Afro Chileans are citizens of Chile, descended from African slaves who were brought to the New World with the arrival of the conquistadors toward the end of the slave trade.



The black population in Arica was always considerable. The city was founded in 1570 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 most 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 towns in Africa, specifically from the regions surrounding and including 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 kind of an oasis in the middle of the desert, thanks to the Azapa Valley and its healthy production of sugar cane and cotton. The city was quite isolated during those years: the communication system then was very precarious.

The Negro 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 completely 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.

It is well 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 Porto Bello, 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.

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, Chile became the second country in the world to prohibit slavery, after Denmark.

A very special 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 lead 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 latter 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 Spaniard. As members of the infantry they were exposed to the higher risks during the battle. This particular episode of the history of Chile is very seldom mentioned and that group of blacks has never received the recognition they deserve 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.

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. And they are still there, looking life with the conviction that they are far more than what official tales makes us believe. 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”.[2]


Notable Afro-Chileans

See also

Chile portal

External links


  1. ^ Historia General de Chile Tomo X Diego Barros Arana
  2. ^ Oro Negro Foundation:Afro descendants organize themselves

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Encuentro de colonias, Arica, Chile

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