that came to Peru were from the Antilles or Africa, specifically from the regions of Congo and Angola. They were not a homogeneous ethnic group, like the immigrants and descendants of slaves in Cuba and Brazil, so they were integrated into the Peruvian culture, forming a new identity.

Arica was one of the main cities to receive these people. There are several confusing reasons for this. First, the city was the main port that exported Bolivian silver to Europe. It was a productive area due to the Azapa Valley and its production of sugar cane and cotton. The city was quite isolated during those years: the communication system was precarious.

The black majority made itself felt since the beginning of 1620, when a free black man named Anzúrez and his pal, who was also black, were elected as majors of Arica. The response came right away. Six months later, an order by Peru's viceroy, don Francisco de Borja y Aragón, declared these nominations to be void.

The participants of the Oro Negro foundation believe that the mixed-race Chilean conformation owes much more to the Negro community than what is traditionally stated. To them, the common idea that the Chilean nation was formed solely by Europeans is incorrect.

Slavery in Central Chile

It is documented that the Chilean national dance, the cueca, had black elements in its original concept; originating from the Afro-Peruvian Zamacueca. Also, the famous Historian Francisco Antonio Encina once wrote that 13 percent of the explorers that came to Chile with Diego de Almagro were black. Historian Gonzalo Vial Correa mentions that "up to the year 1558, the number of blacks, mulattos and zambos in Chile was of about 5,000; compared to 34,000 Spaniards, 92,000 white, 27,000 mestizos and 18,000 Indians".

From another perspective, during the Colonial times Chile was part of the black slave trade. They came through two routes: one that started at the Iberian peninsula and went down all the way to Portobelo, Panama or Cartagena de Indias. Slave traders would get several of these "black goods" and delivered them to the markets of the "Nueva España", Central America and Peru. Slaves that got to the Chilean ports of Coquimbo and Valparaiso had a price that was two or three times higher.

The second most direct route started from Buenos Aires and went through Cuyo to Mendoza. It crossed the mountains to the Aconcagua valley, where slaves were delivered to Santiago and Valparaiso. Most of them were sold and transported illegally. During the 18th Century, Valparaiso was an important port for the slavery business. According to the Oro Negro foundation 2,180 slaves were shipped to the Callao port in 1783.

War of Independence

A specific group of blacks in Chilean history are the members of the 8th Regiment of The Andean Liberation Army that fought the Spaniards in Chacabuco. That was the Army organized in Argentinian territory and led by San Martin to liberate Chile and later allow the liberation of Peru. San Martin demanded black slaves as contribution to the Liberartion Army by the Mendoza landowners, because in his opinion blacks were the only people capable to participate in the infantry component of the Army, and included them in the forces commanded later by O'Higgins. They were included in the Andean Liberation Army and received their freedom after the crossing of the Andes and the fight against the Spaniards. As members of the infantry they were exposed to the higher risks during the battle. This episode of the history of Chile is very seldom mentioned and the group of blacks has never received any recognition for their contribution to the liberation of Chile.[1]

The African minority that lived in Santiago, Quillota or Valparaiso began to mix with gypsies, and Europeans, shaping a whole new ethnic and cultural identity for Chile.

Ban of slavery

Chile banned slavery in 1811 through the "Liberty of womb" law made by Manuel de Salas, seven years after he had read the following announcement in a newspaper: "For sale: 22 to 24-year-old mulatto, nice condition, good price." Thanks to this ban, dictated in 1823,[2] Chile became the second country in Latin America to prohibit slavery, after Haiti.

Despite the gradual emancipation of most black slaves in Chile, slavery continued along the Pacific coast of South America throughout the 19th century, as Peruvian slave traders kidnapped Polynesians, primarily from the Marquesas Islands and Easter Island and forced them to perform physical labour in mines and in the guano industry of Peru and Chile.

Annexation of Arica

Finally, there was one more event that added the African inheritance to the Chilean blood. When the city of Arica was finally integrated to Chile, in 1929, a lot of Afro-descendants began living under the Chilean law. They are part of the "Black Arica", and they work daily to promote their traditions and culture, proving that their influence goes beyond the "cueca" or "zamacueca".[3]

Notable Afro-Chileans

See also

External links


  1. Barros Arana, Diego (1999). Historia General de Chile: La Colonia, de 1610 a 1700 [General History of Chile: The Colony from 1610 to 1700] (PDF) (in Spanish). 5. University of Santiago de Chile Research Centre. ISBN 956-11-1550-6. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  2. "The Antislavery Movement". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia (6th ed.). Columbia University Press. 2012. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  3. Rioseco, Virginia. "Oro Negro Foundation:Afro descendants organize themselves". Archived from the original on 1 February 2016.
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