Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Chango


The term ‘Chango’ first appears in the middle of the seventeenth century in reference to a tribe occupying the coastal region between Copiapó and Coquimbo. Over time, use of the term widened to include sea-fishing groups as far north as Southern Peru, peoples that had formerly been known variously as camanchacas, pro-anches and uros–although these names all seem to have referred to the same ethnic group.

Nonetheless, it seems that the term ‘Chango’ generally refers not to a specific people, but to all those who practiced this maritime way of life, which dates back at least 8000 years. The predecessors of the modern Changos were the groups that settled on the coast and lived alongside the inland desert tribes during the original, pre-Hispanic colonization of South America.

Some coastal groups might be the successors of the Chinchorro fishermen. Later cultures may have adopted cultural elements of the farmers and herders of northern Chile, with whom they traded. Later still, these coastal groups may have come under the domination of the Inka empire.

Due to the extensive genetic and cultural exchange over the past few centuries, there are no recognized living descendents of the Chango groups. All the same, the traditional maritime way of life is still practiced by fishermen, seaweed collectors and other coastal inhabitants living between Chañaral and Cobija, who still employ much of the technology, lifestyle and settlement patterns of these ancient peoples of the desert coast.