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of the name Chile
are various theories about the origin of the word Chile. According to
one theory the Incas
of Peru, who had failed to conquer the Araucanians,
called the valley of the Aconcagua
"Chili" by corruption of the name of a tribal
chief ("cacique") called Tili, who ruled the area at the
time of the Incan conquest. Another theory points to the similarity of
the valley of the Aconcagua with that of the Casma
Valley in Peru, where there was a town and valley named Chili. Other
theories say Chile may derive its name from the indigenous Mapuche word
chilli, which may mean "where the land ends" or "the
deepest point of the Earth," or from the Aymara tchili meaning
"snow"; another meaning attributed to chilli is the
onomatopoeic cheele-cheele—the Mapuche imitation of a bird call.|
the free Encyclopedia)
on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
- Capital -
- National Bird -
Flag - white
five-pointed star in the center representing a guide to progress and
honor; blue symbolizes the sky, white is for the snow-covered Andes,
and red stands for the blood spilled to achieve independence.
Anthem - The Himno
Nacional de Chile is the National Anthem of Chile. It is also
known as Canción Nacional (National Song).
- Coat of Arms
Flower - The Copihue (Lapageria rosea),
also known as the Chilean Bellflower and Chilean Glory
Day - February 12, 1818
Motto - Por la Razón
o la Fuerza
(By right or might)
dance - The Cueca
consists of 13 Regions
(Click on map to see it in detail)
Chile is divided into 13 regions,
each of which is headed by an intendente appointed by the President.
Every region is further divided into provinces with a Gobernador
Provincial, also appointed by the President. Finally each province is
divided into municipalities which are sometimes referred to as comunas,
each with its own mayor, and councilors, known as consejales elected by
Each region is designated by a
name and a Roman numeral, assigned from north to south. In general, the
Roman numeral is used, rather than the name. The only exception is the
region where Santiago is situated, which is designated RM, that stands
for Región Metropolitana, Metropolitan Region.
In 2005, the Chilean congress
passed a reform to create two new regions, one in the north, around the
city of Arica, and one in the south centered around Valdivia (aka Region
of the Rivers). Being designated by numerals XIV and XV, both break the
geographical numerical order from north to south. There is speculation
that the numeral system will be dropped in favor of their formal names.
List of regions
the free Encyclopedia
Spanish is the official language.
Human habitation of the Americas
is generally accepted to have begun about 30,000 years ago. One of
South America’s oldest archaeological sites at Monte Verde, near
Puerto Montt is confirmed by radiocarbon dating to be more than 13,000
One of the earliest groups of
people was the Chinchorro culture, fishermen who lived along the coast
around 6,000 BC. These people developed a technique for mummifying
their dead that was 2,000 years before the Egyptians. The San
Pedro culture settled around San Pedro de Atacama around 500 BC and
produced ceramics, textiles and objects from copper and stone. The
Tihuanaco culture had powerful religious ties that influenced much of
northern Chile and Peru for many centuries. They also developed a
trading system which encouraged social structure.
In northern and central Chile,
the El Molle and El Bato cultures developed around 300 AD and settled
along the river valleys where they developed a system of irrigation to
cultivate crops. Around 900 AD, the Aconcagua people emerged as
the dominant culture in central Chile, building houses of branches and
mud. Around 1000 AD the Diaguita culture appeared. It
dominated the northern region over the next 500 years until the Spanish
invasion. The Diaguitas lived in villages along the river valleys
and their economy was based on agriculture, fishing, herding and
In the south of Chile, the first
group to begin cultivating crops around 600 AD is known as the Pitren
culture. They lived in small family groups growing maize and
potatoes. In 1000 AD the El Vergel people emerged and were
the first to domesticate guanacos. Around 1300 AD the Mapuche
arrived from Argentina and their lifestyle was based mainly on herding
and farming. The far south of Chile was inhabited by groups known
as the Selk’nam and the Tehuelche who hunted rheas and guanacos, and
the Yamana and the Chono who fished and hunted seals, otters and birds.
In the 15th century, the great
Inca civilization that had begun in Peru started expanding southward
into Chile where its progress was halted by fierce opposition from the
Mapuche. However the Inca built a magnificent system of roads
before their influence and occupation were diluted by civil war and the
arrival of the Spanish.
The Spanish Conquest
After Christopher Columbus landed
in the Americas in 1492, Spain was eager to conquer all the lands that
lay to the south. In 1532 Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro
landed on the coast of Peru where they found the Inca Empire embroiled
in civil war. With advanced weaponry, the Spaniards were swiftly
able to conquer the Inca, and Diego de Almagro was sent further south to
conquer Chile. Suffering extreme hardship and deprivation, de
Almagro was unsuccessful, but three years later Pedro de Valdivia set
out with the same objective. In 1541 Valdivia officially founded
Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura on the banks of the Rio Mapocho.
