Chile is a country of South America
with a surface area of 756,950 km² (density of 22.12 inhab./km²). The population of Chile is 16,746,491 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Chile is the city of Santiago which has 5,145,599 inhabitants. The President of the unitary presidential republic is Sebastián Piñera.
"By the reason or by the force"
Chile or Republic of Chile is a South American country located along the western frontage of the continent. The country shares borders with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina and stretches over 4,300 kilometers along the Pacific Ocean.
Chile has the distinction of having territories on three continents since it owns land in Antarctica and Oceania. The country has long known a dictatorial regime but is today a democracy led by Michelle Bachelet, the member of the Socialist Party.
Chile at a glance
Administrative divisions: 13 regions
Population: more than 17 million inhabitants
Main language: Spanish
Main religion: Christianity
Current President: Michelle Bachelet
Currency: Chilean peso (1 peso = centavos)
Conversion into euro: 100 Chilean pesos = 0.13 euro
Tourism: The country is relatively safe but we must remain vigilant because of the flights mainly to the tourist sites and the big cities of the country. Protect yourself from the mosquito bites.
Along the Cordillera of the Andes
Chile is in the form of a long strip of land nestled between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Andes in the east. If Chile is more than 4,300 kilometers long, its maximum width is 440 kilometers. The archipelago Juan Fernández and the Easter Island located respectively 675 and 3,500 kilometers of the South American coasts are part of Chile.
The country also claims a territory in Antarctica that has been considered a province since 1940 under a decree which states that "all lands, islands, islets, glacier reefs, as well as the corresponding maritime domain, ranging from 53 ° to 90 ° west longitude of Greenwich are part of Chilean Antarctica '.
This territory covers 1,250,000 square kilometers and the population has fewer than 200 inhabitants mainly in the fifteen Chilean scientific bases (five permanent and ten open only from December to March during the southern summer). The landscape is made up of glaciers whose highest peak culminates at 4,892 meters above sea level in the Vinsor massif. The climate is polar and temperatures are only exceptionally positive and only along the coasts.
Only a few lichens and mosses are resistant, but there are many marijuana birds, the penguins, the whales, the dolphins and the waters are extremely fishy.
While Chile and several other countries are claiming Antarctic territories, these are protected by the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force in 1961. This Treaty ensures that only peaceful activities such as scientific observations are permitted. The military activities, the nuclear tests or the deposit of waste are formally prohibited. 53 nations, including Chile, signed the treaty.
Easter Island, part of Oceania, has belonged to Chile since 1888. It is the most remote inhabited land in the world, lost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at more than 3,500 kilometers from the American continent and more than 2,000 kilometers from the nearest inhabited island, Pitcairn Island.
The Easter Island is 162 km² and has a volcanic but low elevation, its highest point is 507 meters above sea level. It is part of the chain of Sala y Gómez formed on the tectonic plate of Nazca 750,000 years ago with several small islets.
The climate of the island of Easter is of subtropical maritime type with average temperatures of 16 ° in winter and 28 ° in summer and the regular rains favoring the vegetation. However, the forests that covered the island at the time of its discovery have now disappeared.
Chile, so called, is presented in the form of a long strip of land. The Cordillera of the Andes, the true backbone of the country, splits in two in the north to form on the one hand a high mountain range, the natural border with Argentina and Bolivia to the east and on the other hand a lower chain along the coast to the west. The two cordillera which surround the plateaux meet in the south of the country and become a narrow cord much less elevated giving way to the plains.
In the north of the country, the Atacama Desert is the most arid region in the world with extremely rare precipitation and little or no vegetation other than a few cacti species. There is also a species of endemic tree, the Prosopis Tamarugo which has the peculiarity to grow in arid and saline environment and to be satisfied with the water of the dew. Indeed, it only rains in this desert once every six years and temperatures are high. The desert is bordered by the Andes, which abruptly ends in cliffs along the ocean. It is in this part of the Cordillera that the highest peak of Chile is located, the volcano Nevado Ojos del Salado which culminates at 6,893 meters of altitude and is therefore the highest volcano in the world.
