Chile & Chileans Through the Eyes of (Gringos) North-American
Isable Allende Cote de Pablo –
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. 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. 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,” 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 1850’s 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.
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.