The new colony was isolated and
unprofitable. The hoped-for large gold and silver deposits never
materialized and the interest from the Crown was minimal. Thus
most of the settlers lived by farming the land and survived by utilizing
the encomienda system. This was a system by which the Spanish
Crown awarded “grants” of indigenous people to the colonists in
return for teaching them Spanish and about Christianity. While
literally meaning “entrustment”, the system actually meant slavery
for the native population. The encomienda system failed when large
numbers of indigenous died rapidly from diseases brought from Europe.
The Catholic Church also arrived to help “pacify” the native
population. By indoctrinating them into Catholicism, they stripped
away their indigenous beliefs and gave them less of a reason to revolt.
The most influential religious order were the Jesuits who fed, clothed
and housed their flocks and taught them Spanish and a trade, however the
Jesuits were expelled in 1767 when the Spanish crown felt they had
become too powerful.
In the late eighteenth century,
things began to change with the reign of Charles III. The Spanish
king relaxed trade restrictions, allowing the colonies to trade freely
with each other and with Spain. This created a small mining boom
as currency was needed to pay for imported items. The result was
increased sense of progress and empowerment, especially for the criollos
(people of mixed blood) who had been excluded from the highest colonial
The criollos were given a sudden
boost when Napoleon invaded Spain in 1808 and deposed the Spanish king.
In Chile a six-man commission was elected to run the country and
thoughts turned to independence. In 1811 Jose Miguel Carrera
seized power and attempted to take power. His attempt
ultimately failed, but it brought General Bernardo O’Higgins to the
forefront. Teamed with Argentina’s Jose de San Martin, the two
men liberated Chile by defeating troops loyal to the Spanish crown.
Jose de San Martin went on to liberate Argentina and Bernardo
O’Higgins was elected supreme director by Chile’s leading criollos.
The transition from colony to
republic was not a smooth one, and in the early years, Chile went
through many changes of government. However in 1829 an
authoritarian style government was ushered in which set the stage for a
period of political stability. A new constitution was written by
Diego Portales that would stand for 92 years. The growing
self-confidence of the nation added to the political and social
stability and trade began to take off. Wheat exports grew with
demand and silver and copper mining boomed.
However, the late nineteenth
century brought a worldwide recession and the fledgling economy came
crashing down. War with Bolivia soon followed over who would
control the vast nitrate-rich deposits in the Atacama Desert. Peru
also entered the fray, but by the end of 1883, Chile had prevailed and
extended its territory by 1/3 and the nitrate-rich pampas yielded
enormous wealth and restored the national confidence.
Infighting continued within the
government, however and the leaders seemed unaware of the social changes
taking place around them. The enormous wealth from the nitrate
industry had helped to create tremendous progress in industrialization
and social diversification and a middle class emerged as did an urban
working class. This working class had no political representation,
however and took to striking to protest their terrible working
conditions. The government violently put down these strikes, thus
deteriorating the domestic situation. Then with the outbreak of
World War I in 1914, the nitrate industry took a plunge, leaving
thousands of people unemployed and causing inflation to soar.
After more political shenanigans,
a new constitution was drawn up in 1925 which among other reforms,
incorporated protective welfare measures. But again in 1929, the
Wall Street crash sparked another worldwide depression leading to
economic collapse and deep social unrest. The task of stabilizing
the country fell to ex-president Arturo Alessandri who was re-elected in
Alessandri embraced a multi-party
system that represented a wide spectrum of the population, however the
system was dominated by the middle class- representing Radical Party.
Succeeding presidents regenerated Chile’s economy by investing in
state-sponsored companies. Nationalization of the copper industry
allowed for social reforms such as the introduction of a minimum wage
and improvements in education.
In 1970, Salvadore Allende was
narrowly elected as Chile’s first socialist president. While
half the country rejoiced, the other half feared a slide toward
communism. In the short term, Allende’s government was both
successful and popular with rising wages, economic growth and falling
unemployment. However, government spending was exceeding income
and the economic crisis was accelerated when the world copper price fell
by 27%. Inflation began to rise, wages couldn’t keep up and food
shortages became commonplace. Opposition to the government rose
sharply. Strikes broke out and public unrest paralyzed the
On September 11, 1973, military
tanks surrounded the presidential palace, marking the beginning of a
military coup headed by General Augusto Pinochet. Congress was
dissolved, opposition parties and trade unions were banned, military
officers were sent in to take charge of universities and factories and
thousands of Chileans fled the country as journalists, politicians,
socialists, and so on were herded into the national football stadium
where they were tortured and/or murdered.
Pinochet saw his role as rescuing
Chile from years of chaos and he intended to do it by silencing those
who opposed him and by adopting a free-market economy. This would
involve reversing all of Allende’s policies and restructuring the
government. He abolished all price controls, government-owned
companies were privatized, government expenditure was slashed and
attempts were made to increase investment and attract foreign capital.