The Altiplano is a vast highland plain protected by the mountains of the Cordillera and extending over Chile as well as Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. This plain is also bordered by the Atacama Desert and ends to the east by the Puna de Atacama. Only a few herbaceous plants grow in these areas, which record average annual temperatures ranging from 3 to 7 ° with large temperature differences. The precipitation is rare and occurs only between April and September. If the climatic conditions are there one can admire the natural phenomenon known as the "flowered desert". For a few weeks (September and October) flowers of different species hatch, attracting a large number of birds and insects.
The local fauna is mainly composed of vicuñas, lamas and alpine pastures. The area was once operated for its open salt mines on the site of ancient salt lakes as the vast salar of Atacama which covers more than 3,000 km². The site of the lake is covered with small oases formed by the melting of snow from the neighboring peaks. There are colonies of flamingos. A vast depression develops between the two mountain ranges at high altitudes and is transformed into fertile valleys fed by rivers in the south of the country, as the mountains lose altitude. The center of the country concentrating the agricultural lands of Chile benefits from a Mediterranean climate. The fauna and the flora diversify and the grasses and the shrubs give way to the forests which shelter the parrots, the pumas, the foxes, ...
Patagonia which corresponds to the extreme south of the country is characterized by a particularly eroded relief ending in a series of small islands, emerging summits of the end of the cordillera. The continent is separated from the Great Island of Tierra del Fuego by the Strait of Magellan which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The two oceans meet at Cape Froward, in the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic region.
The Tierra del Fuego archipelago contains several thousand islands. It belongs to Chile and Argentina, their respective territories are separated by the Beagle channel. Cape Horn is the southernmost point of South America. It is located on the Drake Passage which separates the continent from the South Shetland Islands in the Antarctic. The extreme weather conditions in this maritime area make navigation particularly dangerous. The climate of Tierra del Fuego is also difficult to bear with strong winds, near constant rainfall and the average temperatures ranging from 0 ° in winter to 10 ° in summer. The fauna is particularly composed of birds and some mammals such as the fox, the beaver and the guanaco.
Apart from in the Atacama Desert, the country has a fairly large hydrography including many rivers although a few of them exceed 200 kilometers in length. The Chilean lakes, salted in the north of the country, are also numerous. The lake Chungará located near Bolivia at 4,500 meters of altitude is one of the highest lakes of the planet.
The origin of the settlement is challenged
The origin of the settlement of Chile is not yet clearly determined, but most historians agree that the country was already occupied by hominids around 35,000 BCE during the Pleistocene. The theory is based on archaeological excavations carried out at the prehistoric sites of Monte Verde and Pilauco Bajo in the Lagos region of the south of the country. This discovery questioned the thesis that the settlement of South America is the result of the crossing of Asian peoples through the Bering Strait by 11,000 BC. However, particularly well-preserved remains discovered at Monte Verde were earlier than that. The settlement of the Americas would thus not have a single common origin but would result from several waves of migration from Asia but also from Oceania and Africa by boats.
The first inhabitants of Chile were the nomadic hunters, probably of large size, as indicated by the imprints of the hands left on the walls of the caves. They occupied the sites in the Andes Cordillera and on the Pacific Ocean coastline.
It is probably necessary to wait until the 11th century for certain tribes of Amerindian origin to settle and live on agriculture. The cultivation was carried out on the terrace, on the mountainside, in order to prevent the water from dripping.
The Aymaras that inhabit the plateaus of the Altiplano since the second century BC and the Atacamas established in the Atacama Desert are annexed to the Inca Empire which extends in the 15th century until the Maule River, in central Chile.
Further south, the Mapuche or Araucans live in a semi-nomadic society centered on the family and practice the hunting, the fishing and the agriculture and have no contact with other ethnic groups. The indomitable warriors, they never submitted, either to the Inca or to the Spanish Conquistadors.
Finally, Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are inhabited by several Amerindian ethnic groups, the Selknam or Onas, a nomadic hunting people now extinct, exterminated by the colonists and by the diseases, the Yagans, of whom there are only a few representatives and The Kawesqar, a nomadic people who move from island to island in Tierra del Fuego and have practically disappeared at the present time.
The discovery by Magellan and the conquest of Chile
The lands of Chile are thus occupied by different Amerindian peoples who live in peace when the Europeans come to disrupt their lives in the 16th century.
