Afro-Chilean are Afro descendants in Chile. They are mainly located in Arica y Parinacota in northern Chile. They are not recognize by the Chilean government as an ethnic. Organizations like Afro-Chilean Alliance(Lumbanga, Oro Negro and Arica Negro) are striving to include Afro-Chileans as an ethnic in the census of 2012. According to Afro-Chiliean Alliance the population is estimated to be 8,000.


The first Afro-descendant in Chile arrived in 1536, with explorer Diego de Almagro, as slaves and soldiers. Slaves were used in agriculture, gold mining,  and construction projects. Mortality was high, due to harsh working environment. Slaves were brought in mainly to supplement the native labor population. Being that Chile was far and islolated, the black slave population remain small.

Timeline of Afro-Chilean History

1536 First Afro-Chhilean in Chile, slaves and soldiers
1570 Afro-Chilean population@7,000
1590 Afro-Chilean population@20,000
1647 Slave revolt in Santiago
1804 Slave rebellion took over ship of La Puebla, tried to sail back to Africa--ship intercepted
1811 Afro-Chilean population@25,000
1814 Chile drafting slaves for independence army-Afro-Chilean conspicuous in independence army
1850s Government began adopting pro-European immigration-Afro-descendant becoming invisible
1952 Department of Immigration/Ministry of Foreign Affairs stipulated "to perfect the biological condition of the Chilean Race"
1970 Population@166, 363


Slaves came mainly from Angola, Congo, and the Guinnea Coast. Slave importation was very costly, due to the long routes, which encourage smuggling. Two main routes were used: the first, until the 1600s, from Buenos Aires via the Montevideo overland, later from Categena, Colombia to Callao Peru by sea, and overland to Chile.

Afro-Chilean were not just slaves, but were soldiers. Some served with distinction, which earned them the encomiendas, land grants with tribute paying natives. Famous encomiendas holders of African descent were Juan Valiente, the first to own an encomiendas, Juan Beltrán, Leonor Galiano, Gomez de Leon, and Cristóbal Varela. 

Numerous cimarrón or run-away settlements were formed by slaves, who raided Spanish towns and indian villages. Sometimes cimarrones would ally with indians in raids. Some cimarrón had mulatto population. The Chilean government was in constant fear of black and indian revolt, so in 1647 the Santiago council banned black, mulatto, and indian from traveling at night. 

By 1570, Chile had a population of 7,000 afro-descendants. By 1590, 20,000.


Attempts to end slavery began in 1810 with the War of Independence. In order to recruit slaves, the government promised to end the importation of slaves, free all children of slaves, and slaves residing in Chile for more than 6 month would be free. Slavery would not end until 1823, when 4,000 Afro-descent were freed. 

Modern Status

After emancipation, Afro-Chileans seem to have vanished from the Chilean historical records. They never emerged as a political force. A census in 1940, put them at 1000 and 3000 mulatto. In 1971, one source claim .017% of the population of 9,786,000. More recently Afro-Chilean Alliance has emerged as a voice of Afro-Chilean, comprised of three groups Lumbanga, Oro Negro, and Arica Negro.

Famous Afro-Chilean

Dominique Latimore
Jean Beausejour
Jose Romero-mulatto, prominent independence soldier, served with great distinction

Related Article:   Peru, Afro-Spanish

Works Cited

Appiah, Kwame Anthony and Gates, Henry Louis, Jr.(1999). Africana: the Encpedia of African and African American Experience. Basic Civitas Books, pp. 421-423. ISBN 0-465-00071-1.yclo

Estrada, Daniela. Afro-Chileans seek recognition in Census. IPS, July 29, 2010. retrieved 05-04-2011

Landers, Jane G. Slaves, Subjects, and Subersives--Blacks in Colonial Latin America. Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 2006, print. ISBN: 9780826323972

Davis, Darien j. Beyond Slavery-The Multilayered Legacy of Africans In Latin America and the Caribbean. Lanham, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2007, print. ISBN 9780742541313