Chile, South America

Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in South America. It is in the form of a thin long strip between the Andes Mountains in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Its area is 756,096 km² and its population is 17.5 million. Its capital and largest city is Santiago, and its official language is Spanish.

Chile is bordered by Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Strait to the south. The islands of Juan Fernández, Isla Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas and Easter in Oceania are part of Chile. In addition, Chile claims 1.25 million km² of Antarctica under the name of the Antarctic Territory.

Spain captured and colonized the area, ending Inca rule in the mid-16th century, but failed to enslave the Mapuches living in the south-central part of the country today. Declaring its independence from Spain in 1818, Chile became a relatively stable authoritarian republic in the 1830s. The breaking of Mapuche resistance in the 1880s and the defeat of Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) led to major territorial and economic expansions in the 19th century. In the 1960s and 70s Chile entered a period of severe political polarization and turmoil. Tensions culminated in the overthrow of the democratically-elected left-wing government of Salvador Allende in a military coup in 1973, and the country was ruled by the right-wing military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet for 16 years, which was responsible for more than 3000 dead or missing. The regime ended in 1990 after a referendum in 1988, and the centre-left coalition remained in power until 2010.

Chile is defined by the World Bank as a high-income country and has a high quality of life. It is one of the most socio-economically stable and prosperous countries in South America; It is the leader among Latin American countries in terms of competitive economy, per capita income, globalization, peace, economic freedom and low perception of corruption. It also ranks high in its region in the areas of sustainable state and democratic development. It has the lowest murder rates in the Americas after Canada. Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Latin American and Caribbean States, and the Pacific Alliance, and joined the OECD in 2010.


The origin of the word Chile, the Spanish name of the country, has not been definitively proven. The most common explanation is that the word derives from the Aymara language. In this language, the word Chilli means “the land where the world ends”. This is supported by the phenomenon of the first Spaniard to come to Chile from the Aymara settlements. From the beginning of the colonization of South America, the Spaniards have labeled the lands south of the Atacama Desert as Chile.

Another and less common theory cites the Inca language Quechua as the origin of the name. The maximum extent of the Inca Kingdom reaches present-day Santiago. The Incas called the lands south of Río Aconcagua Tchili, meaning snow, based on the relatively cold climate and snow-covered Andes.


Chile with a surface area of 756,945 km²; although it is a country stretching from the north-south direction of the South American continent to Antarctica, its average width is only 180 km. The narrowest part of the country (excluding the Chilean territory in Antarctica) is 90 km, while the widest part is 240 km long. Compared to Europe, a distance is covered from Denmark to the Sahara Desert. Although the East-West distance is very small, there is a large difference in altitude between these two extremes. The country also displays very different climates, vegetation and geographical forms from north to south. That’s why Chile is referred to as the land of contrasts in many sources. Indeed, it deserves this name by reminding the desert in the north, the Sahara of Africa, the canals of Norway in the south, the Osorno in Los Lagos and its surroundings, the Swiss Alps, the Mediterranean in the middle areas, as well as the glaciers in Patagonia.


The Chilean mountains form the highest mountain chain on earth. It has many peaks above 6000 m. One of them, Chile’s highest mountain (6,880 m), Ojos del Salado is also the highest volcano in the world. The most famous ones are listed below.

Nevado Ojos del Salado, 6,880 m, III. Region (Atacama Region)
Cerro Tupungato, 6,800 m, (Metropolitan Area)
Volcan Llullaillaco, 6,739 m, II. District (Antofagasta District)
Volcán Parinacota, 6,342 m, Zone I (Tarapacá District)
Volcan Licancábur, 5916 m, II. District (Antofagasta District)
Descabezado Grande, 3,830 m, VII. Zone(Maule Zone)
Torres del Paine, 2,800 m, XII. Region (Region of Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena)
Volcan Villarrica, 2,840 m, VIII. Region (Araucanía Region)
Volcán Osorno, 2,652 m, Zone X (los Lagos District)
Volcan Cerro Hudson, 1,905 m, XI. Region (Asian Region)

Rivers and Lakes

Due to the special geographical structure of the country, it does not have long rivers. The longest river, the Rio Loa, has a length of 443 km. The extreme drought in the Atacama Desert in the north of the country prevents the formation of large accumulations of water. Few northern rivers feed on snow in the Andes. Increasing precipitation as you go south brings with it a greater volume of water to the rivers in these regions. Rivers play an important role in the Chilean economy, especially in the supply of energy. It also offers opportunities for adventure tourism such as salmon fishing and rafting. The major rivers from north to south are listed below.

