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CULTURAL HISTORY

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the close ties between Chile and Great Britain shaped the development of both countries. British sailors, merchants, engineers, teachers, and many others helped Chile and other South American nations to gain independence, establish trade routes, build railroads and canals, dig mines, and staff schools; conversely, Chilean nitrates, copper, coal, guano, and other raw materials were essential to the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

As the leading commercial port along the Pacific coast before the development of the Panama Canal, Valparaíso played a central role in these processes and in the history of globalization more generally. In fact, UNESCO declared Valparaíso a World Heritage Site in 2003, calling the port city “an exceptional testimony to the early phase of globalization in the late 19th century, when it became the leading commercial port on the sea routes of the Pacific coast of South America.”

The poet Domingo Faustino Sarmiento described Valparaíso as "a recently disembarked Europe strewn in disorder on the beach / Whose sap has saturated both visible and invisible forms of being.” As Sarmiento’s metaphor implies, Chilean customs and forms of life were deeply affected by British and American influence, particularly in the port of Valparaíso where these immigrants first landed—bringing with them knowledge, ideas, and customs from abroad.

As they adjusted to their new landscape and culture, British and American immigrants sought to recreate cultural traditions that reminded them of home, such as the football matches the British sailors played on the hills of Valparaíso or the tradition of five o’clock tea time--which to this day is puzzlingly known as "las onces,” or elevenses! Both of these cultural echoes of the British community—along with many others—still shape Chilean culture today.

As the colony’s population grew, the British wielded increasing influence, founding educational institutions, newspapers, sports clubs, and social and cultural organizations while playing an outsized role in contributing to the new nation’s art, architecture, naval culture, and more.

In the sections below or via the navigation menu above, we invite you to explore some of the milestones of Anglo-Chilean cultural history, from its maritime and colonial legacy to the traditions that have woven themselves into the fabric of the Anglo-Saxon heritage in Chile.

Cultural History Topics

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Immigration

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Maritime History

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The Auracanía

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R.J. Craig-Christie