Exploring the history and experiences of mixed heritage persons and inter-racial relationships across the world


Map Of ChileDespite the varying results of ethnic surveys of some of Chile’s 15 million people, there is no doubt there is a substantial mixed population. The majority of Chileans consider themselves white though genetic studies suggest that some 65% of them are Mestizos, that is mixed European and Amerindian, with majority European ancestry. Even amongst those who self-identify as Mestizos, there is significant European ancestry in their genes.

The small Amerindian contribution to modern Chilean genes is not surprising considering that Amerindians make up only 4% of the population with most of those from a group known as Mapuche but also as Araucanians, Araucans or Moluches, a fiercely protective tribe who had even managed to thwart the Incas who only managed to extend their empire to the North of what is present day Chile.

Mapuche Family 1860The Spanish first arrived in 1535 in the form of a band of Spanish conquistadors from Peru seeking gold. These fortune hunters came up against the Mapuche people, Whilst the Spanish did not find gold or silver, Chile’s agricultural potential led to the formal colonisation of the country which started in 1540 formalised by the founding of Santiago as the capital on 12th February, 1541. As normal, contact with the Europeans meant the introduction of Old world diseases which decimated some populations. Despite that, the Mapuche did not take colonisation lying down and there were several insurrections in 1553, 1598 and 1655. The Spanish crown recognised that enslavement of these people did not lead to peaceful co-existence and abolished slavery in 1683. As with many colonies in the early days, miscegenation occurred quite extensively and the beginnings of the mestizo population became evident.

The vast majority of un-colonised Mapuche peoples formed a south border barrier which became known to the Spanish as Araucanía or Araucana. With the Atacama Desert to the North, the Andes Mountains to the East and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile was a little isolated from the rest of South America. Still it was a prized procession constantly under threat from the southern Mapuche and Spain’s colonial rivals, the British and the Dutch, that it eventually had one of the Americas largest army. Undoubtedly, the predominantly male soldiers contributed to the growing mestizo population.

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