Today is the 40th anniversary of the coup that deposed Chile’s elected president Salvador Allende. In the months following the death of Allende, the Chilean military rounded up thousands of his supporters and tortured or executed many of them. Chile had not been a traditional refugee-generating country because of its long history of democracy and civilian control of the military. However, beginning in 1973, thousands of refugees from the new Pinochet dictatorship arrived here.
The largest single group of refugees came to the New York metropolitan area. There are now more than 20,000 Chilean Americans living in the Tri-State region. Long Island is the home of the largest suburban Chilean community in the United States.
In the early days of the refugee flow, Chileans arrived here in numbers that swamped the small pre-coup immigrant community. Many were from middle class backgrounds, but they were lucky if they could find even menial jobs here. Over time, the Chileans have entered the professional world here, started businesses, and seen their children become important contributors to our communities.
Two of the three United States municipalities with the highest percentage of Chileans are on Long Island. Manorhaven and Oyster Bay are the second and third highest percentage of people from Chile. Inwood is 14th and North Lynbrook is 15th.
An inexpensive way to sample Chilean cuisine is to go to San Antonio Bakery at 174 Rockaway Ave. in Valley Stream (516) 508-0075. There you can buy a Completo. What a Completo is will surprise you. Here is how Newsday once described the San Antonio Completo:
A beef hot dog is nestled into a just-baked bun and crowned with sauerkraut, chopped tomatoes, mashed avocado and a squiggle of mayonnaise. Additional mustard and picante sauce come on the side. The result is irresistible – and only $3.50.
The menus are in English and Spanish and the staff is very welcoming.
Once a month, the Holy Name of Mary Catholic Church offers a Chilean mass. The church is right down the street from San Antonio Bakery at 90 South Grove Street in Valley Stream. The service features sacred music from an Andean band and choir. After church you’ll see dozens of your fellow congregants heading over to the bakery for Completos, Tres Leches, and pastries.