Río Lauca, 160 km, District I (Tarapacá)
Río Lluta, 167 km, District I (Tarapacá)
Rio Loa, 443 km, Region (Antofagasta)
Río Copiapó, 162 km, III. Region (Atacama)
Rio Elqui, 170 km, IV. District (Coquimbo)
Río Choapa, 160 km, IV. District (Coquimbo)
Río Aconcagua, 142 km, District V (Valparaíso)
Río Maipo, 250 km, Metropolitan/ V. Region (Metropolitan/ Valparaíso)
Rio Mapocho, 120 km, Metropolitan(Metropolitana)
Rio Cachapoal, 172 km, VI. District( O’Higgins)
Rio Maule, 240 km, VII. Zone (Maule)
Rio Biobio, 380 km, VIII. Region (Biobio)
Río Imperial, 52 km, IX. Region (Araucanía)
Among its lakes, the salt lakes in the north can be counted, the most famous of which we can say Salar de Atacama. In the far north, however, is Lago Chungará lake, one of the highest lakes on earth. The area of ​​the lake is 21.5 km² and it is located at an altitude of 4,500 m.

A group of large and beautiful lakes stretch from the south of Temuco city to Puerto Montt. These are as follows:

Lago Colico, 56 km², IX. Region (Araucanía)
Lago Caburga, 51 km², IX. Region(Araucanía)
Lago Villarrica, 176 km², IX. Region (Araucanía)
Lago Calafquén, 120 km², IX. District (Araucanía) and District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Panguipulli, 116 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Riñihue, 77 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Ranco, 401 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Puyehue, 156 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Rupanco, 223 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Lago Llanquihue, 860 km², District X (Los Lagos)
Also in the south is Chile’s largest lake, Lago General Carrera, with an area of 970 km², which forms the western flank of Lago Buenos Aires lake in Argentina.


The most densely populated area is the capital city of Santiago and its environs. Almost half of the total population lives in this region. Only 6.5 million people live in the city, which corresponds to 1/3 of the country. The plains between the Andes, where agriculture can be done in the north and south, are also densely populated areas. 1.5 million people live in the port city of Valparaíso, 100 km west of Santiago.

As you go to the northern and southern ends of the country, the density of settlements becomes less frequent due to unfavorable living conditions. Because the northern desert and the cold, windy climate of the south make it difficult to live here.


Europeans and their descendants make up 95% of Chile’s population. Usually Basques. Especially in the 19th century, British, Irish and German immigrants from Europe came to the country; Later, it received immigrants from Croatia, Palestine and Italy. Natives represent only 3.2% of the population.

According to Chilean statistics, there are around 50,000 (0.30%) Muslims in Chile. In Chile, where there are many Islamic organizations; The Chilean Muslim Community and Al-Salam Masjid are located in the city of Santiago, the Bilal Mosque in the city of Iquique, the Cultural Center of Mohammed VI in the city of Coquimbo.

In 1856, there was an Arab migration to Chile from the territories of the Ottoman Empire (Syria, Palestine and Lebanon). Among them, Muslims (most of these Arabs were Orthodox Christians) founded the Union of Muslim Community. In 1907, the number of Muslims in the country rose to 1498, which was 0.04%, the highest rate in the country’s history. In 1988, they built the first mosque in Santiago under the leadership of Sheikh Tevfik Rumi. The mosque was completed in 1989. By the late 1980s, few indigenous Chileans had converted to Islam. After this mosque was completed, there was an increase in the number of people who converted to Islam.

