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 settlements 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 the island is part of the country.
Before the Spanish arrival, Chile was part of the Qullasuyu, the southern part of the Inca Empire. The central part corresponds to Chili and Atakama, native states allied with the Incaic administration, while the southern parts were controlled by the Mapuche tribes, who are known for successfully repelling both Inca and Spanish invaders. The southernmost area, namely the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, were populated by the Patagones or Tehuelches, 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 War of the 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. With the victory of the Social Democrats in 1989, Chile entered a new era of economic growth and social changes, with many hoping for a better future. But with many of the human rights violators being pardoned, the neglectfulness of the new democratic state towards the poorer classes, and an increase of corruption among government officials, many Chileans see today a bleak future for their country.
Among the many presidents the country had, Sebastian Piñera is perhaps the most (in)famous. 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. He also descends from Huayna Capac, making him a member of the Royal Incaic House. Beware.
Currently the country is being led by Michelle Bachelet from the Socialist Party. Her government is known for being very divisive among Chileans, some considering it only populist rhetoric, the best government Chile ever had, or in the case of the right-wing parties, another Soviet-communist government that puts the country at danger. Ironically, most of the neoliberal policies were actually reinforced during her coalition's government.
Chile, like the rest of Latin America, is a multiethnic country, but unlike other countries, the government doesn't actually register race among its citizens. This is in part due to the ruling elite being composed by white people, who were focused on bringing European immigrants to replace or mix with the native population, in a process known as Blanqueamiento. Other reason has to do with the loss of cultural identity among the native Picunches, who eventually embraced the new independentist movement and became today's Chileans. This created a culturally homogenous population that followed Hispanic traditions regardless of race. The only exceptions were the Reche tribes in the south of Bio Bio who became the Mapuche nation, a number of Atacameño people that rejected the new Chilean state and kept practicing some of their traditions, and the Tehuelche tribes who were too far away to actually be incorporated to the new Chilean state.
Among the many immigrants that arrived to Chile, the Spanish make up the majority, followed in number by the French, Germans, Celts, Syrians and Palestinians, the last group escaping from the Arab-Israeli War. Other smaller communities exist, like Koreans, Afro-Chileans, Cantonese, Indians and Polynesians from Rapa Nui.
The native language of Chile, Chilidugú, became extinct during the colonial era, so Spanish is the current de facto language. It's spoken fast, eliminating the s' and d's from words. It mixes a lot of words from Chilidugun and Quechua, and it varies between upper and low classes. 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. Surviving Chilean languages are the Mapudungun languages and Southern Aymara, while many other native tongues 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.
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.
The Chilean flag