Chilean American

Chilean American
Chilean American(s)
JoaquinTheMountainRobber.jpgClaudio Arrau.jpgIsabel allende.jpg
Cote de Pablo tixgirl.jpgDon FranciscoSlayer - Tom Araya.jpg
Joaquin MurrietaClaudio ArrauIsabel Allende
Cote de PabloMario KreutzbergerTom Araya
Total population
124,116 Americans[1]
(2009 estimate)
Regions with significant populations
California · New York · New Jersey · Florida · Texas

Spanish · American English


Roman Catholicism (predominantly) · Protestantism · Evangelicalism · Judaism ·

Related ethnic groups

other Hispanic and Latino Americans · Spaniards · other Europeans · others

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Chilean Americans are United States citizens or residents of Chilean origin. They number about 124,116 in 2009.[1]

In 2000, close to 14,000 lived in the states of Florida and California, while around 16,330 lived in the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other New England states combined.[2]


Motives of Immigration

Most Chilean immigration to the U.S. has occurred largely within the last 25 years.[3] For the most part, Chileans left as either political asylees and refugees during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, or for economic reasons. Also, there have been others that have emigrated to seek higher education and career development opportunities.

There are two major reasons why many Chileans have come to the United States during the last 25 years. The first group, small in number, emigrated because of the political repression of the Pinochet regime. Many of these immigrants are of middle or upper class origin. A significant proportion of them arrived with advanced educations and well-developed skills. They had contacts with other Chilean exiles and a sense of identity from their shared commitment to a democratic Chile. After a period of adjustment, many of them were able to pursue skilled jobs or professions. Unfortunately, others, who lacked skills or whose professional certifications were not recognized in the United States, were forced to take low-level jobs in which they were unable to use their skills. Some had been politically active students or union leaders in Chile who did not enter the United States with easily transferable skills.[3]

The second major arrival into the United States was mainly for economic or academic opportunities. Yet, in general, acquiring a U.S. Visa requires the applicant to have a stable economic background, so most Chileans emigrating to the United States since 1990 have done so mostly for study purposes or to further their academic backgrounds.[3]

Of the 857,781 Chilean expatriates around the globe 13.3% (114,084) live in the United States, 50.1% reside in Argentina, 8.8% in Brazil, 4.9% in Sweden, and around 2% in Australia, with the remaining 20% being scattered in smaller numbers across the globe, particularly the countries of the European Union.[4][5][6]

Most Chileans who come to the United States settle in or around cities. They come from a highly urbanized country and find it compatible to settle in a metropolitan area. Cities provide the jobs they need and the opportunity to interact with other Chileans. They especially gravitate toward California, New York, and Florida because of the large Spanish-speaking population in these areas. Other states with larger number of Chileans include New Jersey and Texas. Many Chileans have also settled in North American neighbor Canada, especially in the cosmopolitan centers of Toronto and French speaking Montreal. During the Pinochet regime the Canadian government allowed them special entry visas for humanitarian reasons.[3]

Today, it is for economic or academic rather than political reasons that Chileans emigrate.[7]

Chilean American population profile

In the United States Chilean Americans are categorized as Hispanics which are a classified ethnic group that may belong to any race. Included in the group are White Hispanics, mainly Mexican Americans, who comprise a plurality of 48% of U.S. Hispanics.[8] Many Chilean Americans self report their ancestry as white. It follows Chile's own ethnography, where Whites of European ancestry form a large group along with Mestizos.[9][10][11][12] Chile, like the United States, is a melting pot of different nationalities. However, unlike Americans, Chileans strictly identify themselves by place of birth and the use of hyphenated national origin is non-existent.

Chile is "far away and does not share borders with the United States, immigrants cannot simply cross a border to enter the country. They must save money and work hard to get here,"[3] creating a situation where those who can afford to leave their countries may belong to the upper and upper-middle classes or at least have the legal means to access a visa into the United States, which requires a stable economic background.

