Chile: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government in the country of Chile.



Location--Southwest coast of South America. Neighbors are: Peru to the north, Argentina and Bolivia to the east. Chile also includes in its territory several islands, notably Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) 2,400 mi. out in the Pacific, the Juan Fernandez or "Robinson Crusoe" Islands, and the large archipelago at the southern tip of the continent.

How Created--The original inhabitants, fierce Araucanian Indians, successfully resisted Spanish incursions until 1540, when Pedro de Valdivia managed to found several cities including Santiago, Concepcion, and Valdivia. Isolated during most of the colonial period by distance and the tremendous barrier of the Andes, Chile eagerly declared its independence from Spain in 1810, when the Spanish King was ousted by Napoleon. Independence, however, was not really achieved until 1818, through the combined efforts of Bernardo O'Higgins and Jose de San Martin.

The War of the Pacific (1879-1883) established Chile's claim to the nitrate-rich Atacama Desert on the border between Peru and Chile. The boundaries of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia (which at that time had a Pacific sea-coast) had never been defined, and with the discovery of nitrates in the region, Chile moved to claim the area for its own. War ensued; Bolivia dropped out quickly, but Peru fought on, until Chile occupied Lima, annexed Bolivia's seacoast, and forced Peru to cede its southern provinces.

Size--292,257 sq. mi. (756,946 sq. km.). A distinctively shaped country, 2,650 mi. long but nowhere wider than 250 mi. Chile also claims 483,000 sq. mi. of Antarctica, which is disputed by Great Britain.

Population--Over 10 million: mestizo, 66%; Spanish, 25%; Araucanian Indian, 5%; others, 4%. 89% Roman Catholic.

Who Rules--For many years a republic with President and bicameral legislature elected by a highly politicized population, Chile is now ruled by a military junta which seized power in a bloody coup on September 11, 1973, in which the democratically elected Marxist President, Salvador Allende, was assassinated. It was revealed a year later that the U.S., through its CIA, helped finance the growing protests against Allende.

Who REALLY Rules--The military is in control, backed by and working with a wealthy elite having interests in industry, commerce, and finance. Only the rich are content with the current situation.

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