Arica • Iquique • Alto Hospicio • Pozo Almonte • Antofagasta • Calama • Tocopilla • Chuquicamata • Taltal • Estación Zaldívar • Mejillones • María Elena • Copiapó • Vallenar • Caldera • Chañaral • El Salvador • Tierra Amarilla • Diego de Almagro • Huasco • Coquimbo • La Serena • Ovalle • Illapel • Vicuña • Salamanca • Los Vilos • Andacollo • Combarbalá • El Palqui • Monte Patria • Viña del Mar • Valparaíso • Quilpué • Villa Alemana • San Antonio • Quillota • Los Andes • San Felipe • La Calera • Limache • Concón • Quintero • La Ligua • Llaillay • Cartagena • Casablanca • Cabildo • Placilla de Peñuelas • La Cruz • Olmué • El Melón • Nogales • El Quisco • Hijuelas • San Esteban • Putaendo • Catemu • Santa María • Las Ventanas • Algarrobo • Rinconada • Calle Larga:note 2 • Santo Domingo:note 3 • El Tabo:note 3 • Las Cruces:note 3 • Señor Pobre Béjares:note 3 • Villa Los Almendros:note 3 • Puente Alto • Maipú • La Florida • Las Condes • San Bernardo • Peñalolén • Santiago • Pudahuel • La Pintana • El Bosque • Ñuñoa • Cerro Navia • Recoleta • Renca • Conchalí • La Granja • Estación Central • Quilicura • Providencia • Pedro Aguirre Cerda • Lo Espejo • Macul • Lo Prado • Quinta Normal • San Joaquín • La Reina • San Ramón • La Cisterna • Vitacura • San Miguel • Huechuraba • Lo Barnechea • Cerrillos • Independencia • Peñaflor • Colina • Melipilla • Talagante • Buin • Padre Hurtado • El Monte • Paine • Curacaví • Lampa • Isla de Maipo • Batuco • La Islita • Bajos de San Agustín • Hospital • Alto Jahuel • San José de Maipo • Tiltil • Pirque:note 3 • La Obra-Las Vertientes:note 3 • Rancagua • San Fernando • Rengo • Machalí • Graneros • San Vicente de Taguatagua • Santa Cruz • Chimbarongo • San Francisco de Mostazal • Pichilemu • Requínoa • Lo Miranda • Doñihue • Peumo • Nancagua • Las Cabras • Quinta de Tilcoco • Gultro • Codegua • Palmilla:note 3 • Punta Diamante:note 3 • Talca • Curicó • Linares • Constitución • Cauquenes • Molina • Parral • San Javier • San Clemente • Teno • Longaví • Villa Alegre • Hualañé • Villa Francia:note 3 • Culenar:note 3 • Concepción • Talcahuano • Chillán • Los Ángeles • Coronel • Hualpén • Chiguayante • San Pedro de la Paz • Lota • Penco • Tomé • Curanilahue • San Carlos • Mulchén • Nacimiento • Lebu • Cañete • Chillán Viejo • Arauco • La Laja • Hualqui • Los Álamos • Cabrero • Bulnes • Coelemu • Yungay • Yumbel • Quirihue • Quillón • Coihueco • Santa Juana • Santa Bárbara • Huépil • Monte Águila • San Rosendo:note 3 • Temuco • Angol • Padre Las Casas • Villarrica • Victoria • Lautaro • Nueva Imperial • Collipulli • Loncoche • Traiguén • Pucón • Pitrufquén • Curacautín • Carahue • Gorbea • Purén • Cunco • Labranza • Freire • Renaico • Valdivia • La Unión • Río Bueno • Panguipulli • Paillaco • Los Lagos • Lanco • San José de la Mariquina • Futrono • Puerto Montt • Osorno • Castro • Ancud • Puerto Varas • Quellón • Calbuco • Purranque • Llanquihue • Frutillar • Río Negro • Fresia • Los Muermos • Coyhaique • Puerto Aisén • Punta Arenas • Puerto Natales •
|THE CHILE COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Chile within the continent of South America
Map of Chile
Flag Description of Chile:The current flag of Chile was officially adopted on October 18, 1817.
The flag is modeled after the U.S. Stars and Stripes. Blue represents the color of the high-mountain skys, white is symbolic of the snow in the Andes Mountains, and red symbolizes the blood shed during the long fight for freedom.
Official name República de Chile (Republic of Chile)
Form of government multiparty republic with two legislative houses (Senate ; Chamber of Deputies )
Head of state and government President: Michelle Bachelet
Official language Spanish
Official religion none
Monetary unit peso (Ch$)
Population (2013 est.) 16,770,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 291,930
Total area (sq km) 756,096
- Urban: (2011) 89.2%
- Rural: (2011) 10.8%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2011) 74.9 years
- Female: (2011) 81.1 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2002) 95.8%
- Female: (2002) 95.6%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 15,230
1Legislative bodies meet in Valparaíso.
Background of Chile
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Inca ruled northern Chile while the Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879-83), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern regions. It was not until the 1880s that the Mapuche were brought under central government control. After a series of elected governments, the three-year-old Marxist government of Salvador ALLENDE was overthrown in 1973 by a military coup led by Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected president was inaugurated in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady growth, reduced poverty rates by over half, and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles befitting its status as a stable, democratic nation.
Chile, country situated along the western seaboard of South America. It extends approximately 2,700 miles (4,300 km) from its boundary with Peru, at latitude 17°30′ S, to the tip of South America at Cape Horn, latitude 56° S, a point only about 400 miles north of Antarctica. A long, narrow country, it has an average width of only about 110 miles, with a maximum of 217 miles at the latitude of Antofagasta and a minimum of 9.6 miles near Puerto Natales. It is bounded on the north by Peru and Bolivia, on its long eastern border by Argentina, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Chile exercises sovereignty over Easter Island, the Juan Fernández Archipelago, and the volcanic islets of Sala y Gómez, San Félix, and San Ambrosio, all of which are located in the South Pacific. Chile also claims a 200-mile offshore limit. The capital is Santiago.
Chile’s relief is for the most part mountainous, with the Andes range dominating the landscape. Because of the country’s extreme length it has a wide variety of climates, from the coastal desert beginning in the tropical north to the cold subantarctic southern tip. Chile is also a land of extreme natural events: volcanic eruptions, violent earthquakes, and tsunamis originating along major faults of the ocean floor periodically beset the country. Fierce winter storms and flash floods alternate with severe summer droughts.
Much of northern Chile is desert; the central part of the country is a temperate region where the bulk of the population lives and where the larger cities, including Santiago, are located. South-central Chile, with a lake and forest region, is temperate, humid, and suitable for grain cultivation; and the southernmost third of the country, cut by deep fjords, is an inhospitable region—cold, wet, windy, and limited in resources. The economy of Chile is based on primary economic activities: agricultural production; copper, iron, and nitrate mining; and the exploitation of sea resources.
Chile exhibits many of the traits that typically characterize Latin American countries. It was colonized by Spain, and the culture that evolved was largely Spanish; the influence of the original Indian inhabitants is negligible. The people became largely mestizo, a blend of Spanish and Indian bloodlines. The society developed with a small elite controlling most of the land, the wealth, and the political life.
Chile did not, however, depend as heavily on agriculture and mining as did many Latin American countries, but rather developed an economy based on manufacturing as well. Thus, Chile has become one of the more urbanized Latin American societies, with a burgeoning middle class. Chile has also had a history of retaining representative democratic government. Except for a military junta that held power from September 1973 to March 1990, the country has been relatively free of the coups and constitutional suspensions common to many of its neighbours.
Geography of Chile
Situated south of Peru and west of Bolivia and Argentina, Chile fills a narrow 2,880-mi (4,506 km) strip between the Andes and the Pacific. One-third of Chile is covered by the towering ranges of the Andes. In the north is the driest place on Earth, the Atacama Desert, and in the center is a 700-mile-long (1,127 km) thickly populated valley with most of Chile's arable land. At the southern tip of Chile's mainland is Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world, and beyond that lies the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego, an island divided between Chile and Argentina. The southernmost point of South America is Cape Horn, a 1,390-foot (424 m) rock on Horn Island in the Wollaston group, which belongs to Chile. Chile also claims sovereignty over 482,628 sq mi (1,250,000 sq km) of Antarctic territory; the Juan Fernández Islands, about 400 mi (644 km) west of the mainland; and Easter Island, about 2,000 mi (3,219 km) west.