Vegetation and Animals


Due to the fact that Chile is a long country stretching from north to south, it has a very wide and diverse vegetation. Practically nothing grows in the Atacama Desert. Here, besides the cactus varieties, plants can be found towards the Andes and in the coastal areas. However, in some years, after the rains, the desert is adorned with millions of flowers, albeit for a few days.

The southern part of the desert is steppe and steppe, and the stone-hard yareta (Azorella yareta), also called Andean pillow, grows in the Andes. A type of shrub called Boldo (Peumus boldus) is dominant in dry regions. There are misty forests in the coastal mountain ranges and the Andes.

The vineyards are in the Rio Elqui river region. Outside the river valley there are only thorny bushes and cacti.

In the central region of the country, a palm tree of the genus Jubaea and the chile arocaria are very common. The Arokarya is a sacred tree for the Mapuche, as they use its large seeds for their cultivation. Also, areas covered with eucalyptus trees can be seen in central Chile.

There are large forests in southern Chile that fall under the rainforest category. In these forests, trees such as cypress, pine, and hybrid are mostly found together. In addition, trees such as Antarctic false beech (Nothofagus antarctica) and poplar are spread over very large areas.

Large grassy steppes and tundra dominate the Patagonia region. Since very large areas are covered with glaciers in the Magellan and Asian regions, there is not much vegetation here.


In areas covered with steppes, camelid llamas, guanacos, alpacas and vicunas live very widely. Deer and condors native to the Andes are depicted on almost all the country’s coats of arms.

While cougars and rodents live in the mountainous steppes, forests provide habitat for creatures such as fox, kodkod, deer and colibri.

Humboldt penguin, Magellanic penguin, sea lion, and pelican species are animals that can be found in the cold waters of northern Chile and the ice fields of southern Chile.

Flamingos are common in the Andean condor and the great salt lakes in nearly all Andean parts of Chile.

In the south, the nandu, magellanic fox and the owl in the Lands of Fire are among the creatures seen in the region.


Pre-Columbian and colonial period

It is known that around 13,000 BC, people lived within the borders of today’s country. Northern Chile belonged to the Inca Kingdom until shortly before it was conquered by the Spanish. Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed around the world in 1520, discovered the southern tip of the country while crossing the Strait of Magellan, which is named after him. Later, the first Europeans to reach Chile were Diego de Almagro and his retinue, who came from Peru in 1535 to search for gold. However, they were repulsed by local population groups. The first full settlement made by the Europeans was the founding of Santiago in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541. From 1542, Chile became part of the Spanish Governorate of Peru.

In Chile, the Spaniards found little gold and silver, and due to the country’s remote location, Chile was a colony that was not given much importance to the Spanish Kingdom. Also, since the Atacama Desert was an obstacle to direct access to Peru, the country became an important supply area by the Spanish much later, with the introduction of other agricultural products and minerals.

The war of independence and the formation of the republic

The demands for independence first began in 1808, when Spain was ruled by Napoleon’s brother Joseph. On September 18, 1810, a junta that came to power declared an autonomy under the Kingdom of Spain. After the Spanish war of independence against Napoleon, he tried to take Chile again with unlimited force. However, the Spaniards were defeated by Chilean and Argentine troops in the battle at Chacabuco. After the Battle of Maipu on April 5, 1818, Spanish resistance came to an end. O’Higgins became the first Chilean State ruler when the commander in chief of the battles, Jose de San Martin, abdicated the presidency in favor of Bernardo O’Higgins.

O’Higgins was overthrown in 1823 and was forced into exile in Peru. In the following years, various statesmen came to power. Diego Portales Palazuelos, who came to power in 1830, ruled the country in a dictatorial style, and in 1833 he had a very strict constitution drawn up. With this central constitution, Chile gained stability for a long time between 1833 and 1891. Over time, the country became the most economically powerful region of South America. Chile consolidated its power with many wars it waged, especially by winning the Peru-Bolivian Confederation War of 1836-1839.