Ferdinand de Magellan, the famous navigator and Portuguese explorer who discovered Chile in 1520 and more particularly the Cape of Virgins, at the entrance of the strait that bears his name.
At the same time, Cortes, the famous Spanish conquistador, seized the lands of the Aztecs on behalf of his sovereigns marking the way for the expansion of the Hispanic colonial empire and the conquest of the Inca Empire entrusted to Francisco Pizarro.
It is in this context that Diego de Almagro, a former lieutenant of Pizarro, entered the Chilean lands in 1535. This first attempt at annexation fails and Almagro rejected by the Amerindians and defeated wants to seize Cuzco (Peru) after having Thrown Pizarro into prison. Again, Almaro fails and is executed some time later, in 1538.
The second attempt to conquer Chile begins in 1540 under the command of Pedro de Valdivia. He entered the land and founded two first cities, the future capital of the country, Santiago de Chile, baptized at that time Santiago del Nuevo Extremo. Valdivia was appointed governor of Chile in 1550 and attempted to subdue the Mapuche. He was killed during the siege of Tucapel three years later during the Arauco War. This war between the Mapuche and the Conquistadors was initiated by Almagro in 1536. It was officially extended until 1883, when the Chileans occupied Araucania, but the conflict continues today. Indeed, the Mapuche still claim rights over their former lands, which are now occupied by industrialists and large forestry and agricultural enterprises. The conflicts between Amerindians and law enforcement are frequent.
Let us return to the 16th century and the conquest of Chilean lands. Some Spanish settlers and a large number of Creoles and Indians settled in Chile while the country is structured on the Hispanic model. A governor under the Viceroy of Peru manages the country, which is divided into provinces administered by municipal councils, while the missionaries evangelize the indigenous peoples. The country's lack of mineral resources convinced the Spaniards to turn to agriculture to improve the economy of Chile. This is how large haciendas are built all over the country, including leather, tobacco and wool.
To the Independence
At the beginning of the 19th century, Spain had to face the Napoleonic wars and a group of Chilean nationalists took advantage to attack the royalists. The War of Independence of Chile began in 1813. After the difficult beginnings and the Spanish reconquest of the territories lost in 1814, the independentists took refuge in Argentina. They formed the Army of the Andes and, in 1817, took the road to Chile.
The Spanish troops were defeated at Chacabuco and the independence of Chile was proclaimed on February 12th 1818. Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme was appointed Supreme Commander of the country. Pushed by the aristocracy opposed to his reforms which endangered their rights to the inheritance of their lands, he abdicated in 1823 in favor of Ramon Freire who became President of the Republic.
The Conservatives seized power in 1831 and the country experienced a period of short-term peace. Indeed, Chile wants to seize a Bolivian territory in order to exploit the saltpeter which triggers the War of the Pacific which begins in 1836 opposing the country to Bolivia and its ally, Peru. The outcome of the war is favorable to Chile which recovers several territories. Bolivia has been a landlocked continent since then, having no access to the sea. Although the war ended in 1883, it was not until 1904 that the peace treaty was signed by Bolivia and Chile. At the present time, however, tensions have not yet been resolved and Bolivia has called for access to the ocean before the International Court of Justice in 2015.
In the meantime, Chile has been confronted with a civil war engendered by social and political instability and a poor distribution of wealth. From 1929 onwards, against a background of global economic crisis, Chile had a succession of coups.
In 1938 the radical Pedro Aguirre Cerda became President of the Republic and began to nationalize the enterprises while offering the social security to the people. The economy is recovering thanks to the diversification of resources, particularly the exploitation of copper.
The president dies on the eve of the Second World War and the country goes back to war pushed by the United States. At the end of the war, the country was led successively by radical, liberal and Christian-Democratic presidents.
Salvador Allende and Augusto Pinochet
In 1970, Salvador Allende, a member of the center-left party of the Popular Unity, was democratically elected. He will undertake the further reforms, including the nationalization of enterprises such as copper mines, the redistribution of land to the poorest and the increase of the wages. While this policy seems to be paying off in the first place, the inflation and the unemployment are skyrocketing again in 1973. The country is on the brink of civil war and it is in this context that August Pinochet becomes the The Chilean army.