The major landforms of Chile are arranged as three parallel north–south units: the Andes mountains to the east; the intermediate depression, or longitudinal valley, in the centre; and the coastal ranges to the west. These landforms extend lengthwise through the five latitudinal geographic regions into which the country is customarily subdivided. From north to south, with approximate boundaries, these are Norte Grande (extending to 27° S); the north-central region, Norte Chico (27° to 33° S); the central region, Zona Central (33° to 38° S); the south-central region, La Frontera and the Lake District (38° to 42° S); and the extreme southern region, Sur (42° S to Cape Horn).
- THE CHILEAN ANDES
Extending almost the length of the country, the Chilean Andes, which form most of the border with Argentina, include the highest segment of the Andes mountain chain, which acts as both a physical and a human divide. The Chilean Andean system consists of lofty, often snow-capped mountains, deeply incised valleys, and steep slopes.
The formation of the western Andes ranges began during the Jurassic Period, some 200 million years ago. Marine and terrestrial sediments that had accumulated in the Andean geosyncline were folded and lifted as the Pacific Plate was overridden by the South American Plate. In the Cenozoic Era (beginning about 65 million years ago) active volcanism and the injection of effusive rocks laid down the paleovolcanic materials (rhyolites and dacites) that contain the rich copper, iron, silver, molybdenum, and manganese ores of Chile. Also of Cenozoic origin are thq3�wal deposits of central Chile.
Later in the Cenozoic Era the uplift of the Andes continued, accompanied by further outbursts of volcanism. This active tectonism led to the separation of the Andes from the older coastal ranges and the formation of the intermediate depression. At the beginning of the Quaternary Period (about 2.6 million years ago) the Andes had reached a higher elevation than at present. During the global cooling that occurred from the beginning of the Quaternary, the higher summits were covered by ice masses whose glacier tongues descended into the intermediate depression. Rich sediments were washed down the glacial valleys and deposited into the longitudinal depression. The numerous lakes in the Lake District of south-central Chile are remnants of the ice melting that began some 17,000 years ago. Since the advent of the Holocene Epoch (11,700 years ago) the Chilean Andes have not changed significantly, but they still experience uplift and episodic volcanic eruptions.
The Andes of northern Chile to latitude 27° S are wide and arid, with heights generally between 16,500 and 19,500 feet (5,000 and 6,000 metres). Most of the higher summits are extinct volcanoes, such as the Llullaillaco, 22,109 feet; Licancábur, 19,409 feet; and Ojos del Salado, 22,614 feet. After the last glaciation the melting waters collected in shallow lakes in the intermediate elevated basins. Today these salt lake basins (salares), the most noted of which is the Atacama Salt Flat, are evaporating to the point of disappearing. Farther south the mountains decrease somewhat in height, but in central Chile, between latitudes 32° and 34°30′ S, they heighten again, with peaks reaching 21,555 feet at Mount Tupungato and 17,270 feet at Maipo Volcano. All of these summits are capped by eternal snow that feeds the numerous rivers of central Chile. Winter sports are pursued in the Andes near Santiago.
Most of the highest mountains between 34°30′ and 42° S are volcanoes, ranging between 8,700 and 11,500 feet. Some of them are extinct while others are still active. Among them are Copahue, Llaima, Osorno, and the highest, Mount Tronador, at an elevation of 11,453 feet. Their perfect conical shapes reflecting on the quiet waters in the Lake District provide some of the most splendid scenery in temperate South America. In southern Chile, below latitude 42° S, the Andes lose elevation and their summits become more separated as a consequence of the Quaternary glacial erosion.
Farther south is Chilean Patagonia, a loosely defined area that includes the subregion of Magallanes and sometimes Chilean Tierra del Fuego. There significant heights are still reached: Mount San Valentín is more than 12,000 feet high, and Mount Darwin in Tierra del Fuego reaches almost 8,000 feet. Reminders of the last ice age are the perfectly U-shaped glacial troughs, sharp-edged mountains, Andean lakes, and some 7,000 square miles of continental ice masses. The Southern Ice Cap, between 48°30′ and 51°30′ S, is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, with the exception of Antarctica.
- THE INTERMEDIATE DEPRESSION
The intermediate depression between the Andes and the coastal ranges is mostly flanked by fault lines. A natural receptacle for materials coming from the Andes, the depression has been filled by alluvial, fluvioglacial, or moraine sediments, depending on the region. In northern Chile it appears as a plateau with elevations between 2,000 and 4,000 feet. Saline sediments that washed down during the Cenozoic Era created the rich nitrate deposits found in the Tamarugal Plain and Carmen Salt Flat, where the once-bustling mining towns of María Elena, Pedro de Valdivia, and Baquedano are located. In north-central Chile, extending southward out of the desert region, the depression is interrupted by east–west mountain spurs that create fertile transverse valleys. The Aconcagua River valley, a transverse valley farther south, marks the beginning of central Chile.
The alluvial deposits from the numerous Andean rivers in central Chile have provided mineral-rich soils that support the flourishing Mediterranean-type agriculture of the Central Valley of the intermediate depression. These soils and abundant water resources, along with a temperate climate, make the Central Valley the most populated and productive area in Chile. In south-central Chile the intermediate depression is formed by mixtures of fluvial and alluvial depositions, making this region suitable for growing grain and for pastures that support an important dairy industry.
South of the Biobío River dense forests replace open scrub woodland moraines and lakes are common, and the intermediate depression descends to sea level at Puerto Montt. In the extreme south only the Andes and the summits of the coastal ranges are visible because the intermediate depression submerges or is replaced by intracoastal channels and fjords.
- THE COASTAL CORDILLERAS
In most of northern and central Chile coastal ranges form a ridge between the intermediate depression and the Pacific coast. These mountains, which are seldom higher than 6,500 feet, display smooth forms or flattened summits, since they are considerably older than the Andes. In north-central and central Chile the coastal ranges are built of granites and metamorphic rocks of the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras (i.e., about 65 to 540 million years old) that were uplifted during the Andean folding phase. In south-central and southern Chile the coastal ranges consist of early Paleozoic metamorphic and igneous rocks, which is evidence of an even earlier folding phase. The coastal ranges were never glaciated, and their former dense vegetation has been destroyed by humans. In places where intensive agriculture has been practiced, the soil is severely eroded and has been depleted of organic and mineral nutrients. Only in the evergreen forests in the Cordillera de Nahuelbuta south of Concepción and the coastal ranges south of Valdivia are the soils well preserved.
On the western margins of the coastal ranges, sea advances during the early to middle Cenozoic Era deposited thick sediments. During the late Cenozoic, sea level changes and continued continental uplift created several coastal terraces in the Cenozoic layers, and wave erosion shaped Chile’s abrupt coastline, which has few good natural harbours.
Most of Chile’s rivers originate in the Andes and flow westward to the Pacific Ocean, draining the intermediate depression and the coastal ranges. They are therefore quite short. While their steep gradients and turbulent flow make them unsuitable for navigation—the lower courses of the south-central rivers are an exception—they are particularly useful for hydroelectric power. In areas where water flow is subjected to seasonal variations that hamper agricultural development, dams have been built in order to regulate the rivers and to establish hydroelectric plants.
The rivers of Chile have differing physical characteristics that are related to the climatic region in which they are located. In the parched northern region they are fed by the summer rains that fall on the Chilean-Bolivian Altiplano; their volumes are so small that they are either absorbed by the soil or evaporate before reaching the sea. Only the Loa River, the longest Chilean river at some 275 miles, empties into the Pacific Ocean.
