The audience at the CHF was presented a 45-minute version of the series featuring the highlights of all five episodes of The Croatian Community in Chile, a documentary series produced by Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT) that follows the life stories of people who moved from Croatia to Chile, most hailing from the Adriatic island of Brač, with some two hundred thousand of their descendants currently living in Chile.
The multimedia hall of the Matis Absolute Lounge was the scene on the 6th of June of the promotion of The Croatian Community in Chile, a documentary series produced by state television and radio broadcaster Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT). The event was held under the auspices of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad and organised by the Croatian Heritage Foundation. This five-part television series was shot and produced by HRT’s programming department for Croatians abroad and follows the life stories of people who moved from Croatia to Chile, most hailing from the Adriatic island of Brač, with some two hundred thousand of their descendants currently living in Chile. The series is authored by Mariana Campera and Damian Bazan Mamić, news editors with the Spanish language news desk at the Voice of Croatia, HRT’s programming department for people of Croatian ethnicity living outside the Republic of Croatia, and edited by the department’s editor-in-chief Ivo Kujundžić.
The series was screened following welcome speeches from Croatian Heritage Foundation director Mijo Marić, HRT’s Voice of Croatia editor-in-chief Kujundžić, and Croatiana Orešković, the head of the department for the legal status, culture and education of emigrant Croatians at the State Office for Croats Abroad, on hand as the personal representative of the state office’s head, state secretary Zvonko Milas. Like at the previously staged premiere screening in Supetar on the island of Brač, the audience was presented an abbreviated 45-minute version of the complete series featuring the highlights of all five episodes.
Episode one is titled To the End of the Earth and Back and offers a history of the Croatians that emigrated to South America. Episode two, In Search of the White Gold, tells of the first Croatians to arrive in the north of Chile to seek out “white gold”, i.e. sodium nitrate (better known as saltpetre), used at the time as a fertiliser. The third episode in this series is titled A Croatian Town at the End of the Earth, and tells of the ethnic Croatians who relocated to the Tierra del Fuego region during the gold rush. The fourth episode covers the fortunes of Prominent Croatians in Chilean Society and their presence in the ranks of government, on the culture scene and in the education system. The fifth episode in this series, titled Chilean Writers of Croatian Extraction, is dedicated to the literary achievements of the Croatians who moved to Chile to live there, most having moved out of the Croatian island of Brač.
Chileans of Croatian background are usually connected to their ancestral homeland by one of their two surnames, but have, for the most part, fully assimilated themselves. There are no living people from the first generation, i.e. those who relocated to Chile from Croatia, or of any more recent newcomers. The first Croatians to move to the Tierra del Fuego did so in the 1870s following the first gold strikes on Lenox island. Most of them, frustrated by their lack of success, subsequently moved to Punta Arenas and Porvenir and opted for animal husbandry. In the early twentieth century the phylloxera plague ravaged vineyards on the Croatian islands, and farmers from Brač moved en masse to populate ethnic Croatian enclaves in distant parts of Chile, from Punta Arenas to Arica. Following the First World War to flow of immigrants from Croatia tapered off somewhat, and was entirely absent in the wake of the Second World War. Stimulus for industrial development saw most of them move to Santiago. The greatest number of people with Croatian ancestry, however, live in Punta Arenas and Antofagasta. There is a much smaller number of people of ethnic Croatian extraction in Iquique and a small number of Chileans of Croatian background in La Serena, Concepción and Viña de Mar.
In Chile, which permits dual citizenship and where citizenship is readily accessible, people of Croatian extraction live on an equal footing with other citizens. Most are highly educated and are to be found, as members of a respected emigrant group, in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, in the culture scene and the arts, in the education system, in the hierarchy of the [Roman Catholic] church and in the business community. There are many local Croatian associations, prominent among which are Estado Croata (www.estadiocroata.cl) in Santiago, the Club Croata in Punta Arenas, the Sociedad Croata de Socorros Mutuos in Antofagasta and the Club Croata in Iquique. There are no Croatian Catholic missions in Chile to see to the affairs of followers of the Roman Catholic religion of Croatian extraction and these affairs are covered by the head of the Croatian Catholic Mission in the Peruvian capital of Lima.
Croatian language school instruction is provided for some one-hundred-twenty pupils, third generation descendants of Croatians that moved to Chile, in the Escuela Republica de Croacia, Escuola Miguel de Cervantes, Colegio Cruz del Sur and the Club Croatia in Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas is also home to the bulletin Male Novine (“The Little Newspaper”) which publishes sporadic reports in the Croatian language. There are also two radio shows with Croatian themes and music.
The event was moderated by Tatjana Rau, the editor and operational coordinator of the Voice of Croatia international radio channel. The screening of the series was followed by her capable handling of a fascinating and above all inspiring conversation with the authors of the series, Spanish language news desk editors at HRT’s Voice of Croatia international radio channel Mariana Campera and Damian Bazan Mamić. They discussed their professional and private experiences, their hopes and fears, and that, both having been born in Argentina, they hope to see an opportunity to create a new series dedicated to the Croatians who left Croatia to move there, never to return.
By: Diana Šimurina-Šoufek; Photography: Snježana Radoš