Objectives: The objective of this paper is to assess the predictors of time-to-lupus renal disease in Latin American patients. Methods: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients (n = 1480) from Grupo Latino Americano De Estudio de Lupus (GLADEL's) longitudinal inception cohort were studied. Endpoint was ACR renal criterion development after SLE diagnosis (prevalent cases excluded). Renal disease predictors were examined by univariable and multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression analyses. Antimalarials were considered time dependent in alternative analyses. Results: Of the entire cohort, 265 patients (17.9%) developed renal disease after entering the cohort. Of them, 88 (33.2%) developed persistent proteinuria, 44 (16.6%) cellular casts and 133 (50.2%) both; 233 patients (87.9%) were women; mean (SD) age at diagnosis was 28.0 (11.9) years; 12.2% were African-Latin Americans, 42.5% Mestizos, and 45.3% Caucasians (p = 0.0016). Mestizo ethnicity (HR 1.61, 95% CI 1.19-2.17), hypertension (HR 3.99, 95% CI 3.02-5.26) and SLEDAI at diagnosis (HR 1.04, 95% CI 1.01-1.06) were associated with a shorter time-to-renal disease occurrence; antimalarial use (HR 0.57, 95% CI 0.43-0.77), older age at onset (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.85-0.95, for every five years) and photosensitivity (HR 0.74, 95% CI 0.56-0.98) were associated with a longer time. Alternative model results were consistent with the antimalarial protective effect (HR 0.70, 95% CI 0.50-0.99). Conclusions: Our data strongly support the fact that Mestizo patients are at increased risk of developing renal disease early while antimalarials seem to delay the appearance of this SLE manifestation. These data have important implications for the treatment of these patients regardless of their geographic location. © The Author(s) 2013.