The rivers of central Chile have more regular flows and volumes. During the winter months (May–August) they are fed by heavy frontal rains, resulting in frequent flooding of the riverine communities. In late spring (October–November) the rivers receive the runoff from the snow that has accumulated during the winter in the high Andes. This runoff proves quite beneficial for commercial and subsistence crop irrigation. In south-central Chile south of the Biobío River, the steady flow is maintained by constant rains, although there is a slack in discharge during the summer months (December–March). In Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego intense year-round rains and snowstorms combine to keep the rivers well fed, but their extremely steep drainage into the Pacific renders them totally unusable for commercial purposes.
The geologic variety and diverse origin of surface sediments cause the soils of Chile to vary greatly in character from north to south. In the northern desert region saline soils, made up of gravel and sand cemented with calcium sulfate, alternate with alkali-rich soils, which are difficult to cultivate even with irrigation because of their surface salt accumulations. In river oases salinity also becomes a limiting factor for agriculture. In the transverse valleys of north-central Chile, fertile alluvial soils have developed on fluvial deposits, while between the rivers soils are dry and infertile. Within the Central Valley the alluvial soils have developed over fluviovolcanic deposits, which is the reason for their mineral and organic richness. In areas of widespread recent volcanic activity, andosol soils (nutrient-rich soils that develop over volcanic ash) are common. Under good aeration these soils of the Central Valley have excellent agricultural potential, but if the volcanic soils are too permeable, they can be used only for coniferous plantations. In the Lake District the extreme impermeability of the soils leads to the formation of humid soils (trumaos). In the southernmost Andes, under conditions of permanent rainfall and cold temperatures, lithosols covered by a thin layer of andosols are the rule: only rain forests grow on such soils. On the archipelagos of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, the low terrain is carpeted by moorland soils that support only low shrubs and bog plants of no economic value or potential. Soils at high elevation are characterized by rankers (thin organic soils overlying a rocky substratum) supporting growths of Antarctic beeches.
The extension of Chile across some 38 degrees of latitude encompasses nearly all climates, with the exception of the humid tropics. The Pacific Ocean, the cold Peru (Humboldt) Current, the South Pacific anticyclone winds, and the Andes Mountains constitute the major climatic controls.
The permanent chilling effect of the Peru Current and the constantly blowing southwesterlies emanating from the South Pacific anticyclone determine a temperate climate for most of northern and central Chile. Only the extreme south, unaffected by these controls, is characterized by a cold and humid climate. Temperatures drop in a regular pattern from north to south; the principal cities average the following annual mean temperatures: Arica 64 °F (18 °C), Antofagasta 61 °F (16 °C), Santiago 57 °F (14 °C), Puerto Montt 52 °F (11 °C), and Punta Arenas 43 °F (6 °C). During winter, when the polar front advances northward, temperatures drop, though not drastically, owing to the temperate action of the ocean. If snow falls in central Chile, it does not stay on the ground for more than a few hours. During summer, cooling sea winds keep temperatures down and there are no heat waves. The highest monthly means register in the northern desert.
Annual precipitation differs remarkably from the dry extreme north to the very humid extreme south. North of 27° S latitude there is practically no rainfall. In the north-central region frontal rains in winter account for increasing precipitation: the annual rainfall in Copiapó is less than one inch (21 mm). In Santiago the annual rainfall is 13 inches, and along the Central Valley it increases gradually southward until it reaches 73 inches in Puerto Montt, where precipitation occurs throughout the year. The coast of central and south-central Chile is more humid than the Central Valley. In Valparaíso annual precipitation amounts to 15 inches, rising to 52 inches in Concepción and reaching about 90 inches in Valdivia. Farther south, where the westerlies reach their maximum intensity and the polar front is always present, precipitation highs unequaled by any other nontropical region in the world have been recorded; there, San Pedro Point, at latitude 48° S, receives about 160 inches annually. Still farther south, in the rain shadow that occurs on the eastern slopes of the southern Andes, precipitation diminishes drastically, occurring mostly as snow during winter. Punta Arenas, in Chilean Patagonia, receives only 18 inches annually.
Considering all climatic factors and meteorological characteristics, three large climatic regions may be distinguished in Chile: the northern desert, the central Mediterranean zone, and the humid-cool southern region.
- THE NORTHERN DESERT
This region experiences an aridity that is primarily caused by the dry subsidence created by the South Pacific high pressure cell and the stabilizing action of the cold Peru Current. Although the air along the coast is abnormally humid, it never reaches saturation point; at most, there is a development of coastal fogs (garúa or camanchaca). Besides the lack of rain, drainage systems, and permanent vegetation, the Chilean desert is characterized by relatively moderate daytime temperatures, the variations in which are dependent upon the direct heat of the Sun; during the night, temperatures may approach the freezing point. In the piedmont oasis of Los Canchones the daily temperature fluctuates up to 47 °F (26 °C). The interior of the Atacama Desert, which makes up a large portion of the southern part of the desert region, is reported to receive the highest solar radiation in the world.
- MEDITERRANEAN CENTRAL CHILE
The climate of central Chile is characteristic of mid-latitudinal temperate areas. The seasons are well accentuated. Winters are cool and humid as a consequence of continuous passages of fronts and depressions; cloudy days are common. In spring, when there are fewer fronts and the depressions vanish, steady southwest winds and clear skies dominate. During summer, when anticyclonic conditions are established, the days are warm, though not stifling, and without rain. These weather conditions are ideal for the Mediterranean agricultural products that grow so well in central Chile, such as grapes, peaches, plums, honeydew melons, and apricots. Autumn is still sunny and dry, suitable for the ripening of grains, mainly wheat, and vegetables. With the onset of winter, the fronts and depressions return and the accompanying rains last from May to August.
- SOUTHERN CHILE
The southern segments of Chile are always under the influence of the polar front and of cyclonic depressions. In addition, the permanently blowing westerlies batter the margins of the continent with oceanic air masses that lower temperatures and cause heavy rainfall along the Pacific coast. Around Cape Horn the westerlies reach their maximum intensity and storms abound. Before the era of steam power, the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific via Cape Horn was a most feared venture.
- Plant and animal life
The vegetation of Chile, like the climate and soils, is arranged in latitudinal belts. Only in the Andes is altitude a determining factor. In the northern desert region the vegetation has adapted to the lack of rain and to the salinity of the soils. The tamarugo, a spiny acacia tree, does well in the dry interior desert. Near the coast, and kept alive by the coastal fogs, varieties of cacti as well as shrubs and spiny brambles occur. In the high plateaus of northern Chile hardy species, such as llareta, and grasses, such as ichu and tola, support the Indian population and their llama herds. In semiarid north-central Chile some of the cacti continue, and hardwoods, such as the espino or algarrobo, and shrubs, such as Adesmia, become more common. In the more humid and temperate region of central Chile grows a particular vegetal formation called matorral, in which hardwoods, shrubs, cacti, and green grass are mixed. Most of this dense growth is disappearing because of the rural population’s overexploitation of it for firewood. South of the Biobío River, mixed deciduous forest and evergreen trees are common. Many unique species are found in these humid forests, the most conspicuous being the rauli, or southern cedar, the roble beech, the ulmo (an evergreen shrub), and the evergreen laurel. On the western slopes of the Andes the magnificent monkey puzzle tree, or Chile pine, forms dense stands. A dense rain forest, rich in timber species, grows in the humid Lake District and extends southward. The Antarctic beech, the Chilean cedar, and the giant alerce dominate these often impenetrable southern woods. On the rainy islands of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, the growth of large trees is inhibited by the constant winds and low temperatures. There, only dwarf versions of southern beech and hard grasses are found. In eastern Chilean Patagonia the cold steppes are primarily composed of grasses and herbs that provide grazing for livestock.
