According to the report Economic Trends in Latin America and the Caribbean by CEPAL and the International Labor Organization (ILO), published in May of last year, Chile is the Latin American country where immigration has increased the most, proportional to its population. This is mainly due to the fact that migrants see Chile as a country with economic stability, and where they will have greater chances of finding employment.
Nevertheless, and despite this positive outlook, there have been some emblematic cases, due to the inequality they reveal, like that of the Haitian Joane Florvil, who was accused of a crime she did not commit thanks to a procedure she did not understand, and who passed away due to the wounds she inflicted on herself, or by others, during her imprisonment; or other cases, unfortunately common, like the one involving Haitian Cedul Termesier, a Copec gas station attendant whom a customer attacked by throwing a hot dog to his face, allegedly because “it had too little avocado in it”. These cases demonstrate what has always been known, but which today is exposed more aggressively thanks to the rise of immigration: certain skin colors are seen as a threat to large swaths of our society.
The report Manifestations of Racial Discrimination in Chile: A Study of Perceptions, published by the National Institute for Human rights (NIHR) in February of this year, indicates that 68.2% of surveyed individuals declare that they agree with measures to limit the entrance of migrants into Chile. In turn, a third of them consider themselves “whiter than other people from Latin American countries” and almost 25% in the Metropolitan Region see immigrants as “dirtier” than Chileans. Additionally, the National Institute for Human rights indicates in their report that “the fact that skin color and indigenous features are indicated as reasons for rejection denotes their use as indicators of social exclusion and, therefore, as an implicit expression of racism (…) the indicators of the responses show that over 30% of the participants do not clearly reject the idea of stigmatizing them”.
The recent (and rejected by immigrant communities) announcement made by the government, which seeks to apply a series of short-term changes in immigration policy, including the regulation of arrivals involving Haitians, as well as the controversy that erupted after the release of the questions asked of migrants with respect to their skin and eye color (an issue already addressed by the Foreign Relations Office) show that this is a problem far from being solved in our country, and that more current and informed perspectives are required to deal with it.
The writers of this issue have taken on the task. Through an interview carried out by Ximena Póo, Celia Cussen speaks of the undeniable contribution of the African population throughout Chilean history. Moreover, Maria Emilia Tijoux talks about the configuration of power relations that make it possible for racism to exist in our country. In addition, Luis Eduardo Thayer approaches the challenges of a migratory policy based on the protection of human rights. Claudia Zapata steps out of the contemporary context in order to focus on the history of racism against the indigenous peoples in our history and Jose Miguel Labrín analyzes the social function of the mass media in a context framed by classism and by an interpretation of reality marked by the interests of elites.