Chile declared war on Spain in 1865 when Spain tried to recapture the former colonies in Peru. Naval battles took place in front of the islands of Papudo and Chiloe. He joined Chile against a common enemy in Peru. Although the war practically ended in 1866, the problems with Spain were resolved by the treaties of 1871 and 1883.

Border disputes

In the 19th century, Europeans from outside Spain also immigrated to Chile. Today, the effects and traces of these people are seen in the southern regions of the country.

In the Saltpeter War (also called the Pacific War) between 1879 and 1883 with Peru and Bolivia, Chile conquered the region of the Atacama Desert that had been held by these countries until then. Thus, Bolivia lost the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Very rich copper deposits were later found in these areas. The world’s largest copper mine, Chuquicamata, is in this region.

In 1891, the Chilean navy revolted against President José Manuel Balmaceda. A civil war broke out because of this. 6000 people died in this war. When Balmaceda lost the battle, he committed suicide in September 1891.

In 1893, border problems began to occur, this time with Argentina. In 1902, King of England VII. Edward mediated this problem, and Patagonia and the Land of Fire were divided between the two countries. In this way, Chile received a share of 54,000 km² and Argentina 40,000 km².

Recent history and Allende

In 1969, left forces in the country formed an electoral union called Unidad Popular (UP). This union consisted of parties such as the communist and socialist parties, as well as a few more leftist, humanist small parties. The UP placed itself on a socialist line, promising the nationalization of industry and the expropriation of land from large landowners. This union nominated Salvador Allende for the presidency in 1970.

In the 1970 elections, the constituency UP won 37% of the votes and emerged as the strongest of the elections, and Allende was elected to the State Presidency. Conservative opponent Jorge Alessandri received 35.3% of the vote, and Christian Democrat Radomiro Tomic 28.1%. One after another, Allende’s minority government began to nationalize major branches of the economy (banking, agriculture, copper mines, communications). Thus, growing conflicts with the opposition occurred. There was also discomfort in the USA against Allende’s election victory. Because in Chile, the popular front with Marxist influences was in power as the second American state after Cuba. This concern was triggered by the US President Eisenhower’s domino theory in 1954. According to this theory, after Chile, other South American countries would fall under communism one by one, just as the overthrow of the first of the dominoes lined up side by side would bring the others down in a chain. In 1973 UP managed to increase the number of votes even more.

Pinochet era

Following the developments listed above, a military coup against the government took place on September 11, 1973. Hundreds of Allende supporters have been killed these days, and thousands more have been arrested. All state units were occupied by military units. General Augusto Pinochet took over all powers as the junta leader. Pinochet was also the highest official in the navy, air force, and police force.

Troops set up concentration camps in the most secluded desert areas of northern Chile and the sparsely populated areas of Patagonia. Many junta opponents were tortured to death or thrown overboard from planes. Thousands of Chileans fled abroad or were exiled for human rights violations.

With Pinochet’s seizure of power, the US again began to support the country heavily in the economic context. The new government rolled back previous nationalizations, with the exception of the important copper mine Chuquicamata. While following a neoliberal economic policy, it also took back all trade union rights. With these economic policies, the difference between the rich and the poor began to become more evident. But the public economy, with growth, has stabilized more than is customary in South America. In addition to economic stability, human rights violations continued.

Cause of tension Beagle-Channel
In December 1978, tensions developed between Argentina and Chile that could lead to war. The cause of the tension were the uninhabited islands in the Beagle Channel, such as Lennox, Picton and Nueva. Because it was estimated that there were very high oil reserves here. While this tension was amicably resolved as a result of the border agreement in 1985 with the intervention of the Vatican, these 3 islands were left to Chile. Today, there are still minor border disputes with this country that have not been fully resolved.

