The Atacama Desert in the north is temperate despite its arid topography and tropical latitude. Cool ocean (Humboldt) currents and underground springs sustain its cities, which extend down from the Bolivian Altiplano through the Precordillara (foothills). The desert gives way to more scrub and some forests when rainfall increases as you move south into central Chile, where 70% of Chileans live. Central Chile is the chief agricultural region and enjoys a Mediterranean style climate. Santiago the capital is located here along with most concentrations of industry, and major shipping ports. The lake district immediately south of the central regions is one of Chile's great tourist attractions with more than 20 snowcapped volcanos (many still active) framing many foothill lakes known for excellent fishing. 0utlying territories include the Eastern Island (Isla de Pascua), the Juan Fernández Island and other islands in the Pacific.
Chile, from the Indian Tchili meaning "the deepest point of the Earth," achieved independence in 1818. Divided into thirteen administrative regions, the segmentation of this latitude rich country reflects ecological, and economic areas numbered roughly from north to south. The Roman numerals are attached for convenience because some region-state names are exceedingly long. The metropolitan region of Santiago (XIII ) appears in the middle of the country. Chilean Tour
PEOPLE AND POPULATION
Chile's population accounts for almost 14 million inhabitants. More than 80% of Chileans live in cities and towns with 1/3 living in Gran Santiago. No other city in Chile has more than 250,000 pop. 3/4 live in the Chilean heartland including Valparaiso and Viña del Mar which is an area comprising 20% of available land. The growth potential for Chile is enormous. In Chile social class is still a greater issue than race.
In the highlands of the desert north the Aymara and Atacameño peoples farm precordillaran terraces and raise Alpacas and Llamas in the Altiplano. There is a large population of Mapuche Indians in and around the southern city of Temuco. Most Chileans are mestizos although a great many can claim European descent. Unlike its neighbor Argentina, Chile did not experience massive European immigration in the 19th and 20th centuries.
At the end of the 19th century only a small number of Chileans were foreign born. Immigrant groups most notably Germans, settled near present day Valdivia, Osorno, and Puerto Montt in southern Chile after European upheavals in 1848. European immigration did not alter the structure of Chilean society despite inroads made by British, Italians, French, Slavs, European Jews, and Palestinians into Magallanes and Tierra del Fuego. The effect of these emigres on Chilean society was to add non-Spanish elements to the middle and upper classes. The aristocracy is made up from the original landed Gentry of mostly Spanish Basque origin. Despite their small number, European, Jewish and Palestinian immigrants became economically powerful, controlling rural estates, commercial, financial and industrial institutions.
The official language of Chile is Spanish. However, there is also a group of native languages, some spoken by a very few individuals. In the desert north, more than 20,000 speak Aymara, although most of them are bilingual in Spanish. In the south live more than half a million Mapuches and most of them are also bilingual. The most complicated linguistic minority are the 2000-plus speakers of Rapa Nui, the Polynesian language of the Easter Island's population, annexed by Chile in 1888.
Chile's literacy rate at 94% is one the highest in Latin America. From the age of five to twelve, education is free and compulsory. Universities were traditionally free and very prestigious. After the coup d'etat of 1973 the military appointed its own university presidents throughout the country; it swept away the university reforms of the 1960s; reduced state funding; raised student fees, and downgraded or eliminated critical disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, political science , education and others. The military reform of higher education opened the doors to many private universities, most of them business schools, with part-time faculty and dubious academic standards.
Chilean art, literature and music have influenced culture beyond the country's borders. Chilean literature has produced writers of international reputation, including Nobel Prize-laureate poets Gabriela Mistral (1945) and Pablo Neruda (1973), who was also an important political figure from the left. José Donoso, Isabel Allende, Antonio Skarmeta, Nicanor Parra, Damiela Elitit are some of many writers whose work have been translated into different languages.
Until the coup d' etat of 1973, Chilean cinema was among the most experimental in Latin America. Director Miguel Littin produced the classic film El Chacal de Nahueltoro and many others. Later in exile, Littin produced Alsino y el Condor, nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards in 1983. Antonio Skarmeta's book, Ardiente Paciencia, was adapted for the movie Il Postino, winner of an Academy Award in 1996, and a Cannes Film Festival Award.
