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When Two Worlds Collide: The Cultural Impact of Germans in Chile

We all saw it. Germany’s close victory against a valiant Argentinian team. We saw the screaming fans, the gushing Merkel, the annoyed Messi, and the glorious moment when the German team raised the Golden cup in the air in a cloud of confetti and colourful fireworks, for the fourth time in the World Cup’s history. Many were hoping for a South American victory on South American soil. However, the World Cup trophy has, once again, been taken to western European shores, where it will comfortably rest until 2018’s World Cup in Russia.

Germany may seem worlds away, geographically and culturally, for many south americans. Wedged between France and Poland in the Northern Hemisphere, the country conjures up stereotypical images of bratwurst, lederhosen and Oktoberfest, amongst others,  and has a beautifully complex language so dissimilar to the Romantic ones majorily spoken on the south american continent. Indeed, there are many unique aspects to Germany which make it such a wonderfully diverse, charmingly historical country to visit. However, South Americans need not travel so far in order to experience a taste of traditional Germany: Chile’s southern towns remain deeply enrooted in the German influences that have defined them over the centuries.

Germans have featured in the history of Chile since the 16th century. The city of Hamburg had vital trading links with the port city of Valparaíso, and many Germans who fled from the 1848 Revolution set up homes in southern Chile. The majority of emigrating Germans settled in regions such as the Chilean Lakes district and Araucanía. Today, Chile’s most important cultural cities in the south, including Puerto Montt and Valdivia, owe much of their cultural heritage to German settlers, the vestiges of which can be clearly seen in the food, drink architecture and languages of these southern towns and cities:


Kunstmann Beer

One of Chile’s best-loved brands of beer is the Chilean-German, family-owned company, Kunstmann. Produced in Valdivia in the 1960s as a local remplacement Anwantder brewery which was destroyed in the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, this Chilean-German beer brand has become a national, Chilean favourite, blending traditionally German brewing techniques with the diversity and richness of local, southern chilean ingredients.The brand also sponsors the annual Valdivia Artisanal Beer Festival, Southern Chile’s answer to Oktoberfest which sees thousands of beer enthusiasts flock to the famously cultural city to sample delicious regional beers and to discover local music acts.


A refreshing glass of Chile's prime germanic beer


The Cóndor Newspaper


Chile is renowned for its longstanding and influential journalism culture, with Valparaíso's weekly paper, El Mercurio being the first ever Latin American newspaper ever to be put into print. It is little surprising, then, that Chile is also home to the innovative German-language, Latin American newspaper, the Cóndor. Founded in Santiago in 1938, the weekly newspaper focuses on issues concerning primarily the German-Chilean community, including a mixture of domestic news and matters of interest in Germany and Europe. Although it is mainly sold and read in Chile, particularly the Southern and Central regions, the Cóndor also boasts a North American and European readership, especially in countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.


Kuchen

‘Kuchen’, the German word for cake, has become something of an institution in Chilean cuisine. First introduced after the German Revolution wave of immigrants arrived in the late 1850s, Chilean gastronomy has firmly incorporated the delectable German sweet into its roster: they can be found in almost any Chilean bakery and supermarket.The Chilean Kuchen tends to differ from its German originator by containing fruits such as berries, apples and passion fruit on top or layered inside the cake. They are also many nutty varieties which are popular in Chile and which better resemble the traditional German model.

Delicious, German-inspired pastries are fortunately easy to come by in Chile!

Architecture

Indeed, German architecture is in itself an extremely complex and vast subject as it has manifested itself in many artistic and vernacular movements through time and differs drastically from city to city and region to region. However, it is evident once you step into towns such as Puerto Varas that Germanic influences are built into the very material and fabric of Chilean communities. Traditional vernacular architecture in the form of colourful timber structures or gothic ecclesiastical buildings loom amidst a stunning natural backdrop of snowy peaks and evergreen forests. The beauty of this fusion between the natural and the man-made has been celebrated internationally, with Puerto Varas’s Sacred Heart Church, Kuschel House, German House, Schwerter House and Niklitschek House declared cultural heritage sites.

 

The stunning harmony of German architecture and the natural, southern Chile landscape


Shared cultures and histories are celebrated throughout Chile and the German-Chilean relationship is no exception- it is celebrated throughout the country and accepted as a vital part of Chile’s heritage: you’ll be hard pushed to go to an asado and not find a can of Kunstmann or to a meal at a Chilean home that isn’t complete with a delicious fruity Kuchen!