The animal life of Chile lacks the diversity of other countries in South America. The barrier of the Andes has restricted animal migrations, and the northern desert has proved a formidable obstacle to the southward migration of tropical Andean fauna. Among the terrestrial animals, the most abundant and varied are the rodents. The chinchilla, the degu, and the mountain viscacha are Andean rodents famed for their fine furs. Monito de monte, a marsupial, lives in the deciduous forests and rain forests of the south. The nutria, or coypu (coipo) is a water rodent common in the streams of Chile. Among the ruminants are the guanaco, the only survivor of the Paleocamelides (ancient predecessors of the camel family), and its domesticated relatives, the llama, the alpaca, and the vicuña, the latter known for the high-quality wool produced from its silky fleece; the Indians of the Altiplano make wide use of it. Guanacos are still found from northern Chile to Chilean Patagonia. Two members of the deer family are the huemul, a rarely seen inhabitant of the southern Andes that is represented on the national coat of arms, and the pudu, the smallest known deer. Carnivores are not in great abundance. The puma is the largest, and other feline predators include the guiña and the colocolo. Among the canids are the Andean wolf and the long-tailed fox. The avian fauna is relatively more diverse, the country being host to wintering migratory birds. Some exotic birds like parrots and flamingos appear over northern and central Chile. Throughout the Chilean Andes there still lives, though reduced in number, the condor, a large scavenger. In Chilean Patagonia is found the carancha, a bird of prey that attacks lambs. Amphibians abound, the most curious being Darwin’s frog, discovered by Charles Darwin in south-central Chile. Chile’s geographic isolation accounts for the absence of poisonous reptiles and spiders.
- Settlement patterns
Climatic characteristics and historic events have strongly influenced settlement patterns and population distribution in Chile. The early settlement by Spaniards occurred in the temperate part of the country, known as the Central Nucleus, or Zona Central, where the agriculture, industry, and main population centres developed. The area’s traditional agriculture developed on the basis of large landed estates, the haciendas, which covered about three-fourths of Chile’s arable land. The agrarian reform initiated by the Christian Democratic president Eduardo Frei Montalva in 1965, and continued by the Socialist president Salvador Allende Gossens into the early 1970s, resulted in a redistribution of the land. Agrarian productivity to boost exports was accentuated.
In the Central Nucleus are the major cities of Chile. Santiago was founded there and grew into the country’s major metropolis. Seventy miles west of Santiago is the port city of Valparaíso and the neighbouring resort city of Viña del Mar, which form the second largest population centre of Chile. In the Central Valley, south of the Santiago basin, stretches a series of secondary cities, the development of which has been tied to the agricultural success of central Chile. Among them are Rancagua, Curicó, Talca, Chillán, and Los Angeles. All of these cities are connected by rail and the Pan-American Highway.
Most of Chile’s cities were founded during the colonial era, and they were arranged around a central square (plaza de armas). The original buildings were made of adobe (sun-dried brick) and wood, materials that would deteriorate or burn. Most of the colonial buildings fell prey to earthquakes and fires; much rebuilding took place and the cities of central Chile have become showcases of modern urbanization, high population density, and bustling commercial and industrial activities. On the coast of the southern Central Nucleus lies Concepción and its port city of Talcahuano, both industrial centres.
Norte Chico, the semiarid north-central part of Chile, developed in close association with the Central Nucleus. Agricultural production and mining characterize this region, of which La Serena, near the coast, and the port of Coquimbo are the major centres. The population is primarily concentrated in the irrigated valleys of the Copiapó, Huasco, Elqui, and Limarí rivers or else dispersed in the mountains, where there are mining activities. The main cities, somewhat smaller than those of central Chile, are located in the valleys: they include Copiapó, in the valley of that name, the most important mining centre of the country during the 19th century; Vallenar, Ovalle, and Vicuña. Agriculture, goat raising, and iron and copper mining are the main economic activities. From this region come the famous pisco (a white brandy distilled from sun-dried grapes), fine wines, and high-quality fruits for export.
During colonial times, the fringe of territory at the southern extreme of the Central Nucleus was bitterly contested by Spaniards and Araucanians, the original Indian population, which gave the northern part of south-central Chile its name, La Frontera (“The Border”). After the pacification of the Araucanians in the 1880s, the area was gradually settled by Chileans and by European colonists who had already begun immigrating there in the 1850s. It developed in modern times as a region of grain growing and commercial pine forestry for cellulose manufacture. The regional capital is Temuco, and in the surrounding countryside still live—in rather precarious conditions—a concentration of Araucanians, locally called Mapuche.
Colonization of the Lake District, located south of La Frontera, began after 1850 with immigrants from Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium. Homesteads, rather than large haciendas as in the Central Nucleus, became the pattern of rural settlement. Although the land has been consolidated in recent times, land fragmentation is still visible. The largest city of this region is Valdivia, founded in early colonial times. This once active industrial centre for footwear, textiles, brewing, and shipbuilding declined after most of its manufacturing installations were destroyed by a 1960 earthquake. Osorno and Puerto Montt are other regional centres, specializing in dairy and flour production. The scenic piedmont lakes and the snow-capped volcanoes attract a steady flow of tourists.
The extreme north and the extreme south could be considered the population and resource frontiers. Both are sparsely populated and rich in natural resources. Settlement of the arid Norte Grande in northernmost Chile began in the middle of the 19th century in response to the exploitation of minerals in the interior. A string of coastal cities emerged as export centres for nitrates, borax, and copper. Iquique, once an exporter of nitrates, has become the capital of Chile’s fish meal industry. Antofagasta, the railroad terminus to Oruro, Bolivia, is an active administrative and trading centre and an export facility for the Chuquicamata copper mine. Arica, which acts as a port for Bolivia at the end of the railroad to La Paz, supports fish meal plants and oversees the agricultural production of the Azapa Valley. Once the automobile assembly centre of Chile, Arica has lost its prominence as an industrial city. The only city of significance in the interior of the Norte Grande is Calama, adjacent to the Chuquicamata copper mine, the world’s largest open-pit mine. Still, the rest of the area remains picturesque. Old Indian towns, scattered oases, and spectacular desert scenery attract tourists. At the Shrine of La Tirana, on the Tamarugal Plain, Indian and mestizo pilgrims from northern Chile, Bolivia, and southern Peru gather for a colourful festival each July.
The extreme south encompasses three natural units: the Chiloé island group, the Channels region, and Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Chiloé and its neighbouring islands are among the most undeveloped regions of the country; rudimentary agriculture and algae (used in making confectionary products) and shellfish gathering are the main activities. The small towns of Castro and Ancud are the main population centres of the mostly rural habitat. The Channels region is characterized by islands, separated by glacially carved channels, where colonization has been unsuccessfully attempted since the 1920s. Outlying towns such Puerto Aisén and Coihaique are the only population centres. The region of Magallanes, hinged on the Strait of Magellan, is the most developed area of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Sheep raising estancias (ranches), which have exported wool since the late 19th century, and oil and natural gas, which have been exploited since 1945, are the pillars of its economy. These activities, combined with meat-packing plants and the trading functions of Punta Arenas, have made this one of the more modernized parts of Chile.
Demography of Chile
The Chileans are ethnically a mixture of Europeans and Indians. The first miscegenation occurred during the 16th and 17th centuries between the indigenous tribes, including the Atacameños, Diaguitas, Picunches, Araucanians (Mapuches), Huilliches, Pehuenches, and Cuncos, and the conquistadores from Spain. Basque families who migrated to Chile in the 18th century vitalized the economy and joined the old Castilian aristocracy to become the political elite that still dominates the country. Few Africans were brought to Chile as slaves during colonial times because a tropical plantation economy, common in much of the New World, did not develop.
After independence and during the republican era, English, Italian, and French merchants established themselves in the growing cities of Chile and incidentally joined the political or economic elites of the country. The official encouragement of German and Swiss colonization in the Lake District during the second half of the 19th century was exceptional. The censuses of the late 19th century showed that foreigners—principally Spaniards, Argentines, French, Germans, and Italians—formed scarcely more than 1 percent of the total population. At the turn of the century, small numbers of displaced eastern European Jews and Christian Syrians and Palestinians fleeing the Ottoman Empire arrived in Chile. Today they spearhead financial and small manufacturing operations.
The population displays a strong sense of cultural identity, which can be traced to the predominance of the Spanish language, the Roman Catholic religion, and the comparative isolation of Chile from the rest of South America. The Araucanian Indians form the only significant ethnic minority.
