Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Who is Gabriel Boric, and Why Should Croatians Take Notice?

16 March 2022 - Last week, Chile swore in Gabriel Boric, a former student activist and member of the Croatian diaspora, into the nation’s presidency. At 36, Boric is the youngest Chilean to hold this office, taking on the role as Chile undergoes an essential social and political transition. This is most apparent given that the outgoing president is billionaire Sebastian Pinera.

Small Town Croatian-Chilean to the Presidency

Born in Punta Arenas, a city near the southern tip of the American continent, Boric was born to Luis Boric Scarpa, a second-generation Croatian-Chilean engineer with origins on the Adriatic Island of Ugljan. His mother was Marìa Soledad Font Aguilera, of Catalan descent. Even though his father’s ancestors left the then Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1897, Boric still has relatives on the island, demonstrating the strong ties Croatian maintain with the diaspora.

During his youth, Boric studied at The British School in his hometown. After completing high school, he moved to Santiago, where he enrolled in law school at the University of Chile (though he never graduated), where he was involved with student politics. During this time, he became president of the University of Chile Student Federation. While president of the student federation, he witnessed the second wave of protests for reform of the Chilean educational system, a movement that started in response to policies that were relics of the Pinochet dictatorship of the 20th century. Boric became one of the leading spokespersons from the Federation of Chilean Students, gaining him initial recognition within the political sphere.

Boric took the next step in his career in 2013 when he ran as an independent in his first parliamentary election, campaigning in his home region of Magallanes. Despite being outside of either of the Chilean traditional bi-nominal coalitions, he won, taking a seat on the Commissions for Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples. Since then, Boric has been a consistent voice for education reforms and youth issues.

Leading During a Time of Change

After winning reelection in 2017 by an increased margin, Boric became part of a new political group called the Social Convergence, which resulted from a merger of a previous social-liberal party he was previously associated with. In 2019, protests erupted in the capital, initiated by a proposed increase in public transit tariffs. This marked the beginning of a significant socio-political shift within Chile, a trend that would eventually lead to Boric’s election as president.

Boric’s road to the presidency was not immediately clear. Last year, election polls showed two of his opponents Sebastián Sichel and then José Antonio Kast, as front runners for the position. Boric came second to Kast in the first round, moving on to the second round. On 19 December 2021, Boric won the second round, and on 11 March 2022, he was sworn in as president of the Republic of Chile. “Before the people, I make my pledge,” he said.

Chile is a country in search of change. For many, Boric and his political allies represent a move away from deep-rooted social inequality, which affects income, healthcare, and education. His administration will conduct a referendum on a new national constitution, replacing the Magna Carta implemented by Augustino Pinochet’s dictatorship.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and military aggression in Eastern Europe, Boric is leading his country during a time of significant historical adjustment. With a cabinet mainly containing young people, the South American nation is set to begin a political cycle focused on the feminists, environmentalist, and social-democratic views that permeate amongst the youth of Chile and much of the world at large.

Boric will have to contend with the aftermath of a pandemic, high inflation, and political divisions that pose a tangible threat to the young leader’s visions of healthcare, pension, and environmental reforms. So, as inauguration festivities unfold and diplomates gather in Santiago to congratulate the second-youngest head of state, a nation waits in anticipation for the sweeping reforms they were promised during the election campaign.

For Croatia and the members of its far-flung diaspora, Gabriel Boric serves as an example of the achievements of the descendants of emigrants who left long ago. These people would likely never be able to imagine the success that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would ever achieve. Regardless of political affiliation, Croatia will take notice of Gabriel Boric because his story is a testament to the emigrant story that the southeastern European nation knows so well.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 10 June 2019

TV Series on Croatian Community in Chile Presented

ZAGREB, June 9, 2019 - A TV series - The Croatian Community in Chile - by Mariana Campera and Damian Bazan Mamić, produced by the HRT national broadcaster, was presented at the Croatian Heritage Foundation (HMI) in Zagreb last Thursday.

The series consists of five documentary episodes with interesting stories about the life of Croatian emigrants. It is estimated that about 200,000 Croatian emigrants and their descendants live in Chile.

Campera and Mamić are reporters for the HRT's Spanish-language programme for Croats outside Croatia.

The first episode - "To the End of the World and Back" - deals with the history of emigration of Croats to South America, which started in the second half of the 19th century, while the second episode, "Searching for white gold", speaks about the first Croats to settle in northern Chile, attracted by the search for sodium nitrate (used as fertiliser at the time) in the Atacama Desert.

"A Croatian City at the End of the World" is the title of the third episode, which deals with Croats in Tierra del Fuego, who arrived there in search of gold. Today they live mostly in Punta Arenas, a community which has the highest percentage of Croat population on the South American continent.

Croats in politics, culture, education, the church hierarchy and business circles is the topic of the fourth episode, while the fifth episode - "Chilean Writers of Croat Origin" - is dedicated to the Chilean Language Academy, which has 34 members, including six full and four corresponding members of Croat origin.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 19 March 2018

President Concludes Visit to Chile

ZAGREB, March 19, 2018 - On the last day of her official visit to Chile, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited Antofagasta, a province in the north of the country, where she met with its governor Marco Antonio Diaz Munoz, representatives of the local Croat community and business people of Croat descent, the president's office said in a statement.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

President Visits Punta Arenas in Chile

ZAGREB, March 18, 2018 - During her official visit to Chile, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited the southernmost city of Punta Arenas where she met with the Governor of Magallanes Province and the Chilean Antarctic Territory, Christian Matheson Villan, representatives of the Croatian community in the city and local business people, the President's Office said in a press release.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Croat Diaspora Key to Economic Cooperation with South America

ZAGREB, March 17, 2018 - Entrepreneurs in Chile with Croatian origins like the Lukšić family offer great potential to strengthen economic cooperation between Croatia and Chile, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday during a visit to the Latin American country.

Friday, 16 March 2018

President Begins Visit to Chile

ZAGREB, March 16, 2018 - Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović began her official visit to Chile by attending a business forum in Santiago de Chile on Thursday, accompanied by executives of 15 Croatian companies looking for new business opportunities.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Croatian President Leaves for Tour of South America

ZAGREB, March 10, 2018 - Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is flying to South America on Saturday, and the first stop of her Latin American tour, which will last until 20 March, is Argentina, and after that she will fly to Chile and Brazil.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Croatian Language and Literature to Be Taught at Universities in Chile and Argentina

ZAGREB, January 18, 2018 - The government on Thursday adopted memorandums of consent which the Science and Education Ministry signed with the University of Magallanes from Chile and the National University of Rosario's Faculty of Humanities and Arts from Argentina and an agreement with the University of Buenos Aires Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, on setting up a Croatian language and literature instructorship.