Useful Notes: Chile

"Spain foresaw the need. He acquired the necessary clay through totally legitimate means. This clay is named "The End of the World" in local languages. But in frozen wastelands far to the South, Spain did not find what he sought. Instead, Spain found the future colony's fate in desert and sea. He knew that his son would one day achieve his destiny - not today, but in hundreds of years he will know why he was created:

To landlock Bolivia."

Chile is a very long and thin country in South America. Despite what some people think, Chile is not named after the Chili pepper, nor vice-versa. Local tradition says the name "Chile" comes from the Aymara word "End of the World" or from the Quechua word "Cold place", both being very suitable definitions for the former Inca province.

Statistically, it has one of the best life qualities and economic developments in Latin Americanote , but also has a big problem with economic inequality and poverty. Chile stretches from the Atacama desert to the Patagonia stopping just before Antarctica (although they do have a claim over a portion of the Antarctica, to the point they have one of the few Civilian settlement there, Villa las Estrellas), and also has two islands in the Pacific, the Juan Fernandez Island and Easter Island or Rapa Nui, which is well known for the big rock heads called Moai that surround the island. Ironically not too many people outside of Chile know is part of the country.

Before the Spanish arrival, Chile was part of the Qullasuyu, the southern part of the Inca Empire. The central and southern parts of the territory was controlled by the Mapuche tribes, who are known for successfully repeling both Inca and Spanish invaders. The southern area, namely the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, were populated by the Patagones, a group of different tribes that were mistaken for giants by the Europeans.

When the Spaniards came to America in the 15th century, Chile was the last place they visited, because to reach it, they needed to cross the Atacama Desert, which is fifty times drier than the Death Valley, and for a long time Chile was known as a Spaniard´s grave. When they arrived, a war lasting over 300 years began between the Spaniards and the natives, particularly the Mapuche tribes. During this period, Chile became a Spanish colony, obtaining independence in 1818 after a war of independence against the royalists led by people like Bernardo O' Higgins, Manuel Rodriguez and Jose Miguel Carrera. Do NOT ask who was the best of them.

Bernardo O'Higgins led the country until he was forced to abdicate in 1823. Then came 5 years of what is currently called "Ensayos Constitucionales" (Constitutional Attempts/Try-outs), which includes governments that lasted six, five, and even three days. After that, and guided by Diego Portales Palazuelos, Chile's governance stabilized. Between 1879-1883, it fought and defeated Peru and Bolivia in the Warofthe Pacific, conquering the Litoral from Bolivia and landlocking that country (to Bolivia's continuing dismay/fury). This period of (relative) stability would last until the civil war of 1891, which gave power to the Parliament instead, until the arrival of Arturo Alessandri — the following governments would go for the presidential route, but in many different ways...

In 1973, the military under General Augusto Pinochet (supported by the United States) performed a coup d'etat against the Socialist government of Salvador Allende. Pinochet's dictatorship lasted until 1989, when a national plebiscite was held to determine whether or not the military government should remain in power. If you happen to be among Chileans, it is usually not wise bring up the topic. Seriously. It may sound weird but Pinochet still has many supporters, so be careful what you say. Since then the country has been growing; most politics focused in trade and economic development, with some ideas to depolitize the country, maybe in an attempt to unite chileans or to forget the old memory of the dictatorship. While a number of chileans support the idea, the rest aren't so happy about the whole deal.

Currently the country is being led by Michelle Bachelet from the Socialist Party, who is known for her progressive ways, but being disliked due to her perceived populism. Sebastián Piñera, the first right-wing President democratically elected since 1958, is also a very (in)famous public figure in Chile. Known for his frequent malapropism, an unbreakable record of faceplants, and the seemingly justified belief that he causes bad luck to people around him, he is considered among chileans as some kind of buffoon, even by his own supporters.

Chile, like the rest of Latin America, is a multiethnic country, but due to the mixing and numerous immigrants that came from elsewhere, it's hard to keep track of ancestry and race, so most people if asked will answer with whatever group they might feel identified.