Chilean American history

Chileans and other South Americans had long been present in the state of California since the 1850s gold rush. Not all Chileans made it to the gold fields. Some remained in San Francisco, Sacramento and Stockton where they frequently worked as bricklayers, bakers, or seamen. Some with capital established themselves in various businesses, particularly the importation of flour and mining equipment from Chile. In the cities most tended to congregate and live in specific areas in the poorer sections of town. In the gold fields they lived in separate camp sites. In the summer of 1849 Chileans constituted the major element in the population of Sonora. Chileans frequently worked their mines as group efforts. When the placer gold ran out around Sonora the Chileans were some of the first miners in California to extract gold from quartz.[13]

The descendants of these Chileno Forty-Niners can not only be proud of the achievements of their forefathers but of their own: Entrepreneurs, judges, congressmen and other people who have left their tracks in the History of the State. Many of the San Francisco Streets carry names of former residents of Chile: Atherton, Ellis, Lick, Larkin and others. Chilean women also left their names: Mina and Clementina. Manuel Briseño, an early journalist in the mines was one of the founders of the San Diego Union. Juan Evangelista Reyes was a Sacramento pioneer as were the Luco brothers. Luis Felipe Ramírez was one of the City Fathers in Marysville. The Leiva family owned at one time, much of the land in Marin County, including Fort Ross. Chileans integrated quickly and like their "Little Chiles," they were soon absorbed by the ever-growing State of California, becoming part of the mainstream of the present population of the Golden State.[14]

Every mining town had its own Chilecito or little Chile. Historical remnants of those settlements influenced the names of locations such as Chileno Valley in Marin County, Chili Gulch in Calaveras and Chili Bar in Placer which was named after Chilean road builders. Names of Chilean towns and places are often found in the names of streets in Northern California: Valparaiso, Santiago, and Calera.[15][16]

It is disputed that famous Californio or Spanish/Mexican Californian bandit Joaquin Murrieta may have been born in Chile, and his mother was of Cherokee Indian ancestry whose family settled in Chile in the late 18th century.[17] Chilean poet Pablo Neruda published the play Fulgor y Muerte de Joaquin Murieta and used literary license to expand on the lack of unanimity about Murieta's origins to create a martyred Chilean Robin Hood.[18] Another source claims that Murieta's national origin was changed from Mexican to Chilean after various transcontinental and translated reprints.[19]

Because of their geographic location pertaining to the settlements associated with the California Gold Rush Chileans played an integral part in the foundation of cities such as Belmont, San Carlos, and Menlo Park (San Mateo County) in the 1800s. San Francisco's landmark North Beach neighborhood was previously the "Little Santiago" neighborhood.[citation needed]Other cities like Beverly Hills, Long Beach, Palm Desert (Coachella Valley), Sacramento, San Diego and Santa Ana, California (Orange County) have small but prevalent Chilean-American communities.

In 1975 Chilean exiles of the Agusto Pinochet dictatorship established La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California, which is to this day the largest Chilean cultural center in the United States.

US communities with high percentages of people of Chilean ancestry

The top 25 US communities with the highest percentage of people claiming Chilean ancestry (and/or born in Chile) are:[20]

  1. Sleepy Hollow, NY 3.7%
  2. Manorhaven, NY 2.7%
  3. West Echols, GA 2.5%
  4. Oyster Bay, NY 2.3%
  5. Locust Valley, NY 2.2%
  6. Mill Neck, NY 2.0%
  7. Youngsville, NC 1.9%
  8. Mission Bay, FL 1.8%
  9. Doral, FL 1.8%
  10. Hoonah, AK 1.8%
  11. Beatyestown, NJ 1.8%
  12. Forest Home, NY 1.8%
  13. Victory Gardens, NJ 1.8%
  14. Morenci, AZ 1.7%
  15. South Palm Beach, FL 1.7%
  16. Juno Ridge, FL 1.6%
  17. Dover, NJ 1.5%
  18. Fountainbleau, FL 1.4%
  19. Placid Lakes, FL 1.3%
  20. Ellenville, NY 1.3%
  21. Falcon Lake Estates, TX 1.2%
  22. North Westside, FL 1.2%
  23. Briarcliff, TX 1.2%
  24. Scottsville, VA 1.2%
  25. The Crossings, FL 1.2%