The trend of age-group distribution, with increasingly larger numbers in the older brackets, reflects a progressive maturing of the Chilean population. Life expectancy rose from 57 years in 1960 to about 70 years by the early 1980s; at the beginning of the 21st century, it had reached the late 70s. These demographic changes reflect both improved health care conditions and modernization of the lifestyle by the predominantly urban population. Also ascribed to the same factors is the dramatic decline during the late 20th century in infant mortality and in the fertility rate. Chile’s crude death rate is lower than that of most of its South American neighbours.
The large cities and the industrial centres of central Chile attract a steady flow of internal migrants. Most of them head for the capital city of Santiago, with the rest going primarily to Valparaíso–Viña del Mar and to Concepción–Talcahuano. These migrants emanate mostly out of the rural regions of the Central Valley and north-central Chile. The northern coastal cities receive some migrants from Santiago and Valparaíso and also from the small villages in the far north. Chiloé has been losing its population to Punta Arenas and the agrarian areas of the Lake District, and even to Argentina, where Chilotes work on estancias or in the mines of Patagonia. After 1973, hundreds of thousands of Chileans left the country for political reasons to live in exile. Initially, the military government of strongman Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte prohibited the exiles’ return, but growing protests in the 1980s resulted in a gradual easing of these restrictions: first, lists were published of those who would be permitted to return, and then, lists of those who were prohibited from returning. By the early 1990s, not only were restrictions lifted but the return of exiles was facilitated.
The Economy of Chile
The Chilean economy is based on the exploitation of agricultural, fishing, forest, and mining resources. Chile developed historically on the basis of a few agricultural and mineral exports, as was common in Latin America. Many manufactured products had to be imported, and land, wealth, and power were concentrated in the hands of a small aristocracy. Although there were land reforms and development of manufacturing, many of Chile’s economic problems in the 20th century were related to the country’s early economic structure.
During the 19th century the Chilean economy grew on the basis of exported agricultural products, copper, and nitrates. After the nitrate market dropped during World War I, Chile’s economy took a sharp downturn, intensifying the effect on the country of the Great Depression. These events turned Chile toward more socialistic programs that featured strong government control of the economy. An attempt was made to develop import substitution industries so as to lessen dependence on imported products. Industrial growth was placed in the hands of the Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (Corfo; the Development Corporation). Agrarian reforms were instituted, and the government assumed greater control of industry, especially during the administrations of Pedro Aguirre Cerda (1938–41) and Salvador Allende Gossens (1970–73), when many banks, copper mines, and business firms were nationalized. The economy at first improved under these policies, inflation going down and the gross domestic product increasing. The government, however, was unable to establish a sound tax base to match the expanding economy; by 1973 conditions were deteriorating rapidly and a military coup overthrew the government. The new regime instituted more conservative, free-market programs and reversed many of the previous governments’ acts. The country faced severe economic problems, reflected in periodic high inflation, fluctuating trade policies, unemployment, and heavy dependence on a single major export, copper, in an unstable market. The development of a broader export economy improved economic growth and reduced inflation in Chile by the 1990s. The country also entered into many bilateral and regional trade agreements, which further increased direct foreign investment in Chilean industry. By the early 21st century, Chile had one of the most successful economies in South America.
A geographically varied country, Chile is rich in mineral deposits, natural forests, sea resources, and energy sources.
- MINERAL RESOURCES, NONCARBONIFEROUS
Mining, historically the mainstay of the Chilean economy, has been a catalyst for both external commerce and domestic industrial development. Copper, molybdenum, iron, nitrates, and other concentrated minerals make up a large part of the total value of national exports.
Metals account for the highest percentage of mining exports, copper being primary. Chile is the world’s largest producer and exporter of copper. Copper mines are located in northern Chile (Chuquicamata and El Salvador) and along the Andes of north-central Chile (especially El Teniente and Andina). Small-scale extractions are carried out by individuals, or pirquineros, who operate in the uplands of north-central Chile and in the coastal ranges of central Chile. Medium-sized activity is conducted by companies with larger investment capacities and with their own treatment plants. Large-scale mining was developed with U.S. capital at the beginning of the 20th century.
Copper plays the role in the Chilean economy that was occupied by nitrates prior to World War I. The large U.S. corporations were tranformed into mixed-ownership enterprises during the late 1960s and totally nationalized during the early 1970s, when mining and sales were turned over to the Corporación Nacional del Cobre de Chile (Codelco). A drop in world market prices influenced production and sales and created financial hardship. During the 1990s the government enacted new laws to open up the industry to private companies, but the majority of copper mines in Chile are still controlled by the state (Codelco). By the early 21st century, demand for copper had risen, and copper accounted for about two-fifths of export income.
Iron-ore mining in El Tofo and El Romeral, both in north-central Chile, is significant, and manganese, silver and gold, and molybdenum (a metal derived from the large copper deposits) are also mined. Among nonmetallic minerals, sulfur, gypsum, lithium, and limestone are moderately exploited. Nitrate deposits occur in the northern interior desert. Their economic value, so important during the 19th century, has decreased, but the production of iodine, a by-product of nitrate, is of major importance.
- ENERGY RESOURCES
Hydroelectric potential and installed capabilities, as well as coal and moderate oil and natural gas reserves, furnish Chile with good energy resources. The steady flow of the Andean rivers has been used by the Empresa Nacional de Electricidad (ENDESA; National Electric Company) to produce electricity. Hydroelectric development has been extended to the coastal mountain ranges. Prior to the installation of Chile’s huge hydroelectric system, most of the country’s energy was obtained from soft coal, mined since the 19th century in the Gulf of Arauco, south of Concepción. Oil and natural gas are extracted on Tierra del Fuego and along the northern shore of the Strait of Magellan and are shipped to refineries in central Chile. Production, however, meets only about half of the country’s oil needs.
- FORESTRY RESOURCES
South of the Biobío river, climatic conditions favour the growth of natural forests. The primary species used for lumber and paneling are the coigue, oak, rauli, ulmo, tepa (laurel tree), and monkey puzzle tree. Pine for the manufacture of paper and pulp is taken from forests in central Chile and the Biobío region.
- FISHING RESOURCES
Since 1974, after the collapse of the Peruvian fishing industry, Chile has become the chief fishery of South America, and it is one of the foremost fishing countries of the world. Sardines, jack mackerel, chub mackerel, hake, and anchovy constitute most of the catch. The principal products are fish meal and fish oil, which are shipped to Europe and the United States for the production of animal feed and industrial oil. The fish-processing plants—all privately owned—are mainly located in the northern cities of Iquique, Arica, and Antofagasta.
While good climatic conditions and abundant water resources favour Chile’s agriculture, outdated land-tenure patterns, managerial ineptitude, and inadequate price policies have combined to make agriculture one of the most inefficient sectors of the economy. Employing approximately one-sixth of the labour force, agriculture generates less than one-tenth of the gross domestic product. To meet expenditures and credit payments abroad, the military government that took over in 1973 strongly encouraged exports of agricultural commodities by private national and international companies. Within the framework of this policy, Chile increased remarkably the export of fresh fruit, canned vegetables, and wines.
In temperate central Chile the primary crops are cereals (chiefly wheat), followed by grapes, potatoes, corn (maize), apples, beans, rice, and a variety of vegetables. Industrial crops, such as sugar beets and sunflower seeds for cooking oil, are also common.
Stock raising has been one of the most underdeveloped activities in rural areas, partly because of poor technology and inefficient breeding. Cattle are the major livestock. There has been, however, some expansion in poultry, lamb, and pork production, as well as that of beef.
An estimated one-seventh of the economically active population is employed in manufacturing, which accounts for about one-sixth of the gross domestic product. Factories are concentrated in the principal urban centres—Santiago, Valparaíso, and Concepción. Light industries produce appliances, chemical products, food products, textiles and clothing, and construction materials.
Larger industrial complexes are located at the San Vicente harbour of Concepción; they include the Huachipato iron and steel mill, fish-processing factories, and a petroleum refinery associated with a petrochemical complex. Another such refinery is situated in Concón, at the mouth of the Aconcagua River. Pulp and paper mills thrive in the vicinities of the Biobío and Laja rivers.
