Chile is one of South America's largest countries, and occupies a narrow strip of land between the Andes and Pacific Ocean. The country is bordered by Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and the Drake Passage. Chile was conquered and colonized by Spain in the 16th Century, but the country attained its independence in 1818 after which it experienced significant economic growth and gained its current territory. Currently, Chile is one of the most stable and developed countries in South America and the leading country in human development, economic freedom, and income per capita in Latin America. Chile has a population 15 million people belonging to several ethnic groups. Some of the largest ethnic groups in the country are looked at below.
The European ethnic group comprises the majority of the population in Chile, accounting for 59% of the country’s population. The European emigrants came to Chile from Spain during the Spanish colonization of the country. Upon their arrival, the Spanish European revitalized the economy of the country leading to the rise in the social hierarchy. Currently, the ethnic group is made up of Italians, Croatians, French, German, English, and Poles. Those of Croatian, French and Italian ancestry are the majority of the ethnic groups. This ethnic group has different of cultures and traditions borrowed heavily from the countries of origin. The emigrants from these countries that form the European ethnic group have transformed the country socially, politically, economically, and culturally.
Mestizos make up the second largest ethnic group in Chile. The ethnic group accounts for 25% of the Chilean population. The term Mestizo is a Spanish word that was used to mean a person of combined European and Amerindian descent. The term has since been used to refer to people of mixed ethnicity or race living in Latin America. The ethnic group begun to take shape during the colonization of most of the Latin America and quickly became a dominant ethnic group during that period.
The Mapuche are the indigenous inhabitants of South-Central Chile and the southern part of Argentina. The term Mapuche refers to the various ethnicity groups with a shared and common socioeconomic, linguistic, and religious structure. The existence of Mapuche culture dates back to 600 BC, and they differ from the indigenous people of Patagonia. During the arrival of the Europeans in Chile, Mapuche had built defensive structures and forts to protect them from European invasion. Currently, Mapuche is the third largest ethnic group in Chile after European and Mestizo accounting for 9% of the total population. The language for this ethnic group does not receive much support from the education sector of Chile. Mapuche ethnic group believes in the idea of a creator called ngenechen embodied in four components, namely young man, old man, young woman, and old woman. Their ritual ceremony is referred to as Ngillatun which means to “pray” making most of their ceremonies.
Chile, being a multicultural and diverse country with emigrants from almost all of the continents of the world, has several other ethnic groups as well. These include Africans as well as the Aymara and other indigenous groups, including Rapa Nui, Likan Antai, Colla, Yagan, Kawesqar, and Quechua. Collectively, these ethnic minority groups account for only 7% of the Chilean population.
Largest Ethnic Groups In Chile
|Self-Identified Ethnic Background
|Share of Chilean Population