Italian Chileans

Italian Chileans
  • Ítalo-chilenos
  • Italo-cileni
Italy Chile

Total population
(Chile’s population (about 150,000) [1])
Regions with significant populations
Valparaíso, Santiago, Concepción
Chilean Spanish · Italian
Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
Italian people, Swiss diaspora, Italian Brazilians, Italian Uruguayans and Italian Argentines

Italian Chileans (in Spanish: Italochilenos, Italian: Italo-cileni) are Chileans of full or partly Italian descent. It is estimated that 150,000 people could have Italian ancestors.[1] In Southern Chile, there were state-conducted Italian immigrants programs, though they were not as massive as the German and Croats immigrants programs. These families settled especially in Capitán Pastene, Angol, Lumaco, and Temuco, but also in Valparaiso, Concepción, Chillán, Valdivia, and Osorno. One of the notable Italian influences in Chile is, for example, the sizable number of Italian surnames of a proportion of Chilean politicians, businessmen and intellectuals, of whom a good number intermarried into the "Castilian-Basque" elites.

Italian Chileans, along with French Chileans, contributed to the development, cultivation and ownership of the world-famous Chilean wines from haciendas in the Central Valley, since the first wave of Italians arrived in colonial Chile in the early 19th century.

Although being just a fraction of the size of the migration to Argentina, Italians in immigration to Chile have been present since the arrival of the first Spaniards into the country, such as Captain Giovanni Battista Pastene who helped Pedro de Valdivia's expedition. Thence, with akin Latin culture, Italians have helped forge the nation, with architects (Gioacchino Toesca), painters (Camilo Mori), businessmen (Anacleto Angelini), economists (Vittorio Corbo) and statesmen (Arturo Alessandri).

In an unusual manner, since Italian immigration was never massive or organized, the only case of concerted immigration appeared in the town of Capitán Pastene, in the Araucanía Region of southern Chile, where in 1904, 23 families from Emilia-Romagna were left at their own device after being wrongfully enticed to the "riches" of Chile. Today, this small town celebrates a renaissance of their Italic heritage.


La Plaza Baquedano of Santiago is commonly called "Piazza Italia"

Italian emigration in Chile was limited to a few tens of Italians during the centuries of the Spanish colony.

After independence, the Chilean government encouraged European emigration, but without getting the results of neighbouring Argentina.

However, there was a substantial flow of migration from Liguria to the area of Valparaíso, which came to control 70% of the city. These immigrants founded the "Body of Fire" (called "Cristobal Colon") of the city and its "Italian School", whose building the Government of Chile has declared a National Historic Monument (Spanish: "Monumento Histórico Nacional").[2]

At the end of the 19th century, many Italian merchants were rooted in the northern part of Arica, where they began exploiting the rich mines of saltpetre. Meanwhile, many Italian families settled in the capital Santiago, Concepción and Punta Arenas.

In 1904 was planned an emigration of 700 immigrants of Emilia to a town of the Araucanía Region, which was named "Colonia Nueva Italia" and now called Capitán Pastene.

Throughout the central-southern zone of Chile, 7,740 Italians were transplanted to the early 20th century.[3]

Some Italian-Chileans voluntarily returned to Italy, like the aviator Arturo Dell'Oro, who died in the skies of Belluno in 1917, which was head to Valparaíso one of the main Italian schools in Chile. Giulio Ravazzano (medal of honor) went back to Italy to defend his country during the Great War, to return later on where he married.

After World War I, it had exhausted major migration from Italy, and in Chile currently there are only 39,650 Italian citizens (including those with dual passports).[4]

Many Italian Chileans, have reached positions of leadership in the society of Chile, like the president Jorge Alessandri.

Italian community

The Italian community has been present since the times of Giovanni Battista Pastene, who participated in the discovery of Chile to the Spanish crown in the shipment of Pedro de Valdivia.

Since then, Italians have always occupied positions of great importance and married with members of high society Chilean of Spanish origin who ruled Chile, for example, the wife of Salvador Allende, the Italian Chilean Hortensia Bussi.

An anecdote demonstrates the importance of Italian culture in the people of Chile: the influence of a Genovese shoemaker, named Giovanni De Marchi on Salvador Allende. Indeed, the President Allende told the journalist Régis Debray that De Marchi had a strong influence on its policy of training adolescents:

Just finished classes went to speak to this anarchist who had a great deal of influence on my life as a boy. He was sixty, or perhaps sixty years, and would chat with me. I was taught to play chess, I spoke of things of political life, and I lent books.[5]

Undoubtedly, the Italian family that has distinguished itself more in Chile is that of Alessandri. In the start of the 19th century, the parent, Giuseppe Pietro Alessandri Tarzo, came from Tuscany and worked as Consul of the Kingdom of Sardinia in Santiago. Among his descendants there are two presidents of Chile, Arturo Alessandri (1920–1925 and 1932–1938) and Jorge Alessandri (1958–1964).

Among the Italian-Chileans are the most illustrious architects (as Gioacchino Toeschi), painters (as Camilo Mori), industrial (as Anacleto Angelini), actresses (like Claudia Conserva), economists (as Vittorio Corbo) and statesmen (as the President Arturo Alessandri and his son).

The Italian language is promoted by the Chilean section of Dante Alighieri, while the Italian press has with:

There are some Italian schools in Chile (the most important are located in Santiago, the "Vittorio Montiglio" [6] and Valparaíso, the "Arturo Dell'Oro" [7]) and some organizations protect and serve the Italian community.[8]

Capitán Pastene

Family Castagna, who emigrated from Pavullo, Italy to Capitán Pastene (photo 1910).

In the southern Chilean town named Capitán Pastene, there is currently a small concentration of 2,200 Italo-Chilean, who constitute almost all of the local population and maintain a few words of Italian dialect of their ancestors emigrated.

Indeed, in 1904 about 100 families from the province of Modena moved there, as organized by the Chilean Government, to populate an area newly conquered by Chilean troops in their war against Mapuche tribes.[9]

These families founded the "Urban Pinhead", which currently is called Capitán Pastene and that is experiencing a revival of tourism based on the culture still present in the town.

Famous Italian Chileans

See also


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