This article is about the Chilean ethnic group. For information on the population of Chile, see Demographics of Chile. For Chilean nationality, see Chilean nationality law.

Total population
(c. 18.5–19 million[a])
Regions with significant populations
 Chile        18,006,407[1]
 Argentina 429,708[2]
 United States 113,934[2]
 Sweden 42,396[2]
 Canada 37,577[2]
 Australia 33,626[2]
 Brazil 28,371[2]
 Venezuela 27,106[2]
 Spain 23,911[2]
 France 15,782[2]
 Germany 10,280[2]
Other countries 95,090[2]
Chilean Dialect (Spanish)
Roman Catholicism (69,95%), Evangeliscalism (9%), European Protestantism (6,14%), Non religion (8,30%), Judaism (0,13%)
Related ethnic groups
Mapuches, Castizos, Andalusians (Spaniards), Extremenians (Spaniards), Basques (Spaniards), Castilian (Spaniards), Indigenous People

a. ^ The "total population estimation is merely a sum of all the referenced figures in the table and as such might be understated or exaggerated.

Chileans (Spanish: Chilenos) are natives of and long-term immigrants to Chile. Chileans are mainly the admixture of Spanish descent[3] with indigenous peoples, with small, albeit important, degrees of 19th- and 20th-century European immigrant ancestry. There is a strong correlation between Chilean people's ancestry or ethnicity and socioeconomic situation:[4][5] a marked continuum[5] exist between the lower classes of high Amerindian ancestry and the upper classes of mainly European ancestry. Indigenous inheritance (cultural or genetic) is most visible in rural areas and in aspects of culture such as Chilean cuisine and Chilean Spanish. Although post-independence immigrants never made up more than 2% of the population, there are now hundreds of thousands of Chileans with German,[6] British, French, Croatian, Italian or Palestinian[7] ancestry.

Though the majority of Chileans reside in Chile, significant communities have been established in multiple countries, most noticeably Argentina[8] and the United States.[9] Other large Chilean communities are in Australia, Canada and Sweden. Although small in number, Chilean people also make up a substantial part of the permanent population of Antarctica and the Falkland Islands (see: Chileans in the Falkland Islands).[10]

Ethnic structure

As in other Latin American countries, in Chile, from the onset of Spanish colonization and settlement, miscegenation or mestizaje was the norm rather than the exception. Today, ethnic and racial self-identities are highly fluid and can differ between persons of the same family, including siblings of the same parentage. It is dictated not only by strict physical appearance, nor more loosely by ancestry (actual or presumed), but by cultural patterns, social class, wealth and access, language, and prevailing biases of the era. These very factors, indeed, lend to the significantly varying ethnic structure figures from one source to the next. Additionally, those various figures refer to different, even if often overlapping, concepts: including racial vs ethnic categories, self-identity vs genetic findings, as well as culturally assigned categories. These concepts should not be confused, and the figures represented in one source might not be corresponding to figures of concepts from another source.

Thus, for instance, UNAM professor of Latin American studies, Francisco Lizcano, in his social research estimates that a predominant 52.7% of the Chilean population can be classified as ethnically European, with an estimated 44% as Mestizo.[11] Other social studies put the total amount of Whites at over 60 percent.[12] Some publications, such as the CIA World Factbook, state that the entire population consist of a combined 95.4% of "Whites and White-Amerindians", and 4.6% of Amerindians. These figures are based on a national census held in 2002, which classified the population as indigenous and non-indigenous, rather than as White or Mestizo.[13]

Ancestries and genetics

A public health book from the University of Chile states that 30% of the population is of Caucasian origin; Mestizos are estimated to amount a total of 65%, while Native Americans (or Amerindians) comprise the remaining 5%.[14]

An autosomal DNA study from 2014 found out Chile to be 44.34% (± 3.9%) Native American, 51.85% (± 5.44%) European and 3.81% (± 0.45%) African.[15][16] In regard to average admixture by social class and regions, a genetic study indicated that the composition of ancestries of the average middle class person of Chile's capital Santiago to be 70% European and 30% Native American. The low class average was 41% European and 59% Amerindian, whilst the results for the upper class were 91% European and 9% Native American. Other genetic studies have found that in Santiago, about 84% of mitochondrial DNA is of Amerindian origin, while the European contribution in the Y chromosome is about 70%,[17] and between 6% to 15% Native American, depending on the area of the city.[18] Other cities with a historically higher proportion of European input in the middle-class people, such as Concepción, exhibited 75% European and 25% Native American ancestries, while in Valparaíso, the composition found was 77% European and 23% Native American.[19] While in the north of the country, studies revealed that most people had a higher Native American component.[18]