Democracy Again

In the referendum held in 1988, it was concluded with 55% of the vote that Pinochet should not rule the country any longer. In 1989, the first elections were held after 15 years of dictatorship. Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin was elected President. In addition to modest economic reforms, Aylwin began to reconcile the state and the people in order to live together. In 1993, for the first time, some officers went to court for human rights violations. Many exiles returned to the country.

Between 1994 and 2000, the Christian democrat Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle ruled the country.

Pinochet was arrested in England in 1998 and was subsequently banned from going out. He was released in 2000 due to health problems.

In 2000, Socialist Ricardo Lagos was elected President. In 2006, Michelle Bachelet, the first female president in the history of the country, came to this position. On March 11, 2018, Sebastián Piñera became President of Chile for the second time. He completed his first term as Chile’s prime minister from March 11, 2011 to March 11, 2014.


Unlike Salvador Allende’s socialist popular economy, Pinochet gravitated towards a neoliberal market economy. Most of the public institutions were privatized both in Pinochet’s time and in later administrations. However, copper production, which was nationalized in the time of Allende and kept under the military control of Pinochet, is still in the hands of the state today. Although the middle left governments after Pinochet tried to establish social rights, Chile is still one of the countries where social inequality is very high.

The service sector is the leading sector of the country with 57%. It is followed by industry with 34% and agriculture with 9%. Chile is one of the largest raw material producers in Latin America. It has the world’s largest copper reserves, accounting for 40% of the world’s production… Various precious metals and Chilean saltpeter made the country rich throughout the 19th century. Today, it is feared that the world’s largest gold mine, planned with the Pascua-Lama project, will bring with it huge environmental problems.

Besides, fishing and agriculture also play an important role in the country’s economy. 7% of the country area is used as agricultural land. These areas are mostly concentrated in the central parts of the country. In the northern desert, agriculture is done only in oases. Livestock is predominantly done in the northern parts of central Chile and southern Chile.

Winemaking also makes significant contributions to the country’s economy.


There are great differences between the cities and the cultures of the country. In the country, folklore plays an important role in traditional dances such as the national dance Cueca. The folk culture is quite Spanish and Araucan. “Payadores” songs are mostly folk songs about love and dreams. Political songs were banned during the Pinochet dictatorship. Native American influences are evident in the handicrafts in the country. First of all, carvings are produced, as well as weaving and pottery work. Huasos are a type of Chilean cowboy or gaucho that play an important role in the countryside. They are at almost all folklore festivals and especially at the Chilean Rodeo. Urban culture is cosmopolitan.

In a representative survey conducted in 2008, almost 50 percent of Chileans said they had never or hardly read at all. Books are very expensive in Chile because there are very few prints. The book market has only slowly recovered from the cultural paralysis under the military dictatorship.

Culinary specialties and eating habits

Chilean cuisine is definitely not a branch of Spanish cuisine as it is thought. On the contrary, in many cases it has multiple effects on German immigrants. German terms such as “Kuchen” (pronounced kuchen as in German) or „Apfelstrudel“ (estrudel) are also found in the Chilean confectionery dictionary. Berliner (mostly with pudding filling) is common under the name Berlines. Also known as Christstollen Christmas cookies (as pan de pascua), they are a Chilean specialty in South America, and Paila marina is also a Chilean fish soup with pork head (queso de cabeza), Tatar (tártaro de carne), or bouillabaisse. is specific to The typical Chilean sauerkraut (called Chucrú, derived from the French Choucroute), the preference for quark-like cream cheese, and the very strong southern beer tradition can also be traced to Central European influences. Most beers are made from Reinheitsgebot and hops imported from German growing areas.

Due to the sunny conditions and volcanic soils in central and northern Chile, the country is well suited for growing Field crops and fruit varieties that are offered in a wide variety in Chilean markets. In Chile, one of the origin countries of potatoes, there are also many different types of table potatoes. Visiting the market at least once a week and using fresh vegetables and other ingredients in the kitchen still plays an important role for the majority of Chilean housewives and kitchen butlers, mostly in wealthy households.