The immediate response was soaring unemployment, decreased wages,
decreased industrial output and a poorer middle and lower class.
By the late 1980’s the economy was showing signs of growth and
inflation was decreasing but the wealth was unevenly distributed with
49% of the country’s wealth in the hands of only 10% of the
During this restructuring,
thousands of people who disagreed with Pinochet’s policies were
tortured and/or murdered. However the constitution that Pinochet
had written up in 1980, guaranteed him power until 1988, at which time
the public would be given the opportunity to accept or reject military
rule. Despite the favorable economic climate, the public rejected
Pinochet’s strong-arm tactics and Patricio Aylwin was elected to head
a 17-party coalition called the Concertacion de los Partidos por la
Chile's political climate has
since remained stable, although there is still considerable tension
between the military and the government concerning the human rights
violations of the Pinochet era.
For more information on Pinochet, read the BBC
On January 15, 2006, Chile
elected its first female president, socialist Michelle Bachelet. A
former political prisoner during Pinochet’s dictatorship, she made it
clear that she intends to maintain the free-market polices that have
turned Chile's economy into one of the strongest in the region.
Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island by Carolyn Hubbard,
Brigitte Barta and Jeff Davis 2003, The Rough Guide to Chile by
Melissa Graham 2003, and Moon Handbooks Chile by Wayne
The Chilean economy has been growing
steadily. Its major trade partners include the United States, the European
Union, Japan, Argentina and Brazil. In recent years exports have
diversified and the economy is no longer dependent on single traditional exports
such as copper, however copper still represents 40% of the country’s exports.
Over the last few years, Chile has become
the world’s second largest producer of fresh and processed salmon, fishmeal
and fish oil. They are also the fifth largest exporter of wine worldwide
and expect to increase production in the years to come.
Agriculture is also important as Chile
produces half the winter-time fruit consumed in the northern hemisphere.
Forest products are a rapidly growing sector, but at an unsustainable level and
with questionable reforestation programs that use fast-growing exotic species
such as Monterrey pine and eucalyptus.
Chile is an associate member of Mercosur
(a free trade association of other S. American countries) and has free-trade
agreements with Canada and the European Union.
Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island by Carolyn Hubbard, Brigitte Barta
and Jeff Davis 2003, The Rough Guide to Chile by Melissa Graham 2003, and Moon
Handbooks Chile by Wayne Bernhardson 2002
Geography and Climate
Geography & Climate|
Chile stretches over 4,300 km (2,700 mi)
along the southwestern coast of South America, a distance roughly the same as
that from San Francisco to New York. At the same time, its width never
exceeds 240 km (150 mi), making the country more than eighteen times longer than
its widest point.
Chile's greatest geographic feature is the massive Andes, a mountain range that
runs along the eastern edge of the country. This range contains more than
fifty active volcanic peaks. The western border is the Pacific Ocean. In the
north the land rises and becomes the Atacama Desert, one of the most
inhospitable regions on earth. Through the center of Chile runs a narrow
depression between the mountains and the sea called the central valley. This 500
mile long corridor is home to vineyards and farms in the north and forests and
lakes in the south. In the south the land falls away, and the region fades
into a maze of land and ocean that terminates in Chilean Patagonia. Chile's
southern extremity is marked by Cape Horn, a treacherous headland surrounded by
almost continuously storm-tossed seas and passable only through the Straits of
Chile's climate is as diverse as its
geography. Aside from the extreme climatic conditions of the Andes and the
Atacama Desert, the country enjoys a comfortable temperate climate.
At 7:11 pm on May 22, 1960 Southern Chile
suffered an earthquake that measured 8.6 (Richter Scale). Many of
the coastal towns were devastated, some destroyed. In parts of Chiloe the
shoreline dropped and the ocean reclaim the land - and the homes that were on
it. The earthquake caused a Tsunami that swept fishermen away in Chile and
which hit Hilo, Hawaii about 14 hours later - 10,000 miles away, then hit the
coast of Japan causing further death and destruction.
The next day, the Puyehue Volcano erupted
in the Chilean Lake District.
What is the weather
like in the Region today? Follow this link to The Weather
Underground for the forecast
for the cities visited by our explorers. Or check out this satellite
map from Weather.com.
Try converting the
temperature in your town from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
Most of South America
is in the same time zone. What time is it in different cities in the
region as compared to the time in your home town? Check
Ethnic Groups and Religion
Population & Ethnic Groups
Chile’s population is nearing 16 million people, the majority
of whom reside in the central valley, which is also the country’s agricultural
region. The region includes the capital city of Santiago where almost a
third of the country’s population lives.