Chilean American population centres

  • (United States Census Bureau, 2006)
  • California: 13,550 (estimates to 20,000).
    • San Francisco/San José Bay Area (San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma counties): 4,500-5,000 (estimated).
      • Alameda County: 719
      • Contra Costa County: estimated at 2,000
      • Marin County: 405
      • Napa County: 385
      • Santa Clara County: 775
      • San Francisco County: 2,473
      • San Mateo County: 574
      • Solano County: 500
      • Sonoma County: estimated at 1,500
    • Los Angeles County: 5,508
      • City of Los Angeles: 2,736
    • Orange County: 1,052
    • Riverside County : estimated at 1,500
    • Sacramento County: estimated at 1,000
    • San Bernardino County: 483
    • San Diego County: 867
    • Santa Barbara County: 605
    • Ventura County: 258
  • Arizona: 500
  • Colorado: 740
  • Connecticut: 1,264
  • Florida: 13,400
    • Miami-Dade County: 7,910
      • City of Miami: 939
      • City of Miami Beach: 623
      • City of Hialeah: 611
  • Georgia: 872
  • Illinois: 1,727
    • City of Chicago: 640
  • Maryland: 2,316
  • Massachusetts: 1,750
  • Michigan: 660
  • Minnesota: 499
  • Missouri: 303
  • Nevada: 697
  • New Jersey: 5,129
  • New York: 9,937
    • New York City: 5,014
  • North Carolina: 924
  • Ohio: 616
  • Oklahoma: 500
  • Oregon: 607
  • Pennsylvania: 1,162
  • Puerto Rico: 582
  • Texas: 2,934
    • Dallas County: 329
    • Houston: 475
  • Utah: 1,504 (This number seems too low - in 2000 there were 1,405 Chilean-born individuals living in Utah - a figure that doesn't even include American-born individuals of Chilean ancestry) .[21])
  • Virginia: 2,040
  • Washington: 1,229
  • Wisconsin: 444
  • District of Columbia: estimated at 1,000.

Notable Chilean Americans

Actress and model Leonor Varela
Laser physicist Frank Duarte

See also


  1. ^ a b "S0201. Selected Population Profile in the United States; Population Group: Chilean". 2009 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau.;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201PR:416;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201T:416;ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0201TPR:416&-ds_name=ACS_2009_1YR_G00_&-_lang=en&-format=. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  2. ^ "United States - Select a Race, Ethnic, or Ancestry Group - American FactFinder". 
  3. ^ a b c d e Chilean Americans
  4. ^ (Spanish)
  5. ^ía a los Chilenos en el Mundo
  6. ^ (Spanish)
  7. ^ Origins: History of immigration from Chile - Immigration Museum, Melbourne Australia
  8. ^ U.S. Census
  9. ^ (PDF) Composición Étnica de las Tres Áreas Culturales del Continente Americano al Comienzo del Siglo XXI.,M1. 
  10. ^ SOCIAL IDENTITY Marta Fierro Social Psychologist.
  11. ^ massive immigration of European Argentina Uruguay Chile Brazil
  12. ^ Latinoamerica.
  13. ^ Chileans in California
  14. ^ Articles: Chilenos in the California Gold Rush, 1848-49 - Historical Text Archive
  15. ^ Consulado de Chile, San Francisco, California, EEUU
  16. ^ American River Rafting - Information, Descriptions, Resources and Conservation W.E.T. River Trips
  17. ^ Joaquin Murrieta, Robin Hood or Just Plain Hood
  18. ^ Kipen, David (2004-07-15). "Gold Rush drama is poet Pablo Neruda's overlooked effort as a playwright". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Top 101 cities with the most residents born in Chile (population 500+)". Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  21. ^ Census Table of Locations of birth for Utah's foreign born population

External links

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