Regardless of genetic considerations, many Chileans, if asked, would self-identify as white. The 2011 Latinobarómetro survey asked respondents in Chile what race they considered themselves to belong to. Most answered "white" (59%), while 25% said "mestizo" and 8% self-classified as "indigenous".[20] A 2002 national poll revealed that a majority of Chileans believed they possessed some (43.4%) or much (8.3%) "indigenous blood", while 40.3% responded that they had none.[21]

Ethnographic history of Chile

Spaniards, mestizos and indians

Rural population in the 19th century by Claudio Gay

For at least 12,000 years, numerous indigenous peoples settled in central and southern Chile. The predominant Mapuche inhabited these areas up until the Spanish conquest. During the colonial period, troops were sent out to the Americas by the Spanish Crown in order to protect distant colonies. Spanish folk immigrated from all regions of Spain, particularly Andalusia, Extremadura, Basque Country, Asturias, Navarra and Castile. Of the Spanish, many immigrants ultimately settled in Chile after the Mapuche resistance to the conquest.

The government of Agustín de Jáuregui, which ruled around 17771778, ordered the first general population census. The census confirmed a total of 259,646 inhabitants at the time, with 73.5% classified as Caucasian (white), 7.9% as Mestizo, 8.6% as Indian, and 9.8% as African (black). In 1784, Francisco Hurtado, governor of the province of Chiloé, conducted a population census in Chiloe that totaled 26,703 inhabitants, of which about 64.4% was classified as españoles ("Spaniards", Caucasian and Mestizo people) and 33.5% considered indios ("Indians").

In 1812, the Diocese of Concepción conducted a census to the south of the Maule river; however, this did not include the indigenous population at that time estimated at 8,000 people nor the inhabitants of the province of Chiloé. It put the total population at 210,567, of which 86.1% was native Spaniards and 10% were Indian, with a remaining 3.7% of Africans, mulattos, and mestizo descent.[22] Other estimates in the late 17th century indicate that the population reached a maximum total of 152,000, consisting of 72% whites and mestizos, 18% Indians, and 10% blacks and mulattos.[23]

For many years, Spanish-descent settlers and religious orders imported African slaves to the country, which in the early 19th century constituted 1.5% of the national population.[24] Despite this, the Afro-Chilean population was negligible, reaching a height of only 2,500 or 0.1% of the total population during the colonial period.[25]

In the 18th century, many Spanish civilians (mainly of Basque origin) entered the country, in particular attracted by trade liberalization at the time enacted by the Spanish Crown. In the late 18th century, Basque descendants were estimated to comprise 27% of the total population.[26] Most of the Basque immigrants initially partook in small businesses, though others attained higher levels of prosperity. Of those, many mixed with the Criollo aristocracy of Castilian origin, who owned much of the land. This resulted in the Castilian-Basque aristocracy, which later came to form the basis of the Chilean ruling class. The number of descendants from Basques in Chile are estimated at 10% of the population (1.7 million).[27][28][29] [30][31][32][33]

European immigrants

After Chile's independence successive waves of Spanish, Italians, Irish, French, Greeks, Germans, British, Dutch, Croats, Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Portuguese and Middle Eastern people immigrated to the country.

A substantial German immigration took place in 1848, laying the foundation for the German-Chilean community. Under a government sponsored programme aimed at colonizing the southern region, the Germans (including German-speaking Swiss, Silesians, Alsatians and Austrians), colonized the south and have since influenced the cultural and racial composition of the southern provinces of Chile. It is estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 Chileans could have German ancestors.[34]

About 700,000 Chileans, or 5% of Chile's population, has Arab ancestry.[35] Of these 500,000 are Palestinian descendants.[35][36][37][38][39][40]

Other historically significant immigrant groups include: Croatians, whose numbers today are estimated at 380,000 persons, about 2.4% of the population.[41][42] 4.6% of the Chilean population has some Croatian ancestry.[43] Over 700,000 Chileans, 4.5% of Chile's population, has British (English, Scottish and Welsh) origin.[44]

Puerto Varas in southern Chile, shows German influence in its architecture.