- Trade and finance
Chile’s principal markets for mining and agricultural commodities are the European Union, the United States, and Asia. Most imports are from Argentina, the United States, Brazil, China, and Germany. The balance of payments, generally unfavourable since the 1950s because of increased foreign expenditures and payment of external loans, showed occasional improvement after 1976 but with considerable fluctuation. In the early 2000s Chile signed many free-trade agreements, including one with the United States that was implemented in 2004. Nontraditional exports (seafood, fruit, wine, wood products, foodstuffs) also contributed to economic growth in the early 21st century.
The peso is the national currency of Chile. The Central Bank of Chile, established in 1925, is the official bank of the country; it implements the internal banking policies of the government and also conducts foreign trade. In 1989 the bank became an autonomous institution entirely responsible for the country’s financial and exchange-rate policies. The State Bank of Chile is also a state entity, but it functions as a private commercial bank. National private banks as well as international banks from Europe, the United States, and Asia operate freely in the country.
Within the Chilean economic system there is collaboration between the private and public sectors, with the private sector contributing an increasing percentage of the total annual investment. Private businesses are generally organized as joint-stock companies (similar to U.S. corporations) that participate in all areas of economic activity.
The country’s length and physical barriers constrain communication and traffic flow. Only the sea offers an expeditious means of transportation, which was taken advantage of during the 19th century when Chile owned one of the largest merchant fleets in Latin America. Chile’s overall economic decline during the early 20th century and the supplanting of maritime transport with overland means resulted in the reduction of the fleet. Eventually only international transport was conducted by ship. The main port of entry is Valparaíso. San Antonio, the port for Santiago, exports copper and agricultural commodities. Other ports, such as Antofagasta and Arica, serve the trade with Bolivia. Chañaral, Huasco, Guayacán, and Tocopilla export minerals. The port of Talcahuano serves the industrial complex of Concepción.
The development of an overland transportation system began with two railway systems initiated about the turn of the 20th century: the northern network, between La Calera (near Valparaíso) and Iquique, now in disuse, and the southern network, between La Calera and Puerto Montt. The most traveled sections connect Santiago with Valparaíso and Santiago with Puerto Montt; both sections are electrified, making them more competitive with road transportation. The railway system is controlled by the Empresa de los Ferrocarriles del Estado (State Railway Enterprise). International railroads connect Arica and La Paz (Bolivia), Antofagasta and Oruro (Bolivia), and Los Andes and Mendoza (Argentina). A railbus transports passengers over the short route between Arica and Tacna (Peru).
Chile’s rapid motorization has brought enhanced highway transportation for passengers and goods. The backbone of the Chilean road system is the paved Pan-American Highway, which connects Arica with Puerto Montt, near Chiloé Island, a distance of more than 2,100 miles. From this main artery secondary routes connect numerous cities, including Santiago, with the ports of San Antonio and Valparaíso, Bulnes with Concepción, and Los Lagos with Valdivia. The most important international paved road connects Santiago with Mendoza (Argentina). All-weather roads connect Iquique with Oruro (Bolivia), Antofagasta with Salta (Argentina), La Serena with San Juan (Argentina), Osorno with San Carlos de Bariloche (Argentina), and Punta Arenas with Río Gallegos (Argentina).
Air transport serves mostly the cities at both extremes of the country and some towns of difficult access, such as El Salvador and Coihayque. The main airline is Línea Aérea Nacional de Chile (LAN; National Airline of Chile). A tourist service is maintained by LAN between Santiago and Easter Island, in the Pacific, with the flight continuing to Papeete, Tahiti. All major South American lines, plus others from the United States and Europe, handle the flow of international passengers to the Arturo Merino Benítez airport near Santiago. Chacalluta, northeast of Arica, is another major airport.
Administration and Social Conditions of Chile
The Republic of Chile, inaugurated in 1821, has had a long history of representative democracy, with only a few short-lived exceptions. Historically, Chile has been renowned for its political freedom. From September 1973 to March 1990, however, a military junta headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte presided over the longest period of authoritarian dictatorship in Chilean history. The country is governed in accordance with the constitution of 1981, approved by a plebiscite called by General Pinochet to change the constitution of 1925. The 1981 document placed the administration of the state into the hands of the president and permitted Pinochet to hold office until 1990. The president appoints the state ministers. In 2004 a constitutional amendment reduced the presidential term to four years (from six years, as designated in 1994) and eliminated lifetime senatorial seats.
The bicameral National Congress was dissolved at the time of the 1973 coup, after which legislative functions were carried on by the junta, assisted by legislative commissions. The 1981 constitution allows for a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper chamber, or Senado, and a lower chamber of representatives, or Cámara de Diputados, to be elected by direct popular vote. These two bodies remained in recess until the elections of December 1989.
The justices and prosecutors of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals are appointed by the president from a list of nominees proposed by the Supreme Court. Judges are career functionaries of the Ministry of Justice. The composition of the lower courts is similarly determined.
Local government is carried on through 15 administrative regions, including the metropolitan region of Santiago. The regions are divided into provinces, which in turn are divided into communes. The president appoints the intendents (intendentes) who head the administrations of the regions. The intendents govern with the aid of a regional council, which may include the governors of the constituent provinces and representatives of various other private and public institutions within the region. The provincial governors, like the intendents, serve at the sole pleasure of the president. The communes are administered by a municipal corporation (municipalidad) composed of a mayor (alcalde) and a communal council. The mayor is appointed by the regional council from a list of three candidates submitted by the communal council; in the case of some larger urban centres, the mayor is appointed directly by the president. The councilmen (regidores) are elected by popular vote for four-year terms.
Chile’s traditional political spectrum extended from the extreme right to the extreme left. In the September 1973 coup, however, the junta outlawed Marxist political parties and suspended all activity by traditional parties (with the intention of an eventual return to a competitive party system). New opposition movements formed during Pinochet’s rule, but his government repressed them. By the late 1980s a group of centre and centre-left parties united as the Democratic Alliance (Alianza Democrática; AD) to actively oppose the regime and promote democracy. Following Pinochet’s defeat in a 1988 plebiscite that formally ended his power, this group was renamed the Coalition of Parties for Democracy (Concertación de los Partidos por la Democracia; CPD). Negotiations between the CPD and Pinochet’s government in 1989 resulted in the removal of the ban on Marxist parties, just one of the amendments to the 1981 constitution that was voted on in a national referendum. Parties under the CPD umbrella include the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano; PDC), one of Chile’s strongest parties; the Social Democratic Radical Party (Partido Radical Social Demócrata; PRSD), which was formerly known as the Radical Party (the centrist PRSD drifted to the left after 1965, was repressed in 1973, but made a comeback in the mid-1990s under its new name); the Socialist Party of Chile (Partido Socialista de Chile; PS); and the Party for Democracy (Partido por la Democracia; PPD). The Communist Party of Chile (Partido Comunista de Chile; PCC), which was condemned under Pinochet’s rule, was reinstated by 1990. The centre-right Alliance for Chile (Alianza por Chile; AC) consists of the National Renovation (Renovación Nacional; RN) and the Independent Democratic Union (Unión Demócrata Independiente; UDI). There are also parties in Chile representing the Mapuche people and other social and environmental interests.
Chile’s educational system, structured along the lines of 19th-century French and German models and highly regarded among Latin American countries, is divided into eight years of free and compulsory basic (primary) education, four years of optional secondary or vocational education, and additional (varying) years of higher education. More than nine-tenths of Chileans age 15 and over are literate. Private schools, which are run by religious congregations, ethnic groups (such as German, French, Italian, and Israeli), and private educators have relatively high enrollments and cater to affluent families.
University education in Chile is of considerable renown throughout Latin America. The major institution is the University of Chile (originally founded in 1738), with campuses in Santiago, Arica, Talca, and Temuco. The University of Santiago of Chile and the Federico Santa Marta Technical University, in Valparaíso, are technical universities patterned after the German model. Private universities are the Catholic University of Chile in Santiago, the Catholic University of Valparaíso, the University of the North in Antofagasta, the University of Concepción, and the Southern University of Chile in Valdivia.
