Thursday, January 27

The influential descendants of Croatian immigrants in Chile

They are not the most important colony, nor the first to set foot on these distant lands. Before the English and the Germans did it, but all, like the Croats, came looking for better opportunities and settled in the cities that promised progress From north to south. Today the descendants of Croats go out into the world thanks to the young president-elect Gabriel Boric Font (35 years old), but others had preceded him, including the billionaire businessman Andronicus Luksic Craig (67) who maintains ties with Spain.

Numerous facts, and not only age and heritage, separate the life of the future president from that of one of the richest men in the country and both tell of the dissimilar lives of immigrants

Croats in Chile.

Although their ancestors arrived in Chile around 1900, the Boric settled in the cold extreme south of the country, Magellan, and the Luksic, in the hot northern desert, Antofagasta. The Boric people migrated from the small island Ugljan that overlooks the city of Zabar; the Luksics came from Brac, almost in front of Dubrovnik; both on the coast of the kingdom of Dalmatia, Croatia, and 400 kilometers from each other on the waters of the Adriatic.

Even so, the Boric and Luksic are faithful representatives of the important Croatian colony in Chile, which reaches 2.4 percent of the population according to census data, that is to say, about 400,000 people, and whose work has left important traces. There are of all trades and professions and from early on they stood out. One of the first was the businessman and philanthropist Pascual Baburica Soletic (Kolocep, 1875), whose art collection is exhibited in the Baburizza museum, in the port of Valparaíso. He is followed by the Catholic Bishop Vladimir Boric Crnosija, great-uncle of the elected president; the journalist Lenka Franulic and the national prize of Literature Roque Esteban Scarpa, all deceased.

Today stand out the former president of the Episcopal Conference of Chile, Monsignor Alejandro Goic Karmelic; the writer Ramón Díaz Eterovic, the sculptor Lily Garafulic Yankovic, the businessman and former president of the most important soccer club Peter Dragicevic, the prominent architect Smiljan Radic, the former director of the Museum of Fine Arts Milan Ivelic Kusanovic and the popular television host and model Tonka Tomicic. In politics not only Boric resonates, but also former ministers Hernán Büchi Buc and Ingrid Antonijevic, the liberal deputy Vlado Mirosevic and the Christian Democratic senator Carolina Goic Borojevic.

This multiplicity of faces extends throughout the country, imprinting the localities where they settled with their traditions, the main ones being the northern ones Iquique, Antofagasta and Calama, and the southern Punta Arenas. In all of them there is a sports club or Croatian fire station. His identity is so strong that after the last Balcane wars and the declaration of independence, the Yugoslav Stadium, located in the capital, was renamed Croatian Stadium, as well as many other institutions.

Fled from hunger

The advanced Croats, according to the investigation of the National Prize for History Mateo Martinic, arrived in 1844 and settled in Fort Bulnes, the first settlement in the Strait of Magellan. However, most of the Croatian influx occurred in the late 19th century and in World War I, driven by famine and poverty that ravaged the Dalmatian region. As historian Sergio Lausic explains to ABC, the phylloxera plague destroyed the vineyards and olive trees of the island of Brac, place of origin of almost 90 percent of Croatian families living in Chile. The crisis worsened after the Austro-Hungarian Empire made it possible to import Italian wines. He adds that, although there was already a large English colony in Magellan, the explosion of sheep farming in large areas required the labor that the Croats provided. The first arrived with Austrian passports and, when World War I ended, they did so as Yugoslavs.

From that wave comes the family of Gabriel Boric, whose great-grandfather landed in Punta Arenas in 1885. Juan (Ive) arrived accompanied by his brother Simón and they took care ofn the gold mining operations in the area. Later, Ive returned to Ugljan to marry Bozuca Crnosija Vucina, with whom he had eleven children, including Luis Pedro, the grandfather of the president-elect.

Gold diggers

Unlike other Croats, the Boric they ventured into the most extreme places of Tierra del Fuego, by the Beagle Channel, and today a monolith on Lennox Island, famous for the Chilean-Argentine conflict at the end of the 70s, reminds Ive. In 2014, as a deputy, Gabriel Boric narrated an anecdote that shows how deep-rooted nationalist sentiments are in this colony. In Congress he told that, at the age of 5, in 1991, his world underwent a radical turn. To go to the yugoslav club, to the Yugoslav school, from playing in Yugoslavia street … he happened overnight to do it on Croatian denomination sites.

«At one of the family lunches I told my nona (grandmother), Magdalena Scarpa Martinic: ‘I am not a Croat, I am a Yugoslav.’ To which he raised his hand and told me never to dare to say something of those characteristics again. I did not understand him at that time, but later, when I began to be interested in the history of my ancestors, I understood the depth and pain of those words, “he said.

The Boric Font brothers, Gabriel, Simón and Tomás, sons of Luis Javier and María Soledad, visited Ugljan in 2010, when the president-elect was taking his first steps in politics as a university leader. On that occasion, they visited the house of the great-great-grandparents, which remains intact in the hands of the family. His cousin Domagoj Kombura recently told Croatia’s that during the trip, Gabriel was a bit withdrawn because he couldn’t speak Croatian at all.

Billionaire Luksic, (third from left) with a family of artisans – Twitter

In the extreme north of Chile another large part of the Croatian colony settled. This group, says historian Sergio Lausic, concentrated on mining work, especially in the nitrate works that the English exploited in Bolivian territory and that, after the War of the Pacific, remained within the Chilean limits. There toscribbled Polycarp Luksic Ljubetic in the early 1900s, from Brac, who shortly after married the Bolivian Elena Abaroa, granddaughter of a war hero and daughter of the merchant Andrónico Abaroa.

Copper mines

Settled in Antofagasta, he had two children, of whom Andrónico gave rise to one of the largest fortunes in the country thanks to the exploitation of copper mines. Andrónico and Guillermo were born from his marriage to Ena Craig and, after being widowed, he married Iris Fontbona, with whom he had Paola, Gabriela and Jean Paul. His heirs have expanded the business beyond borders, diversifying the holding to 128 countries and activities such as maritime transport, banking, the forestry industry, fishing, hospitality, energy and food, which makes them one of the most important economic groups in Chile. The family fortune, according to Forbes, exceeds 23.3 billion dollars.

Perhaps because of his roots in the lands of his grandfather, Andrónico Luksic bought a wonderful hotel on the shores of the Adriatic, in Dubrovnik, giving rise to a hotel empire that in 2016 was acquired by the Adler of Madrid. Luksic was less fortunate in 2018 when, As a shareholder of Banco Popular, he lost one hundred million dollars, after Banco Santander acquired the entity for one dollar.

The Croats settled in two areas of extreme climates in Chile, but for Senator Carolina Goic this should not come as a surprise because they are a people used to effort and adversity. Her paternal grandparents and maternal great-grandparents came from the Dalmatian region to Punta Arenas and she remembers that Croatian was spoken at home, but recognizes that the language has been lost. “It is very difficult, more than French or Italian, although now some schools are trying to recover it,” he told ABC. Being an important community, they have managed to preserve other traditions such as dances and music at festivals, and on the Magellan table it is not strange to find famous Croatian sweets, such as krostoles and presuratas.

If Gabriel Boric, during his tenure, visits Croatia, he would not be the first Chilean president to do so. Before that, Ricardo Lagos did it, in 2004, who inaugurated a plaque on the island of Brac in homage to those who dared to cross the seas to reach the end of the world.