Because of Chile’s geographical position, earthquakes and tsunamis are recurrent phenomena and reducing vulnerability to these events is imperative. To do this, one needs to understand the geophysical features of the hazards involved and the vulnerability that exposed communities live with. This article presents some unexpected findings of a research regarding the latter and devised to investigate the vulnerability realities that the devastating 2010 earthquake/tsunami event in Chile exposed. Interestingly, this study revealed households that are formally considered resilient in the face of natural hazards, but are in fact not. These households are part of a group I call the emergent middle. The ‘middle’ because they are neither rich nor poor, but do not fit the typical middle-class category, and ‘emergent’ because their primary concerns are staying out of poverty and climbing the socioeconomic ladder. The findings of this research suggest that they find themselves in a precarious situation and that their vulnerability to natural hazards largely emerges from their economic fragility and their limited access to relevant resources in the wake of a hazardous event. This article is based on data that were collected through extensive field work in the Greater Concepción area and in particular in Talcahuano that was severely hit in 2010.