One the best-known manifestation of Chilean and Latin American culture was the New Canción Chilena (New Chilean Song Movement). The practitioners of this musical movement wedded Chile's and Latin America's folkloric heritage to the political events of the 1960s and early 1970s. The movement's most significant figure was Violeta Parra, an humble peasant woman who worked in a circus when she was 12. Parra formed a duo with one of her sisters later on andthey performed and sang all types of song. Violeta Parra was a singer, a poet, a composer, a ceramicist, arpilleristas and did extensive research in folklore. She travelled around the world and exhibited her work at the Louvre Museum and Geneva University. She is the author of many well-known songs such as her enduring theme Gracias a la viva (Thanks to Life). Her daughter Isabel Parra and son Angel Parra continued her folkloric legacy, first in Chile and later in their exile in Europe during the military dictatorship of Agusto Pinochet.
Some Individual performers such as Victor Jara, were brutally executed during the 1973 coup. Musical troupes s like Quilapayun, Inti-Illimani and Illapu gained an international reputation for musical talent, and political commitments against the military dictatorship. Many Chilean folk musician-exiles performed regularly in Europe, Canada, the United States, and Australia. Their music is still available in many countries, and Chile of course.
Figures indicate that 90% of Chile's, population are Roman Catholic, but since the 1970s protestantism has gained important social spaces among the population. The Mormons have recently become very active in Chile and created much controversy about their presence and activities. The influence of Catholicism has provided a strong influx to Chilean culture. Literary works, paintings, monuments, churches, architecture across the country display abundant evidence about the role of the Roman Catholic religion in Chile. Countless roadside shrines, some of which are extraordinary manifestations of folk art, show the pervasiveness of Catholicism in this country.
During the military government of General Pinochet--1973 -
1990--the Church through the Vicaría de la Solidaridad,
played a very important role in the defense of human rights. At
great risk to themselves Chilean priest and nuns worked in the
shanty-towns across the country bringing support, consolation and
solidarity to the people. Many of them engaged in antidictatorial
actions and confrontations.
ECONOMYThe Chilean economy is based on manufacturing and service. Mining, which provides about half of all exports, employs a tiny percentage of the labor force. The government has played a major role in economic development since 1939, when the Production Development Corporation (CORFO, from its Spanish name) was created to support substitution of domestic manufactures for imported goods. When Pinochet's junta seized power Chile's economy adopted a neoliberal model.The economic infrastructure was staffed by economists trained or associated with the economic department at the University of Chicago. The so-called "Chicago Boys" favored monetarist policies which severely reduced the government's role in the public sector, reducing expenditures to a minimum and eliminating regulatory functions in order to promote commerce. The Chicago Boys also eliminated price controls, reduced tariffs to promote free trade, and sold off most state-owned industries to private entrepreneurs. New financial emphasis encouraged foreign investments.
Political parties in Chile were banned by the military from 1973 until 1987. The range and variation of Chilean political parties and their ceaseless transformations make comprehension of electoral politics very dificult. in Chile.
In the 1989 elections, 17 different parties with precious little in common, except their opposition to Pinochet, formed an unlikely coalition known as the Concertación para la Democracia. The Christian Democrat, Patricio Aylwin, was selected as a candidate for the presidency by a compromise among the many parties. He easily defeated his opponents, the right-wing candidate Hernán Bucci supported by the coalition Renovación Nacional, and the independent right-wing businessman Francisco Errázuriz. The outcome of the election clearly showed that Chile was ready for a change.
The Concertación held together and in June 1992 the first municipal elections in 21 years took place. The result was a major blow for the right wing candidates and the Concertación outpolled the conservatives by 53% to 31%. The remainder of the vote went to minor outsider organizations, including the Communist Party. The same political formula was applied in 1993, when another Christian Democrat, Eduardo Frei, was elected to replace Patricio Aylwin in the presidency for a period of six years.