Between 90,000 and 120,000 Chileans are of Greek origin.[45] Most live either in the Santiago or Antofagasta areas. Chile is one of the 5 countries with the most Greeks in the world.[46] The number of Swiss is about 90,000.[47] About 5% of the Chilean population has some French ancestry.[48] 600,000 to 800,000 are Italians. Other European groups are found in smaller numbers.

The European immigrants have transformed the country culturally, economically and politically. European emigration in Chile and to a lesser extent, the arrival from the Middle East during the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries, was the most important in Latin America[49][50] second to that which occurred in the Atlantic Coast of the Southern Cone (i.e., Argentina and southern Brazil).[51]

These European ethnic groups have intermarried thereby diluting the distinct cultures, descent and identities of the home countries and fusing them among each other. There has also been intermarriage with the original Basque-Castilian aristocracy of the colonial period. These intermixed cultures form the society and culture of the Chilean middle and upper classes.[28] The European have still preserved elements of themselves, therefore they enjoy the original European cultural practices such as the British afternoon tea and biscuits, French casseroles and coffee, German cakes and sausage, and Italian pasta and mineral waters. The cultural influences can also be seen in the architecture of the cities. The Chilean folk culture is not embraced as it is an offshoot of the culture of the Spaniards who settled the country in the colonial period.

Indigenous Chileans

1902 photograph of a Mapuche girl from Concepción, in southern Chile.

With the independence of Chile in the 1810s, Mapuche began to be seen as Chileans by other Chileans, contrasting with previous perceptions of them as a separate people or nation.[52]

Although indigenous peoples like Mapuche and Aymaras are in some situations contrasted against Chilean people the two demonyms are not mutually exclusive and are rather often used combined. For example, "a Chilean Aymara" can be used to contrast with Aymaras living in Bolivia or Peru.

The 1907 census reported 101,118 Indians, or 3.1% of the total country population. Only those that practiced their native culture or spoke their native language were considered, irrespective of their "racial purity."[53]

At the 2002 census, people that declared themselves as indigenous amounted to 4.6% of the population (692,192 people); of these, 87.3% declared themselves Mapuche.[54] as with Chileans of other backgrounds most Mapuche show varying degrees of mixed ancestry.

Some native peoples of Chile disappeared product from acculturation and miscegenation, as is the case of peoples Picunches, Diaguitas and Chonos, whereas a large number of Selknam or Onas disappeared by the extermination carried out by settlers in Tierra del Fuego in the early 20th century. Other factors that contributed to their extinction were diseases brought by Europeans, such as smallpox.


Main article: Religion in Chile
Religion (Census 2002)[55][56] %
Catholic 70%
Protestant or Evangelical 15%
Atheist/None or Agnostic 8%
Others 7%
Religion (2015 Survey)[57] %
Catholic 55%
Atheist/None or Agnostic 25%
Protestant or Evangelical 13%
Others 7%


Main article: Chilean Culture

The folk culture of Chile has mostly Spanish origins, especially the huaso culture of the central part of the country, as it arose in the colonial period due to cattle ranching. It could therefore be considered an offshoot of Spanish popular culture of the 17th an 18th centuries as are the folk cultures of the rest of Latin America and also, its direct descendants, Andalusian and Castilian folk cultures. The Andalusian forms in the huaso dress is apparent to Europeans and the music and dances show Spanish origins, even though both have been adapted and are distinct from dress, music and dance in Spain today.

The ranches called fundos, where the huasos lived and worked show strong similarity with Spanish vernacular architecture, especially in the canal roofs and the interior courtyards. The fundo is now thought of as traditional Chilean architecture and is associated with the huaso.

As well as the huaso culture of the central part of the country can be seen the German, Chilote, Croatian and Magallanic culture in the south, and the Andean culture in the north.

Chile's Nueva Canción movement in modern Chilean folk culture is adapted from the folk music of the north, not of the brass bands but of the panpipes and quenas. The traditional Chilean folk music of the huasos were also popularised, particularly the tonadas, folk songs sung with a guitar, mainly on the topics of love. Several folk groups who dress in huaso costume became famous nationwide.

The folk culture that is mainly associated with the Chilean national identity is that of the huasos as that is where the Chilean state was formed and it spread northwards and southwards in the late 19th century.