- Health and welfare
Social welfare and labour legislation evolved earlier in Chile than it did in other Latin American countries, and they have reached a high level of development. Legislation was passed in the early part of the 20th century that regulated labour contracts, workers’ health, and accident insurance. In successive years the social security system expanded in an attempt to cover all labour sectors. All workers were eventually covered by the Social Insurance System, maintained through contributions of employers, employees, and the state. In 1973 the military government changed social security into an individual savings scheme in which workers invest in private companies. The success of this investment system caused it to continue into the 21st century, and it has served as a model for other Latin American countries.
Health care also developed remarkably during the first half of the 20th century by means of state health plans managed by the National Health Service, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Public Health. An increasing number of facilities, equipment, and qualified personnel have reduced morbidity and infant mortality, eradicated tuberculosis, and brought infectious diseases under control. A movement by the Pinochet government to modify the state-administered public health system by introducing a profit-oriented private health system began in 1980. It offered the option of private health care to those who could afford it. At the beginning of the 21st century, government health insurance covered two-thirds of the population, including those who were unemployed.
Culture Life of Chile
Language and a common history have promoted cultural homogeneity in the country. Even the Araucanians and certain Aymara minorities in the north share the values of the Chilean identity, while continuing to cherish their own cultural heritage. Chileans have always displayed a high degree of tolerance toward the customs and traditions of minority groups, as well as toward Christian and non-Christian religious practices.
The flavour of local custom and tradition in Chile is readily observable in the numerous colourful religious festivals that take place at various localities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of spectators are drawn to these processions.
- The arts
Literature, poetry in particular, is the most significant of the creative arts in Chile. Two Chilean poets, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1945 and 1971, respectively), and the poetry of Vicente Huidobro and Nicanor Parra, also of the 20th century, is recognized in the world of Hispanic literature. Fiction, on the other hand, has not been a successful genre, perhaps because of its marked parochialism. Manuel Rojas enjoyed, during the 1950s and 1960s, a degree of international popularity, and in the late 20th century the novels of Isabel Allende became highly acclaimed not only in Latin America but also, in translation, in Europe and North America.
Much of the fine and performing arts of Chile is centred in Santiago, and the main season for cultural events is between March and November. One of the most-famed Chilean musicians was pianist Claudio Arrau. Composers such as Enrique Soro and Juan Orrego are noted in the Latin American world of music, but they never achieved world recognition. The Chilean National Symphony Orchestra and several chamber music ensembles keep European musical culture alive in Chile. Dance and opera are highlighted by the Municipal Ballet and Opera and the National Ballet of the University of Chile. Contemporary folk music, particularly tonadas (poetic tunes accompanied by guitar), had its halcyon days in the 1960s and early 1970s, when protest and social-content songs were fashionable. Violeta Parra, who died in 1967, excelled in that style.
Santiago in particular is a hub of art galleries where the works of Chile’s artists are displayed and sold. The country, however, has produced few artists of high acclaim. The painter Roberto Matta Echaurren and the sculptor Marta Colvin are among those of significance.
- Cultural institutions
The country, and Santiago in particular, is rich in museums of fine arts; modern, folk, colonial, and pre-Columbian art; natural history; and Chilean national history. The Museum of National History is of particular note, and others include the Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Natural Science, all in Santiago. The main library, the National Library of Chile, ranks among the largest in Latin America.
There is ample recreational and sports opportunity in Chile; the people can engage in most such activities common to Western cultures. The Pacific beaches are notably beautiful, but the cold water encourages more sunbathing than swimming. Viña del Mar is a particularly well-known summer resort, and the scenery of the Lake District to the south attracts many tourists. As in many Latin American countries, football (soccer) arouses a particular devotion among the populace, and crowds of up to 80,000 attend matches in Santiago. In this mountainous country skiing is enjoyed by devotees who flock to ski resorts, such as those at Portillo and Farellones (near Santiago) and those near Chillán to the south.
- Press and broadcasting
The degree of literacy and the demand for national and international information keeps a large number of journals and magazines in publication. Prior to the 1973 military coup, practically all political groups published their own daily or weekly journals. After the coup only journals that refrained from criticizing the government were allowed and censorship was strict and implacable. After 1981, books of political content or dissent were allowed to be published, provided the author was not suspected of being a Marxist. Radio and television stations followed policies of focusing attention away from poignant socioeconomic and political problems of the country. By tradition the stations have been operated by the universities but as commercial, profit-oriented enterprises. In 1967 a government channel was founded, which was used by subsequent administrations to disseminate propaganda. Most media restrictions had been lifted by the time of the 1989 presidential elections.
History of Chile
Chile was originally under the control of the Incas in the north and the nomadic Araucanos in the south. In 1541, a Spaniard, Pedro de Valdivia, founded Santiago. Chile won its independence from Spain in 1818 under Bernardo O'Higgins and an Argentinian, José de San Martin. O'Higgins, dictator until 1823, laid the foundations of the modern state with a two-party system and a centralized government.
The dictator from 1830 to 1837, Diego Portales, fought a war with Peru from 1836—1839 that expanded Chilean territory. Chile fought the War of the Pacific with Peru and Bolivia from 1879 to 1883, winning Antofagasta, Bolivia's only outlet to the sea, and extensive areas from Peru. Pedro Montt led a revolt that overthrew José Balmaceda in 1891 and established a parliamentary dictatorship lasting until a new constitution was adopted in 1925. Industrialization began before World War I and led to the formation of Marxist groups. Juan Antonio Ríos, president during World War II, was originally pro-Nazi but in 1944 led his country into the war on the side of the Allies.
In 1970, Salvador Allende became the first president in a non-Communist country freely elected on a Marxist program. Allende quickly established relations with Cuba and the People's Republic of China, introduced Marxist economic and social reforms, and nationalized many private companies, including U.S.-owned ones. In Sept. 1973, Allende was overthrown and killed in a military coup covertly sponsored by the CIA, ending a 46-year era of constitutional government in Chile.
- Precolonial period
At the time of the Spanish conquest of Chile in the mid-16th century, at least 500,000 Indians inhabited the region. Nearly all of the scattered tribes were related in race and language, but they lacked any central governmental organization. The groups in northern Chile lived by fishing and by farming in the oases. In the 15th century they fell under the influence of expanding civilizations from Peru, first the Chincha and then the Quechua, who formed part of the extensive Inca Empire. Those invaders also tried unsuccessfully to conquer central and southern Chile.
The Araucanian Indian groups were dispersed throughout southern Chile. These mobile peoples lived in family clusters and small villages. A few engaged in subsistence agriculture, but most thrived from hunting, gathering, fishing, trading, and warring. The Araucanians resisted the Spanish as they had the Incas, but fighting and disease reduced their numbers by two-thirds during the first century after the Europeans arrived.
The Spanish conquest of Chile began in 1536–37, when forces under Diego de Almagro, associate and subsequent rival of Francisco Pizarro, invaded the region as far south as the Maule River in search of an “Otro Peru” (“Another Peru”). Finding neither a high civilization nor gold, the Spaniards decided to return immediately to Peru. The discouraging reports brought back by Almagro’s men forestalled further attempts at conquest until 1540–41, when Pizarro, after the death of Almagro, granted Pedro de Valdivia license to conquer and colonize the area. Valdivia, with about 150 companions, including his mistress, Inés Suárez, the only Spanish woman in the company, entered Chile in late 1540 and founded Santiago (Feb. 12, 1541). For the next two decades the settlers lived a precarious existence and were constantly threatened by the Indians, who resisted enslavement. Before the safety of the colony was guaranteed, land was apportioned to the conquerors, and thus began the system of large estates. The estates were later institutionalized through the mayorazgo, a practice of transmitting estates by entail.
Valdivia did not undertake the conquest of the region south of the Biobío River until 1550. In that year Concepción was founded, and preparations were made to move southward. During the next two years settlements and forts were established in La Frontera, but in 1553 the Araucanian Indians, under a skilled military chieftain named Lautaro, rose in a revolt that led to the capture and death of Valdivia and to the beginning of a costly struggle. The Araucanians, often referred to as the Apache of South America, kept the struggle alive until the 1880s by successfully adapting their way of life and military tactics to changing conditions.