Trade unions and workers' federations once a bastion of political support and activity for political parties and candidates from the left suffered greatly during the military regime. Many leaders were jailed, murdered, disappeared or forced into exile. A new labor force put in place by the military atomized the working movement and promoted individual, versus collective bargaining, Strikes became illegal after 60 days and the employers are permitted to use non union labor to break strikes.
Despite the return to civilian rule, the Armed Forces still enjoy considerable power granted by the 1980 military Constitution under which Chile is now governed. Pinochet's group of Senators were appointed for life, and along with help from duly elected conservatives, they are able to block constitutional reform, and reform of the electoral system. All the Armed Forces enjoy great autonomy because the civilian president lacks authority to discipline their chiefs, or even junior officers. Both Presidents Aylwin and Frei have proposed constitutional amendments to redress this abnormal situation, but have failed in their efforts due to Senate non-compliance with reform initiatives. Chilean Index
The first European exploration of the region that is now Chile was made in 1535 by Diego de Almagro. Unlike Peru, the land yielded little gold, and the native Araucanian Indians offered fierce resistance. In 1541, Pedro de Valdivia established several settlements, including Santiago. In 1553, Valdivia was killed by Lautaro, an Araucanian who became the hero of the epic poem La Araucana. Chilean-born Spaniards (Creoles) declared their autonomy and established a governing junta on September 18, 1810. Although the Spanish crown regained control, its forces were defeated by Chileans and Argentines led by Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martin
Independence was proclaimed on Feb. 12, 1818, and O'Higgins was elected supreme director. By 1830, O'Higgins was in exile, and conservative landowners and merchants were in control of a centralized government. A constitution adopted in 1833 remained in effect until 1925. After defeating Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific (1879-84), victorious Chilean armies finally defeated Araucanian forces to end the Indian wars. Arturo Alessandri pushed through a new bourgeois-democratic constitution in 1925 that provided for direct popular election of the president, separation of church and state, and compulsory primary education.
Since the depression of the 1930s, few Chilean governments have been able to solve the problems of inflation, fluctuating copper prices which are dependent upon U.S. corporations that own the principal mines, and the problems caused by the inequitable landholding system . In 1964, Eduardo Frei Montalva of the Christian Democrats began buying the U.S. copper companies (Chilenizacion del cobre) and expropriating land, but he encountered opposition on all fronts. In 1970, Salvador Allende, head of a the Popular Unity coalition made up of Socialists, Communists, Radicals (social democrats) and Christians won an electoral plurality and was confirmed as president. He became the first constitutionally elected Marxist president in the Western Hemisphere.
Allende then finished the process of nationalizing the U.S. copper
firms, without paying compensation, nationalized all private banks,
and accelerated land distribution. After three turbulent years marked
by problems including: an international boycott by the USA, covert
operations by big corporations from the USA, the Nixon-Kissinger
Administration, the CIA, and the Chilean ruling classes, the military
overthrew President Allende and seized power. Censorship and a state
of siege were imposed as the right-wing junta dedicated itself to
eradicating "the cancer of Marxism.". The Pinochet government was
consequently criticized widely in the international community for
continuous violations of human rights.
The military government returned many factories, banks, and expropriated land to private national and international owners. After sustained economic growth in the late 1970s, Chile plunged into a deep recession in 1982-83, which sparked an upsurge political opposition. In the mid-1980s the economy began a sustained upturn. During 1988, Pinochet was forced to lift all states of emergency and to permit some political exiles to return. In October, Pinochet was the sole candidate in a plebiscite on whether he should serve an additional eight years transitioning to democracy. The opposition united to defeat him, but he remained in office until March 1990 (and continues today as army commander in chief ). The Presidential election held on December 14, 1989, was won by Patricio Aylwin, a Christian Democratic Party candidate who headed a coalition ticket. In 1994, new elections were held and Eduardo Frei Montalva, also a member of the Christian Democrat Party was elected to the presidency on behalf of a coalition better-known as Concertación. A new presidential election will be held in the year 2000.