In September of the same year, a coup reverses Allende and Pinochet takes the head of the country which will know a regime of repressive military dictatorship. During the Pinochet presidency, which lasted more than 15 years, the country was going to live in terror because of arbitrary arrests and numerous acts in violation of human rights. He ceded power to Christian Democrat Acozar in 1990, but remained as head of the army for another eight years. Pinochet will then be the subject of an international complaint for genocide, torture and terrorism. He was arrested in London and kept in detention. He returned to Chile in 2000 due to the health concerns. Many times accused of criminal acts, he died in 2006 in Santiago.
Comeback to the democracy
Since 1990, Chile has again become a democratic country and, despite the Asian economic crisis that marked the end of the 1990s, the country is experiencing new stability through the free trade agreements with the United States and Europe. The reforms are in place, including the compulsory education and the free education.
Michelle Bachelet, a member of the Socialist Party, was elected to the presidency of the Republic in 2006 and got a new term in 2014 after serving as Executive Director of UN Women from 2010 to 2013. During her first term, she improved the pension system by guaranteeing a minimum income. She pursued her policy during her second term but financial scandals splashed her government and especially her son. Michelle Bachelet is also facing a new economic crisis.
History of Easter Island
The origin of the settlement of Easter Island differs completely from that of Chile. Indeed, the first inhabitants of this lost island in the middle of the Pacific probably came from Polynesia around the 12th century. The similarity between the first statues of the island (the moai) and the polynesian statues (the tikis) would confirm this hypothesis.
The society of the first inhabitants of Easter Island was well structured and turned towards the cult of the ancestors which explains the proliferation of the famous statues that were erected on the island until the 16th century.
The island was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century but it has little appeal and wealth. It is however listed by the French explorer La Pérouse, whose mission was to map the Pacific islands.
Unfortunately, during the 19th century, the calm life of the Pascuans was shaken when the slave traders organized raids on the island to seize its inhabitants and sell them to the guano farmers in the Peruvian Chincha Islands. Most of the deportees survive no more than a few months while the diseases brought on the island by the Europeans decimate the rest of the population. In 1877, there are only a hundred true Pascuans left.
Meanwhile, few French missionaries and farmers settled on the island and brought the agricultural workers from the Polynesian island of Rapa. They gave the name of the Rapa-nui to the Pascuan ethnic group.
In 1888, Chile claimed the lands and signed an agreement with King Atamu Tekena, but what was to be a liberation for the Rapa-Nuis proved to be a new tragedy. They are parked in a single village (Hanga Roa) surrounded by barbed wire while their lands are entrusted to British planters. They become Chilean citizens only in 1966 and are therefore allowed to circulate freely. Today, the vast majority of Rapa-Nuis live in Hanga Roa which has become a popular tourist site.
History of the Archipelago Juan Fernández
Located 650 km from the South American coast, the archipelago was discovered only in 1574 by a Spanish navigator, but it was used as a refuge for pirates until the 18th century. Mas-a-Tierra Island is famous for having sheltered the Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk for four years. His story inspired Daniel Defoe for his novel Robinson Crusoe. It was in his homage that the island was renamed in 1966.
In the middle of the 18th century, the Spaniards built a fort to defend the settlers who settled in the archipelago. At present, the total population of the archipelago does not exceed 600 inhabitants, all descendants of the Spanish colonists.
Chile is a republican democracy and a unitary state divided into 15 regions.
The executive power is entrusted to the President of the Republic (currently Michelle Bachelet) who is elected by direct universal suffrage for a period of 4 years. She cannot run for two consecutive terms. The President's mission is to form the ministerial cabinet.
The legislative power is vested in the National Congress, which consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
The judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeal and the Courts of First Instance.
A stable and diversified economy
Chile's economy has stabilized in the years 2010, notably thanks to its opening on the international market which has developed the exports in particular to the European Union and the United States. Despite this good health, the social inequalities have not been resolved and more than 10% of the population lives below the poverty line. The women are also discriminated because they do not have the same wage for equal work as men.
The economy of Chile is therefore mainly based on the export of industrial products (cellulose, methanol, chemicals, copper ...) and agricultural products (wines, wheat, fruits, salmon ...).
In order to diversify its resources, Chile has also turned to the export of manufactured goods and services. It has also put in place a policy to attract the tourists to the country's natural and historical sites but also to Easter Island. The large seaside resorts have been built on the edge of the sandy beaches.