Emigration of Chileans

Emigration of Chileans has decreased during the last decade: It is estimated that 857,781 Chileans live abroad, 50.1% of those being in Argentina (the highest number), 13.3% in the United States, 8.8% in Brazil, 4.9% in Sweden, and around 2% in Australia, with the rest being scattered in smaller numbers across the globe. Other Chilean refugees settled (not ranked by order of size) in Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

Many pro-Allende refugees in the 1970s fled to East Germany, including president Michelle Bachelet had also lived in Australia.[58] While anti-Pinochet refugees formed a large expatriate community in Europe and a smaller community in North America (the US and Canada).

Over 100,000 Chileans fleeing from both regimes in the 1970s and 1980s settled in the US, a small number compared to other Latino groups. The highest number settled in Miami, Florida, but smaller enclaves are in Washington, D.C.; New York City; and California (the Los Angeles area - Beverly Hills and Long Beach; and San Francisco - San Mateo County).

Approximately 2,500 Chilean exiles fled to the UK in the early 1970s and by most recent estimates the Chilean British population is in its tens of thousands, and represents a significant proportion of the UK's Latin American community. By far the largest concentration of Chileans can be found in London with significant other communities being Birmingham, Sheffield and the ManchesterLiverpool Metropolitan area.[59]

Historic emigration took place in the early 19th century when Chilean ranchers went to Mexico after their independence. Thousands of miners from Chile went to California, the U.S. during the 1850s California Gold Rush, as well in other gold rushes in Colorado (1870s) and the Yukon (1890s). Small numbers of Chilean miners also migrated to South Africa and Australia for the same reason.[60][61]