This groups are:
  • Halfbloods or Mestizos: Descendants of white Europeans, Middle Easterns, and North Africans, mixed with the Amerindians from Chile. Mestizos make up the majority of the population, having characteristics from both groups.
  • Whites or Caucasians: Like Mestizos, they descend from Spanish, French, Germans, Palestinians, Dutch, Syrians, Egyptians, or British. A number of them compose the chilean upper class.
  • Amerindians: During the Inca rule, Chile was populated by multiple indigenous people. While not a majority, many chileans can be considered full-blooded Native Americans. Only a handful of them keep practicing their pre-hispanic traditions.
  • Afro-descendientes: African slaves brought from West Africa, mainly Angola and the Congo, during the Colonial era. Most of their descendants live in the northern part of Chile. Since the 2000s, a new influx of africans has migrated from the Caribbean and Central Africa.
  • Asians: The first Asians in Chile were defectors from Peru that fought for the Chilean side during the Saltpeter War. Since then, many Chinese, Koreans, Indians and Japanese have made Chile their new home.
  • Polynesians: Most being pascuenses or rapa nui, they come from Easter Island. They have a small but well known community living in Mainland Chile.

Spanish is the de facto language of Chile. It's spoken fast, eliminating the s' and d's from words. It mixes a lot of Native words and varies between the Upper and Low class, and between the City and Country people. Other European languages like English, Portuguese, and French are spoken to some degree by people around the country, with fluency varying from person to person. The most spoken native languages are Mapudungun, Quechua and Aymara, while many other native toungues were lost thanks to cultural assimilation and the extermination of local tribes.

Notable Chileans are Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945 and 1971, respectively. Gabriela Mistral received also the National Literature Prize in 1951. Roberto Bolaño and Isabel Allende are also famous writers worldwide. In other arts, Víctor Jara is one of Chile's most famous musicians, known for his social activism and, unfortunately, for being tortured for four days and murdered by Pinochet's junta after the 1973 coup.note 

In sports, Chile is remembered for Marcelo Ríos, who is the first Latin American tennis player to reach the Nº1 position in the ATP singles rankings despite never winning a Grand Slam tournament. Currently he's retired, but players like Fernando González (doubles gold medal and singles bronze medal in Athens, then silver in Beijing) and Nicolás Massu (singles and doubles gold in Athens (first man to do so!)) are still active. Chile also held the 1962 FIFA World Cup, and attained their highest position ever in the competition by winning third place. Currently soccer is by far the most popular sport.

In media, the country has produced Cote de Pablo, best known for her role in NCIS as Ziva David; and the ACE Team, with their debut videogame Zeno Clash.

Chile is internationally known for its wines, one of the most well-known being Casillero del Diablo (The Devil's Closet) and the Carmenere, which was actually thought to be extinguished until it was re-discovered in Chile.

Don Francisco, known for hosting Sabado Gigante and "Don Francisco Presenta", was born in Talca, Chile. The show started on Canal 13 on 1962. Two decades later, the program moved to Miami, Florida where Univision (formerly SIN) began producing it, and started to be recorded by Univision in Miami on 1986. He also host a famous Telethon in Chile, which is done almost once per year since 1978, for obtain funds for The Telethon Fundation, which administrate several institutions for aid Children with developmental disabilities. It's seen as days of National Union, and the Criminal Rate of those days equals Christmas and New Year Eve. If you are Latin American and have seen a Telethon in your country, is very probably that Telethon is based on the Chilean one.

And finally, Chile is one of the most seismic countries in the world, constantly hit by earthquakes (3 to 4 Richter scale so common they are nothing to the Chilean people). History records show to expect a big one each 10-15 years. The Biggest Earthquake recorded in the History of Recording Earthquakes is the Great Chilean Earthquake, with a subsequent Tsunami. The most recent one is the 2010 Chile earthquake, which made up for its lateness with an 8.8 in the Richter Scale. Timing and magnitude had caused this to be compared with the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Structures and buildings upheld better in the Chilean case.

Oh, and their flag is very similar to Texas' flag. But in their defense, Chile adopted his flag in 1817, way earlier than Texas.

See also:

The Chilean flag
The flag's similarity with that of Texas is completely coincidental. The blue canton symbolizes both the sky and the Pacific Ocean, within which is a white five-pointed star, a guide of progress and honor. The white upper stripe symbolizes the snow-capped Andes, while the lower stripe is red with the blood of Chile's liberators.