SANTIAGO – Life in Chile for many immigrants is challenging, especially for immigrants of color. About one million immigrants now called Chile home and many of them are black and brown people from countries like Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti.
Gricalia Cuero is an Afro-Colombian immigrant. “My son had problems at school. They used to tell him ‘black boy, go back to your country.’ He would come home crying.”
Many people of color experience both racism and classism. Chile has the most stable economy in Latin America and that’s the reason why many immigrants are fleeing to Chile from their countries. Many of them are desperate and are seeking a brighter future for themselves and their families. However, upon arriving, they are not always welcomed with open arms.
Rosa Yibi is Afro-Colombian and she moved to Chile five years ago. Though she has had to face discrimination here, she says her priorities are what keep her going every day.
“My priorities are my children and their studies, whether it’s here or in another place. I want them to get ahead and receive the education that I didn’t receive.”
On Sunday, hundreds of immigrants and Chileans united in Santiago Centro to march against racism, xenophobia and, what they call, anti-immigration policy by the current government.
Maria Cotal, Chilean citizen: “It’s important that we send a message to the government that we don’t agree with their immigration policy; that we don’t agree with how the Mapuche people are being treated; and that we don’t agree with how immigrants are being treated, especially the Haitians.”
People marched through the streets chanting, “Nobody in Chile is illegal” and that “migration is a right, not a crime”.
Anthony Hill, reporter Chile Today: “Many people here today told me the reason why they are here is because they want to send a clear message and that message is that they are against any form of racism and xenophobia and they want to display that in the most public way as possible, which is the reason why they are marching on the streets of Santiago.”
Many immigrants of color have also complained about discrimination in the workplace, citing how some people say that they are stealing jobs from Chileans and how they are treated compared to their lighter skinned co-workers. One Chilean worker’s union leader told me, it is about time that changes.
Emilia Solis, Union Leader: “Today we are here because we are tired of the discrimination. We workers have to unite. Nobody is taking jobs from anybody and that’s why we’re here. We don’t want xenophobia and we don’t want racism against us workers.”
They know that simply marching in the streets will not change society, but they are hoping that by Chileans and immigrants standing together in solidarity will further the discussion of new social issues, that some say, are plaguing the Chilean society.
Anthony Hill is a multimedia journalist for Chile Today. He was born in the Bronx, New York and is currently living in Santiago, Chile. He double majored in journalism and political science at the State University of New York at Oswego. Before coming to Chile Today, he was a reporter for the NBC station in western Massachusetts.