Although Concepción was destroyed on several occasions, it remained as the Spanish outpost in the south as did La Serena, founded in 1544, in the north. The province of Cuyo held the same position east of the Andes until 1776, when it was made a part of the newly created Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. The conquest of Chile was finally consolidated during the late 1550s under Gov. Don García Hurtado de Mendoza. Before the end of the 16th century English pirates and freebooters, including Sir Francis Drake and Thomas Cavendish, and later Dutch adventurers harassed the coast in search of sudden wealth and as part of a prolonged effort to force Spain to permit neutral nations to trade with its New World colonies.
- Colonial period
Because only quite limited amounts of precious metal were found in Chile, the settlers early turned their attention to agriculture. They grew a wide variety of cereals, vegetables, and fruits; raised livestock; and consumed nearly all of their production locally. Largely because of the poverty of the colony, there were never more than a few thousand black slaves; and, because the Indians proved to be an unreliable source of labour, the settlers often had to work the fields themselves. The lack of mineral wealth also made the area unattractive to Spaniards, and at the end of the 16th century there were no more than 5,000 Spanish settlers in the entire colony. In this regard it should be pointed out that, beginning in 1600 and continuing until trade restrictions were relaxed in the late colonial period, Chile was a “deficit area” in the empire, and the Spanish crown had to provide an annual subsidy to meet the expense of maintaining officials in Santiago and an army on the Araucanian frontier.
Chile lived under the same administrative and religious systems as its neighbours, but because the colony was poor, there was until the 18th century a tendency to send mediocre officials to preside over its destinies. The Spanish crown and the Roman Catholic Church combined to limit the colonists’ administrative experience and economic development. The power of the captain-general, the highest royal official in the colony, was absolute. Appeals to the viceroy in Peru or the king in Spain were always possible, at least in theory. Chilean trade was tightly controlled from Peru. The influence of the Catholic Church in secular affairs was always significant and frequently decisive.
The most apparent social development after 1600 was the rapid growth of a mestizo (mixed Indian and European) group, which gives present-day Chile its homogeneous ethnic character. By the end of the colonial period, when the population reached an estimated 500,000 (not including unsubjugated Indians), approximately 300,000 were mestizos and about 150,000 were Creoles (native-born persons of European descent). About 20,000 were peninsulares (recently arrived Spaniards), perhaps 15,000 were blacks, and a handful were recently emancipated Indians. Society was highly structured, with peninsulares at the top, followed by Creoles, mestizos, Indians, and African slaves. At the end of the colonial period, the vast majority of the population was concentrated in the Aconcagua Valley and the Central Valley (extending from Santiago to Concepción), which together form “the cradle of Chilean nationality.”
Education in colonial Chile was almost a complete monopoly of the Catholic clergy and reinforced the society’s strong class differences. In 1758, however, courses were opened in the Royal and Pontifical University of San Felipe at Santiago and attracted students from the Spanish colonies across the Andes. Nonetheless, intellectual life in Chile developed slowly. The colony did not have a printing press until shortly before it won independence from Spain in 1818, and the paucity of contacts with the outside world reinforced its insularity.
- Struggle for independence
Despite the colony’s isolation, its inhabitants at the start of the 19th century were affected by developments elsewhere. The most significant of those developments were the winning of independence by the 13 Anglo-American colonies and by Haiti, the French Revolution, and the inability of Spain to defend its system in America, as indicated by the British invasion of the La Plata region and increased contraband trade on the part of British and U.S. citizens. Finally and decisively came the intervention of Napoleon in Spain, an act that in 1808 threw Chile and the other colonies on their own resources and led them to take the first steps toward greater autonomy and self-government. In Chile the initial move toward independence was made on Sept. 18, 1810, when a cabildo abierto (open town meeting) in Santiago, attended by representatives of privileged groups whose vaguely defined objectives included a change in administration, accepted the resignation of the President-Governor and in his place elected a junta composed of local leaders.
From 1810 to 1813 the course of the patriots was relatively peaceful because they were able to maintain themselves without formal ties to the Viceroyalty of Lima. Trade restrictions were relaxed; steps were taken toward the eventual abolition of slavery; a newspaper was established to publicize the beliefs of the patriots; and education was promoted, including the founding of the National Institute. However, the embers of civil strife were also fanned. The Creoles were divided over how far the colony should go toward self-government. José Miguel Carrera and his brothers, whose desire for complete independence was equaled if not surpassed by their personal ambition, inflamed the issues. Meanwhile, Spain had taken steps to reassert its control over the colony. At the Battle of Rancagua, on Oct. 1 and 2, 1814, it reestablished its military supremacy and ended what has been called la patria vieja (“The old fatherland”).
Following the defeat at Rancagua, patriot leaders, among them the Carrera brothers and Bernardo O’Higgins, future director-dictator of Chile, migrated to Argentina. There O’Higgins won the support of José de San Martín, who, with the support of the revolutionary government in Buenos Aires, was raising an army to free the southern portion of the continent by first liberating Chile and then attacking Peru from the sea. The Carreras continued their spirited agitation for independence in Buenos Aires and the United States.
Meanwhile, many of those who remained in Chile suffered from the harsh rule of Spain’s inept representatives and became convinced that absolute independence was necessary. In January 1817 San Martín’s well-drilled army, with O’Higgins as one of its commanders, began its march across the Andes; and on Feb. 12, 1817, the patriot forces defeated the royalists on the hill of Chacabuco, which opened the way to Santiago. O’Higgins was proclaimed supreme director of Chile, although the act of declaring Chile’s independence was not taken until a year later (Feb. 12, 1818), on the first anniversary of Chacabuco; and the decisive defeat of Spain on the Chilean mainland (Spain held the island of Chiloé until 1826) did not come until the Battle of Maipú, on April 5, 1818. Before emancipation was assured, O’Higgins began the creation of the Chilean navy, which by late 1818 was in the process of clearing the Chilean coast of Spanish vessels.
Chile was free, but its inherent weaknesses were everywhere manifest. The Creoles remained bitterly divided between O’Higgins and the Carreras. Two of the Carrera brothers had been executed in Mendoza, Arg., in 1818; and José Miguel Carrera suffered the same fate in the same city in 1821. The elite groups were dedicated to the retention of those institutions on which such things as law, property, family, and religion were founded. The masses, who had been little more than spectators in the conflicts between 1810 and 1818, were excluded from government.
The Chilean oligarchy had little sympathy with O’Higgins, who favoured reducing their privileges. They accepted him, however, because he was supported by the army and because of dangers posed by Spaniards still in Peru and in parts of Chile (Valdivia and the island of Chiloé) and by internal guerrillas loyal to the Spanish monarchy. Opposition to O’Higgins began to make itself heard once the Chilean-Argentine army expelled the Spaniards from Peru; it increased after 1822, when the Chileans succeeded in driving the remaining Spaniards from Chile. O’Higgins’ attempt, by means of a new constitution, to concede a larger political role to the oligarchy did not increase his support, and general unrest and poor harvests forced him to abdicate in 1823....[[Chile from 1818 to 1920]|>>>read on<<<]
- POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY, 1920–38
In the decade following World War I, falling saltpetre sales and rising inflation fueled dissatisfaction among the middle and working classes. They supported the election of the reformist president Arturo Alessandri Palma in 1920. When the legislature blocked his initiatives, discontent spread to middle-class army officers. They intervened in 1924 to force parliamentary passage of his social reforms. Alessandri resigned but the military returned him to power in 1925. In that year the army backed Alessandri’s installation of a new constitution, which lasted until 1973. It established a presidential republic, separated church and state, and codified the new labour and welfare legislation....>>>read on<<<
Democratic systems continued to strengthen in Chile in the 21st century, and in 2000 Ricardo Lagos of the CPD was elected the country’s first socialist president since Allende. Under Lagos’s administration, the economy improved and numerous social reforms were enacted. Lagos was succeeded by another socialist, Michelle Bachelet, also a member of the CPD, who in 2006 defeated conservative billionaire businessman Sebastián Piñera to become the first female president of Chile....>>>read on<<<
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