Along with a wide variety of fish and seafood, chicken is also very popular in Chile. Grilled meat called asado is one of the traditional dishes in social settings, just like in neighboring Argentina. In addition to beef and pork, mainly spicy paprika sausages (“longanizas”) are used. The meat is usually soaked in beer for several hours before grilling to increase tenderness.

National dishes include the Chilean empanada, which is a meatball stuffed with different fillings (e.g. beef, chicken, seafood or cheese) that can be baked or fried in frying oil. Cazuela is a hearty stew made with chicken or beef, corn on the cob (Choclos) zucchini and other vegetables. Humitas refers to corn porridge that is cooked or grilled in corn leaves and eaten sweet or savory. Pebre chili pepper (Ají) is a fatty lemon sauce made from finely chopped onions and herbs, served primarily with meat but also as a condiment for other dishes. Side dishes made with dried seaweed called Cochayuyo (related to the brown algae of the “Durvillaea antarctica” species) are also popular. The relatively tasteless algae are cut into small pieces and cooked mixed with onions, various spices and herbs, and possibly legumes or other vegetables. Also typical is „roasted flour“ (“harina tostada”), which is typically made from heated and then ground wheat and can be processed into a sticky mixture of water and sugar, possibly melon juice or wine. ulpo is consumed as a refreshing beverage.

Originating in the 1950s, the Classic Chilean fast food Completo is eaten with plenty of avocado mousse (Palta) and sauerkraut or Coleslaw (Chucrú) and Chili paste (salsa de ají chileno) and mildly sweet Chilean mustard. Also typically Chilean sandwiches (sánguches) are sandwiches that are usually richly stuffed with roasted meat or other ingredients and can be purchased from food stalls, snack bars, or restaurants almost anywhere in cities.

Notable artists

Many important figures have left their mark on modern Chilean culture. Some of these are those:

Isabel Allende (b. 1942), the most famous contemporary Chilean writer. He has published worldwide novels such as Spirit House (also filmed), Daughters of Fortuna, The Infinite Plan. She is also the niece of former president Salvador Allende, she.

Roberto Bolano (1953-2003), publisher of surrealist poetry. He went into exile after the military coup in 1973. He is the winner of many literary awards. He died in Barcelona.

Víctor Jara (1932-1973), political singer. He is considered one of the most important representatives of the nueva canción (new song) movement and the revolutionary artist movement throughout South America. He supported Salvador Allende and was tortured to death during the military coup.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), world-renowned poet, writer and 1971 Nobel laureate. He published many social and political poems and served as Ambassador to France during the Salvador Allende period. He died of cancer shortly after the military coup.

Tom Araya (b. 1961) has been the vocalist and bass guitarist of the world-famous thrash metal band Slayer since 1981, when it was founded.

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), poet and 1945 Nobel Prize winner for literature. After her lover Romelio Ureta committed suicide, she dealt with the themes of love, death and hope in her poems. She later worked in the diplomatic field for Chile.

Music groups such as Inti Illimani, Quilapayún, Illapu have made the “Nueva Canción Chilena” (Chilean new song) movement world famous. These groups have been abroad for years as refugees because of the military coup.

Violeta Parra (1917-1967) is the founder of the “Nueva Canción Chilena” movement. The singer grew up in poverty and composed his own folk music at a very early age, collecting and compiling traditional songs in the 1950s. His own works have a strong political character. She wrote poetry, painted and sculpted besides music. She has sung songs by many Chilean and international artists she. His most familiar song is Gracias a la vida.

Antonio Skármeta (1940), writer and supporter of Salvador Allende. He left the country after the 1973 coup. He wrote many novels and stories about the dictator. Between 2000 and 2003, he served as consul in Berlin, where he was previously in exile.

Roberto Matthew (1911-2002), great surrealist painter of the 20th century. He is also a friend of Salvador Dalí and Federico Garcia Lorca.

Some important cities

Santiago – Capital
Puerto Montt
Punta Arenas
Puerto Williams