A Spanish culture
Chile's total population exceeds 17.5 million. However, the country is experiencing a marked slowdown in the natural growth, which has fallen well below 1%. Taking into account the increase in life expectancy and the decline in infant mortality since the reform of the health care system and the low fertility rate (1.8 children per woman), the Chilean population is aging population and those over 40 years old will be in the majority in a few years.
The Chilean population is mainly of European origin (Spaniards, French, British, Germans). These descendants of the settlers represent more than 50% of the population while 45% of the Chileans are mixed. It is estimated that 600,000 Mapuche (or Araucans) are currently living in Chile and more particularly in Araucania and the Lakes Region.
Chileans live mostly in urban areas as a result of the rural exodus during the crisis of the 1920s. Santiago, Valparaiso and Concepción are the most important cities in the country.
Spanish is the main and official language of the country. It is spoken by more than 90% of the inhabitants. The Amerindian languages, including the Mapuche and Vânagra, a Polynesian language spoken on Easter Island, are not recognized as official languages.
The christianity is by far the main religion in Chile. 64% of the population is Catholic and 17% is Protestant. Just over 15% of Chileans are not the believers.
Both art and crafts play important roles in Chile. The real artists, the Chileans excel in embroidery, weaving, leatherwork, woodworking, basketry, ceramics and brassware.
Their music blends the sounds of traditional Amerindian music and Spain. Since 1979, the traditional dance of the huasos (cowboys Chilean), the cueca became the national dance.
Like the music and the dance, the cuisine is influenced by Spain and Amerindian culture. The traditional dishes are made with potatoes, tomatoes and corn to accompany beef, simmered (cazuela) or grilled (asado) fish and seafood. Typically Amerindian, Chilean humita is prepared with corn, cooked onions and possibly cheese in the oven or in water wrapped in a kind of papillote made with corn leaves. It can be enjoyed in salty or sweetened versions.
The Chileans produce a quality wine from the best French grape varieties. They will also offer you Pisco, grape brandy, cola de mono, a mixture of brandy, coffee, milk and vanilla, chica, fermented fruit juice or local beer, la Guacán.
Despite the delinquent acts targeting foreigners mainly in the city and at tourist sites, Chile is a relatively safe country. However, some precautions must be taken and, in particular, not wearing external signs of wealth or manipulating money in public. It is also not recommended to visit the poor districts day or night. The mountain excursions are not recommended for people who are fragile and/or inexperienced. In all cases, you must be accompanied by a professional guide due to sudden weather changes, acute mountain sickness and the risk of getting lost off the trails due to fog. Similarly, the weather can change abruptly on the Pacific and it is imperative to inquire before taking the sea.
Certain border areas with Bolivia, Peru and Argentina are to be avoided due to the presence of mines.
No vaccination is required but it is recommended to be vaccinated against the diphtheria-tetanus-the poliomyelitis, the rubella, the mumps, the measles, and the tuberculosis (for children) as well as against the typhoid fever, the hepatitis A and B, the rabies and the bacterial meningitis. The dengue mosquito bites (Easter Island only) should also be protected, and precautions should be taken to avoid being infected with the Hanta virus in the Andes, a hemorrhagic fever that can be fatal. Ventilate for a long time the confined spaces before entry, close food supplies, care and cover all wounds and abrasions, avoid rodents and their droppings, continuously monitor hand hygiene,).
The tourists wishing to stay less than three months in Chile must not have a visa but their passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of entry. The passport has to be stamped at the border post and the tourist receives a "Tarjeta Unica Migratoria" which must be worn at all times.
The tourists appreciate Chile's breathtaking scenery. From the desert of Atacama to Tierra del Fuego via the Altiplano and the Patagonia, not to mention Easter Island, the natural sites are numerous and grandiose. However, you have to be accompanied by a guide to visit them safely. Not to be missed are the Tatio geysers, the verdant Chiloé island, the Lauca National Park dominated by the Parinacota volcano and the Torres del Paine volcano where the glaciers set in the waters of the mountain lakes, the desert Valley of the Moon and of course the various archaeological sites as well as Valparaiso, a city that has many treasures in a maze of lanes lined with houses with brightly decorated facades.