See also


  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Chilenos en el Exterior: Donde viven, cuántos son y qué hacen los chilenos en el exterior" (PDF). DICOEX and INE. August 2005. p. 11. Archived from the original on 2012-10-25. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  3. Valenzuela, C. and Harb Z. 1977.Socioeconomic Assortive Mating in Santiago, Chile: A Demonstration Using Stochaistic Matrices of Mother-Child Relationships Applied to ABO Blood Groups Departamento de Biología Celular y Genética, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile.
    Quote: The Chilean population steams mainly from the admixture of Spanish people with Chilean aborigines
  4. Vanegas, J., Villalón, M., Valenzuela, C. Consideraciones acerca del uso de la variable etnia/raza en investigación epidemiológica para la Salud Pública: A propósito de investigaciones en inequidades Revista Médica de Chile 2008; 136: 637-644.
    Quote translated from Spanish: Chile the [racial] process is vinculated to a socioeconomic stratification; the Spaniards of the upper class that did not mix, the mix of European Spaniards and mestizo women in the middle strata, in the lowest substrate the mestizo-mestizo and mestizo-amerindians.
  5. 1 2 Valenzuela, C. El Gradiente Sociogenético Chileno y sus Implicaciones Etico-Sociales Archived 18 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile
    Quote: Al analizar la composición étnica por estratos sociales nos hemos encontrado con un gradiente sociogenético importante que condiciona la estructura de la morbimortalidad según estrato socioeconómico y la evolución sociocultural de Chile
  6. German Embassy in Chile. Archived 5 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
    Quote in German: Es wird geschätzt, dass zwischen 500 bis 600 Tausend Chilenen deutscher Herkunft sind.
  7. "Los palestinos miran con esperanza su futuro en Chile sin olvidar Gaza e Irak", El Economista, 2009-02-11, retrieved 2009-07-29
  8. "Colectividad chilena, Bajaron de los barcos, ONI". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  9. "Top 101 cities with the most residents born in Chile (population 500+)". Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  10. "Chilenos son atraídos por la bonanza de las islas Malvinas". El Mercurio. 2007-03-30. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  11. Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI.
  12. Esteva-Fabregat (1988). "El mestizaje en lberoamérica". a white majority that would exceed 60% of the Chilean population
  13. "CIA World Factbook: Chile". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  14. "5.2.6. Estructura racial". La Universidad de Chile. Retrieved 2007-08-26. (Main page)
  15. Fuentes, M; Pulgar, I; Gallo, C; Bortolini, MC; Canizales-Quinteros, S; Bedoya, G; González-José, R; Ruiz-Linares, A; Rothhammer, F (2014). "[Gene geography of Chile: regional distribution of American, European and African genetic contributions]". Rev Med Chil. 142: 281–9. doi:10.4067/S0034-98872014000300001. PMID 25052264.
  17. "Ultima Hora : Genética Chilena y Poblamiento de América". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  18. 1 2 Fernando Donoso (September–October 2011). "El ADN de los chilenos". Revista Enfoque.
  19. Cruz-Coke, R; Moreno, RS (September 1994). "Genetic epidemiology of single gene defects in Chile" (PDF). J. Med. Genet. 31: 702–6. doi:10.1136/jmg.31.9.702. PMC 1050080Freely accessible. PMID 7815439.
  20. Informe Latinobarómetro 2011, Latinobarómetro.
  21. "Encuesta CEP, Julio 2002" (in Spanish). July 2002. Archived from the original on 29 April 2013. Retrieved 2012-05-18.
  22. "INE - Censo de 1813. Introducción" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  23. Icarito - La Colonia:Población y sociedad
  24. [Rolando Mellafe (1959): "La introducción de la esclavitud negra en Chile. Tráfico y rutas", Universidad de Chile (Departamento Historia Instituto Pedagógico). Santiago]
  25. "Elementos de Salud Pública, section 5.2.6". University of Chile.
  26. vascos Ainara Madariaga: Autora del estudio "Imaginarios vascos".
  27. Mikel Soro (1997-12-01). "Diariovasco". Diariovasco. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  28. 1 2 Sotillo, B. (22 May 2008). ""A los empresarios de origen vasco nos diferencia que generamos unas relaciones de confianza": Alejandro Sande Hitschfeld Presidente de emprebask" ["Entrepreneurs of Basque origin sets us apart in that we generate a relationship of trust": Alejandro Sande Hitschfeld, Chairman of Emprebask] (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  29. vascos Ainara Madariaga: Autora del estudio "Imaginarios vascos desde Chile La construcción de imaginarios vascos en Chile durante el siglo XX".
  30. "Basques au Chili". Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  31. Contacto Interlingüístico e intercultural en el mundo hispano.instituto valenciano de lenguas y culturas. Universitat de València Cita: " Un 20% de la población chilena tiene su origen en el País Vasco".
  32. (Spanish) La población chilena con ascendencia vasca bordea entre el 15% y el 20% del total, por lo que es uno de los países con mayor presencia de emigrantes venidos de Euskadi.
  33. (Spanish) Presencia vasca en Chile.
  34. Oliver Zoellner | Generating Samples of Ethnic Minorities in Chile
  35. 1 2 "Santiago de Chile es un modelo de convivencia palestino-judía". Aurora (in Spanish). EFE/Aurora. 17 October 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-03-18.
  36. "Chile: Palestinian refugees arrive to warm welcome". 2003-04-07. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  37. (Spanish) 500,000 descendientes de primera y segunda generación de palestinos en Chile. Archived 22 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  38. (Spanish) Santiago de Chile es un modelo de convivencia palestino-judía.
  39. Kawar, Adib (5 May 2008). "Exiling Palestinians to Chile!!". Palestine Think Tank. Archived from the original on 16 May 2008.
  40. (Spanish) Chile tiene la comunidad palestina más grande fuera del mundo árabe, unos 500.000 descendientes.
  41. (Spanish) Diaspora Croata..
  42. Ilić, Merien (25 March 2009). "Splitski osnovnoškolci rođeni u Čileu" [Split primary school pupils were born in Chile] (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 17 September 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  43. "hrvatski". Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  44. "Historia de Chile, Británicos y Anglosajones en Chile durante el siglo XIX". Retrieved 26 April 2009.
  45. (Spanish) Embajada de Grecia en Chile.
  46. (Spanish) Griegos de Chile
  47. 90,000 descendants Swiss in Chile.
  48. (Spanish) 5% de los chilenos tiene origen frances. Archived 12 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  49. "Juan Bialet Massé en su informe sobre "El estado de las clases obreras en el interior del país"". Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-22.
  50. Fierro, Marta. "Identidad social" [Social Identity] (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  51. "Etnicidad y ciudadanía en América Latina" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  52. Foerster, Rolf 2001. Sociedad mapuche y sociedad chilena: la deuda histórica. Polis, Revista de la Universidad Bolivariana.
  53. "1907 census". Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  54. "Censo 2002 - Síntesis de Resultados" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas.
  55. "2002 Chilean Census" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas.
  57. "Encuesta - 2015" (PDF) (in Spanish). Plaza Publica Cadem.
  58. Bachelet is first female Chilean leader New Age (Online Newspaper)
  59. "Diversity news page". 2011-10-10. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  60. "Chilean Americans". 1973-09-11. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
  61. "Origins: History of immigration from Chile - Immigration Museum, Melbourne Australia". Retrieved 2011-12-04.
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