British Chilean

This article is about Chilean people of British descent. For British people of Chilean descent, see Chileans in the United Kingdom.
Total population
(At least 700,000* (*including the descendants of Irish) [1]
(About 4% of Chilean population))
Regions with significant populations
Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Concepcion, Viña del Mar, Santiago, and the highest percentage of British descent lives in Punta Arenas
Spanish. Minority speaks English, Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and/or Lowland Scots as first language.
Roman Catholicism, Protestantism (Anglicanism, Methodism, Presbyterianism et al.)
Related ethnic groups
British people, English people, Scottish people, Welsh people

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British Argentines
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British Chileans
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British Nicaraguans
British Panamanians
British Paraguayans
British Peruvians
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Spanish · Portuguese · British English

The British Chileans are people of British ancestry, in full or in part, who reside in Chile. The British have been very important in the formation of the Chilean nation. They include Chileans of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. The numbers of Scottish and Welsh are higher in Patagonia, in Aysen and Magallanes regions. The highest percentage of British Chileans is found in Punta Arenas, followed by Santiago, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Viña del Mar and Antofagasta.


Chile, facing the Pacific Ocean, has for many years had an important British presence.[2] Over 50,000 [3] British immigrants settled in Chile from 1840 to 1914. A significant number of them settled in Magallanes in Province, especially the city of Punta Arenas when it flourished as a major global seaport for ships crossing the Strait of Magellan from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. Around 32,000 English settled in Valparaíso, influencing the port city to the extent of making it virtually a British colony during the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.[4] However, the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War drove many of them away from the city or back to Europe.

In Valparaíso they created their largest and most important colony, bringing with them neighbourhoods of British character, schools, social clubs, sports clubs, business organizations and periodicals. Even today their influence is apparent in specific areas, such as the banks and the navy, as well as in certain social activities, such as football (soccer), horse racing, and the custom of drinking tea.

During the movement for independence (1818), it was mainly the British who formed the Chilean Navy, under the command of Lord Cochrane.

British investment helped Chile become prosperous and British seamen helped the Chilean navy become a strong force in the South Pacific. Chile won two wars, the first against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation and the second, the War of the Pacific, in 1878-79, against an alliance between Peru and Bolivia. The liberal-socialist "Revolution of 1891" introduced political reforms modeled on British parliamentary practice and lawmaking.

British immigrants were also important in the northern zone of the country during the saltpetre boom, in the ports of Iquique and Pisagua. The King of Saltpetre, John Thomas North, was the principal tycoons of nitrate mining. The British legacy is reflected in the streets of the historic district of the city of Iquique, with the foundation of various institutions, such as the Club Hípico (Racing Club). Nevertheless, the British active presence came to an end with the saltpetre crisis during the 1930s.

Some Scots settled in the country's more temperate regions, where the climate and the forested landscape with glaciers and islands may have reminded them of their homeland (the Highlands and Northern Scotland), while English and Welsh made up the rest. The Irish immigrants, who were frequently confused with the British, arrived as merchants, tradesmen and sailors, settling along with the British in the main trading cities and ports.

An important contingent of British (principally Scottish and Irish) immigrants arrived between 1914 and 1950, settling in the present-day region of Magallanes. British families were established in other areas of the country, such as Santiago, Coquimbo, the Araucanía, and Chiloé.

Cultural and technological legacy

The cultural legacy of the British in Chile is notable and has spread beyond the British Chilean community onto society at large. One custom taken from the British is afternoon tea, called "onces" by Chileans. Another interesting, although peculiar, legacy is the sheer amount of use of British first surname by Chileans.[1]

British technology in mining, railway, maritime infrastructure, and other industrial applications predominated in Chile in the latter half of the 19th century, continuing through the 1930s. Manuel A. Fernández' book, "Technology and British Nitrate Enterprises in Chile, 1880-1914" (Issue 34 of Occasional Papers- Institute of Latin American Studies Glasgow University, ISSN 0305-8646) details some of the British technology contributions to the development of the Chilean mining industry. Similar benefits were seen in the railway and meat-processing industries in Chile. Many of the British engineers and technicians, who came to Chile to support British equipment, remained in the country. Even Chile's modern system of lighthouses was largely the result of British expertise and technology: towards the end of the 19th century, Scottish engineer George Slight designed and constructed 70 lighthouses, most of which are still in operation.

Chile currently has the largest population descendants of British in Latin America. Over 700,000 Chileans may have British (English, Scottish and Welsh) or Irish origin, amounting to about 4% of Chile's population.[1]

Notable people

Also to note is that the Australian prime minister Chris Watson was born in Valparaiso of British/New Zealand and German-Chilean parentage. Isabel Allende's first husband, Michael Frias, is of significant British ancestry.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Historia de Chile, Británicos y Anglosajones en Chile durante el siglo XIX". Retrieved 2010-01-11.
  2. Inmigrantes británicos.
  4. "Inmigración britanica en Chile". Retrieved 2009-01-25.

External links

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