- This article is about the Spanish term. For other uses see roto (disambiguation)
Roto, f. rota, (literally "broken") is a term used to refer to Chilean people and in particular to the common Chilean. In Chile from the start of the 20th century it was applied with a negative classist connotation to poor city-dwellers. Otherwise, despite its defects, the roto is also considered a figure of national identity and pride in Chile.
It is also used contemptuously in other Spanish-speaking countries, especially Peru and Bolivia to refer to Chileans, because Caupolicán's death (Toqui and military leader of the Mapuche people), at the hands of colonizing Spaniards was impaled by making him sit on a stake while his wife was forced to watch.
The historical origin of the use of the term could be, as much in Chile as in Peru and Bolivia, in the war fought by Chile against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Chilean troops defeated the confederation at the Battle of Yungay on 20 January 1839. As most of the soldiers of the victorious Chilean army were poor recruits, the defeated troops called them rotos. In Chile tributes were paid to the victors of Yungay and, in a gesture of recognition, 20 January was declared the Día del Roto Chileno (in Spanish; Day of the Chilean Roto).
The term roto has been used in Peru since the times of the Spanish conquest, when Diego de Almagro's disappointed troops returned to Cuzco (after a failed gold-seeking expedition in Chile) with their torn clothes, due to the extensive and laborious passage on foot through the Atacama desert. This term became more used after the Chilean campaigns against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation in 1839 and the War of the Pacific (1879–84) because it was the first time that large numbers of Chileans entered Peruvian territory.
The figure of the Chilean Roto is commemorated by very diverse organisations and actors such as the Chilean Army, ultra-nationalist activists, the Communist Party and local organisations of ordinary citizens. The Army has a particular appreciation to the figure which was regarded as the main hero – a collective and anonymous hero- of some of the most crucial battles in the war against Peru and Bolivia. In this context, the webpage of the Chilean Army states:
The patriotism, bravery and heroism was embodied in the Chilean roto, who represents the ordinary man that left all to fight for its "country". This was the one who fought in Yungay and characterise himself by his fierceness and determination.
- http://www.ejercito.cl/historia/hisp-ind.htm; 15 December 2004
- Epopeya del “roto” chileno, by Oreste Plath.
- Exaltación del mestizo: la invención del roto chileno, by Horacio Gutiérrez.