The Africans of Chile

Publié le par hort

Black race in Chile

Edited by Runoko Rashidi
From the Oro Negro Web Site

What is “Oro Negro”

"Oro Negro” is the first Afrodescendants Foundation in Chile. Its first public performance took place december 5, in 2000, in the context of the X. Besides this, it formally constituted itself in the month of april, in 2001. Its operational center is located in the city of Arica, basically because this city, specially the Azapa valley, concentrates the larger amount of afrodescendant population of the country.


Achieve the political and social recognition of the Afrodescendants in Chile.

Rescue and diffusion of the cultural roots of the Afrodescendants.

Training and facilitation of the direct participation of the afrodescendants in areas such as: Health, Education, Citizen Participation, Arts and Sports.

Protection of afrodescendants in matters such as: Health, Education, Nutrition, Housing, Work and Discrimination.

In order to achieve all these objectives, “Oro Negro” will carry out cultural courses and workshops (music, dances, arts, sports, etc...) and will count with a team of professionals in charge, who will solve social problems of the afrodescendant population.

In June 7, 2001, the first “Strategical Afro-Indigenous Alliance” took place in the city of Arica, with the participation of all the countries of the south cone of the american continent.

Participation in the"World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia an Related Intolerance" . Durban, South Africa, 2001

It is commonly supposed that in the ethnic composition in our country, there is no African factor. Throughout its history, Chile has never had a significant amount of black race individuals within its population, therefore its influence in our genetic heritage is practically null. Neither we find negroid dashes in our folklore, nor in any other cultural expression to determine our identity as chileans. The rumour says that this nation was forged thanks to european and indigenous elements. About black people: better not to talk.

Nevertheless, all these affirmations couldn´t be more distant from the truth. Even though in Chile the “African” factor is not as present as in other latinamerican countries -such as Cuba or Brasil-, denying its influence would be an unfortunate disrespect to our history and identity as a nation. It is documented, for instance, that our national dance and music, the “cueca”, has indubitable negroid characteristics in its conformation.

And this is not an isolated nor accidental fact. As in all the other countries of this continent, ours is a nation forged by uncountable ratial and cultural encounters, social conjunction that cannot be ignored. Chile is a mestizo country and within its mixtures the African is present.

Already in the first european explorations to this land, black people stept over these latitudes. Chilean historiographer, Francisco Antonio Encina, affirms that thirteen percent of the explorers who discovered Chile with Diego de Almagro were black. The also historiographer Gonzalo Vial Correa affirms: “Towards the year 1558, the number of blacks, mulattos and “zambos” (spanish with indian offspring), boarded in Chile the 5,000, against the 2,400 spaniards, 17.000 mestees and 48,000 indigenous, in other words, out of the total of non pure chilean population by the end of XVI century, almost 20% carried the African stigma in their blood.

During the colonial period, our country participated, unfortunately, in one of the most barbaric acts that took place in the story of humanity: slavery. There existed black slaves in Chile, and also “bozales” and “ladinos”.

Two were the principal routes through which slaves arrived to our country. The first one, started in the iberic peninsula, making a stop in the Canarian Islands, to finally descry in Porto Bello, Panama or Cartagena de Indias. The traders sold and acquired huge amounts of black “merchandise”, from which one third had to be females according to the Spanish markets in New Spain, Central America and Peru. The sales price of these slaves grew considerably once they arrived to Callao.

Those who achieved reaching the ports of Coquimbo or Valparaíso, at the end of the journey, doubled or tripled its initial price.

The second access route started in Buenos Aires, passing through Cuyo up to Mendoza, then crossing the mountains towards the Aconcagua valley, were blacks were driven to Santiago or Valparaíso. This much more direct route, frequently used to drive “illegal merchandise” , was also much cheaper. Many chilean traders even used it to sell slaves in Peru.

Valparaíso was an important slave trading port by the XVIII century. In 1783, for example, 2,180 blacks were shipped to Callao. Françoise Frézier, gaul engineer who visited our country in 1712, left us a rich description of what he observed in the port: “At the foot of the fortress, in a very small ravine is the city of Valparaíso, composed by a hundred of poor houses, disorderedly distributed and in different levels (...) Out of one hundred and fifty families there might be, hardly 30 white persons can be counted, the rest are blacks, mulattos and mestizos.”

In Santiago, the Guangualí suburb (nowadays called Manuel Rodríguez) had its yard were the Marquess of the royal house named the mulatto Roque, auctioneer of the slaves he brought from Argentina.

Even though in 1811 our country abolished slavery thanks to the “Freedom of Womb” law dictated by Manuel de Salas, seven years later, the following ad could still be read in a metropolitan newspaper: “For sale mulatto of 22 to 24 years old, good manners, reasonable price; interested ones meet mister Felipe Santiago del Solar.”

When the Liberator Army arrived to our country in 1817, two infantry divisions (7º and 8º) were totally composed by African blacks and creoles recruited by San Martín in Argentina. According to german historiographer Eckart Kroneberg: “The braver ones, the most fearless General´s men have black skin, since San Martín has bought the freedom of these African slaves with the numerous donations he received to enforce his Liberator Army. These blacks accept with content the new slavery which, in case of winning, will bring them to freedom. They compose the attack first force and are located in front of the artillery.”

These foot soldiers showed their braveness in the Chacabuco Valley, definitive event in the achievement of our emancipation from the Spanish Crown. Driven by attalions had to fight body to body with the enemy lines to reach the victory. Two years later, they fought again in the Maipú battle. Highly known historiographers like Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, Francisco Antonio Encina and Barros Arana, agree to point out the important performance that Africans played in our independence.

In the beginning of the Republic, the African population in our country started to dilute with the mixing of races. With the complete abolition of slavery, dictated in 1823, Chile became the second world nation, after Denmark, in adopting this resolution. This way, the African minority that lived basically in the cities of Santiago, Quillota and Valparaíso, started to mix with indians, gipsies and europeans, adding part of its heritage to the ethnic and cultural conformation of our people.

Nevertheless, there is still a story to tell. An event that started in 1923 with the definitive incorporation of of the city of Arica to our country. In the Tarapacá province a great amount of Afro descendants started to live under chilean jurisdiction. Is the black Arica. That of the Azapa valley, the carnivals and the May Cross. A place were having dark skin is not an anecdote, but a reason to feel proudness.

Publié dans African diaspora

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