Chile's population is composed predominantly of mestizos, who
are descended from a cross between the Spanish colonizers and the indigenous
people. The main surviving indigenous groups consist of the Aymara, who number
approximately 20,000, in the north, and the Mapuche, who number roughly
1,000,000 and continue to inhabit the lake district. Chile is also home to a
number of immigrant groups, including populations from virtually every European
country. There are also significant numbers of Basques and Palestinians. Spanish
is the country's official language, but Aymara and Mapuche are also spoken.
The vast majority of Chileans practice Catholicism, but
Protestantism and to a lesser extent, Judaism, are also represented.
Moon Handbooks Chile by Wayne Bernhardson 2002
Fauna and Flora
northern coastal desert areas are nearly devoid of vegetation.
The plants that can be found at higher elevations include Candelabra
cactus and scrub forests. Further
south, “rigid leaf” shrubs and trees appear increasing to temperate
the central region, the land has been deforested at a great rate due to dense
population. South of the highly
populated areas, the temperate rainforest has fared a little better with 95% of
the fifty tree species being endemic, including the araucaria tree, also known
as the monkey puzzle tree and the southern beeches. The alerce tree, a relative of the North America sequoia, can
be seen around Puerto Montt.
Chilean Patagonia there are evergreen and deciduous beeches along with dwarf
shrubs and bogs.
of Chile’s unique geography, one-third of its animals are not found anywhere
else in the world. Many of these
species are also at risk of extinction due to loss of habitat.
in the altiplano in the north there are herds of llamas, alpacas, guanacos and
the endangered vicuna, all members of the camelid family.
The guanaco can also be found in Patagonia.
Also in Patagonia can be found the endangered huemul, a small endemic
deer species. Several species of
rodents can be found in Chile including the endemic mountain vizcacha and the
coastal chinchilla. Further south
in the pampas and savannah can be found the mara or Patagonia hare.
There are also feline species such as Geoffroy’s cat, the puma, the
colo-colo and the guina.
mammals include the southern sea lion, the southern fur seal, blue whales and
dolphins. Reptiles include 6
species of non-venomous snakes, lizards and iguanas.
the sparse northern regions, only a limited number of birds survive, including
the Peruvian grey gull. The central
region commonly seen birds include the Chilean parakeet the Chilean black croke
and the giant hummingbird. Further
south can be found birds such as kingfishers, woodpeckers and ducks.
The forests support crested caracaras and other hawk species.
In the mountains there are Andean condors, which are among the world’s
largest birds. Also in the Andes,
at remote saltwater lakes, there can be found Chilean flamingos, Andean
flamingos and James’s flamingos. Further
to the south can be found Darwin’s rheas which are similar to the ostrich.
Coastal birds include Peruvian pelicans, Peruvian boobys and three types
of penguins, Humboldt, Magellanic and rockhopper.
More common birds include gulls, cormorants, shearwaters and terns.
1973 to 1990, Chilean economic policy, under the country's military government,
relied heavily upon mining, forestry, and fishing for export. These industries
developed without environmental oversight and put serious strains on Chile's
forests, soils, and wildlife. In 1990, a democratically elected government took
power, and the country's economy began to grow quickly.
presidents have exhibited a concern for the environment, and has demonstrated
support for conservation efforts and fuel diversification.
has signed and ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change as a non-Annex I country, and is therefore not obligated to reduce its
emissions of greenhouse gases. Chile also is a signatory to the more recent
Kyoto Protocol and is party to several other international environmental
treaties, such as the Montreal Protocol and the Convention limiting the movement
of hazardous wastes.
rapidly growing economy has come at a significant cost to the environment. With
total energy demand expected to continue to grow by 7% annually, and air
pollution in Santiago already reaching critical levels, the continuing evolution
of Chile's fuel mix away from petroleum and coal and towards natural gas and
hydroelectric generation is key to the country's environmental future. The
challenge in the years ahead will be to find a balance between meeting Chile's
growing energy needs and strengthening the country's commitment to environmental
fish farming is a controversial practice and has raised serious environmental
concerns around the world. Chile is a large supplier of farm raised fish
such as salmon.
are several problems associated with open-netcage salmon farming:
- Sewage from
farms pollutes surrounding waters.
including antibiotics, are required to keep farmed fish healthy.
of farmed fish (alien species) threaten native wild fish.
loss: Farmed fish are fed pellets made from other fish - depleting other
fish species on a global scale.
more information on this topic follow the link to the David Suzuki Foundation
Information Administration, The
David Suzuki Foundation
the free Encyclopedia, Lonely
Planet’s Chile & Easter Island by Carolyn Hubbard, Brigitte Barta
and Jeff Davis 2003, The Rough Guide to Chile by Melissa Graham 2003,
and Moon Handbooks Chile by Wayne Bernhardson 2002, Energy
Information Administration, The
David Suzuki Foundation and www.geographia.com
Kim and Don Greene,
Contributors; publication date April 6, 2006