There’s no place like the long skinny country of Chile🇨🇱. Furthermore, I’m sure many people don’t know that Chile has an African descent population living in the North in the city of Arica. Arica is a coastal city that sits close to the Chile-Peru border.
To continue on from my last post, after my fiancé Dimy and I traveled from Santiago up to Antofagasta, our next destination was to get to Arica. Instead of flying, for this trip we decided to take a bus. Clearly this is because I initially underestimated the length of the country. I was like, “Antofagasta doesn’t look that far from Arica, we should just take the bus!” WRONG!
The distance between the two cities is a little over 400 miles. To fly it takes 2 hours, to drive/ bus it is 8 hours. Not much to look at either because literally the whole 8 hours you’re in the Atacama Desert, with the exception of a short stop in Iquique.
When we arrived in the town we took a local taxi (because there’s no Uber up there), to our hotel. We stayed at a cute little place called Hotel Samaña which I loved! Afterwards we rested a bit and prepared to go meet with an organization of Afro-Chilenos that I reached out to previously called Oro Negro. I coordinated with a woman named Marta who was one of the head leaders of the organization.
So it comes time and we head on over to Oro Negro and upon arrival we are welcomed by Marta and her husband. It’s a surreal moment because after all the travel, we finally made it. She sat us down and we chatted. I basically interviewed her and asked all the questions I had running through my head about their community.
There are around 12,000 Afro-Chilenos in Chile, most of which are right there in Arica. Along with sharing the culture and traditions of the community, Oro Negro was also rallying to have the Chilean government officially recognize them on their census. Now this to me was fascinating. It was so refreshing to see people within this identity group where you can easily or not so much see their black features so PROUD to be of African descent. To see a group of folks who could’ve easily suppressed their African heritage wear their Black roots so proudly was utterly beautiful!
Along with the pride also came what all people with more melanin encounter, discrimination. Marta told me she had a situation where a taxi driver told her, “Go back to your own country,” in which she replied, “This is my country.” Let alone, it must’ve been difficult to belong to a community that the government didn’t really acknowledge.
On the other hand, they are still fighting anf making much progress to be seen and identified by the Chilean government. To provide a bit of context, Chile is the LAST Latin American country that doesn’t acknowledge its Afro descendant population. They had a campaign out this year to notify Afro-Chilenos how they should identify themselves on the 2017 census.
So how exactly did Chile end up with Afro Chileans? Well Marta summed it up by saying that it dates back to slavery and war. When Chile won the War of the Pacific, they acquired what is modern day Arica. The African slaves were freed and mixed with the locals over time until they completely merged and became Afro-Chilenos. Their African heritage influences much of their lives. The food, the music, and their celebrations! However, their Latin roots are also just as important to them. Each year they have their own Carnival to celebrate both the Afro and Latinx sides of their roots.
Needless to say, I’d totally go back to Arica, Chile. I actually would love to film there one day. Marta and Oro Negro were amazing! & I’d highly suggest you connect with them if you do go. I bought a copy of her book (fully in Spanish) that dives even deeper in to the history, culture and traditions of Afro-Chilenos.
I hope this post has been insightful, and I’m curious if you would ever consider traveling to Arica, as well.
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