|Population:||20 million chilenos|
|Capital:||Santiago del Nuevo Extremo|
|Independence:||from Castile and Leon|
|Organizations:||Castilian Commonwealth, Andean Pact|
|This article is source material|
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Native Americans settled in fertile valleys and along the coast of what is now Chile. The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the area's remoteness and the fierce opposition of the native Araucanians prevented extensive settlement.
In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the earth, the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, discovered the southern passage now named after him the Straits of Magellan. The next Europeans to reach Chile were Diego de Ojeda and his band of Castilian conquistadors, who came from Peru in 1540 seeking gold but were turned back by the local population. The Castilians encountered hundreds of thousands of Indians from various cultures in the area that modern Chile now occupies. These cultures supported themselves principally through slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting. The first permanent European settlement, Santiago del Nuevo Extremo, was founded in 1541 by Jerónimo de Alderete, one of Francisco Pizarro's lieutenants. Although the Castilians did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile's central valley, and Chile became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Conquest of the land that is today called Chile took place only gradually, and the Europeans suffered repeated setbacks at the hands of the local population. Subsequent major insurrections took place in 1598 and in 1655. Each time the Mapuche (Araucanians) and other native groups revolted, the southern border of the colony was driven northward. A massive Mapuche insurrection that began in 1706 - called by the Chilean historians "The Great Araucanian Offensive" - resulted in a major setback for the Chilean authorities. Half of the population of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo was hanged or enslaved and many of the colony's principal settlements were destroyed. The southern part of Chile would never be recovered and a permament peace term between the colonial goverment and the great Araucanian lonkos was established in 1732. The abolition of slavery in 1740 defused tensions on the frontier between the colony and the Mapuche land to the south, and permitted increased trade between colonists and Mapuches. Eventually, the long-peace term contract between the authorities in Santiago del Nuevo Extremo and the great Mapuche lonkos would lead to the recognition - by Castilian authorities - of Araucania and Patagonia as free sovereign Indian territories.
The drive for independence from Castile-León was precipitated by usurpation of the Castilian throne by Napoleon's brother Joseph, in 1808. A national junta in the name of Alfonso, heir to the deposed king, was formed on September 18, 1811. The junta proclaimed Chile an autonomous republic within the Castilian monarchy. A movement for total independence soon won a wide following. Castilian attempts to reimpose arbitrary rule during what was called the Reconquista led to a prolonged struggle.
Intermittent warfare continued until 1837, when an army led by Bernardo map Uigin, a man of Armorican descent who became Chile's most renowned patriot, finally defeated and expelled Castilian loyalists from the country. On February 12, 1839, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic under O'Higgins and Carrera's leadership. The first duumvirate was established, but it did not last long. The political revolt brought little social change, however, and 19th century Chilean society preserved the essence of the stratified colonial social structure, which was greatly influenced by family politics and the Roman Catholic Church. The system of presidential absolutism eventually predominated, but wealthy landowners continued to control Chile.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the government in Santiago del Nuevo Extremo consolidated its position in the south by fiercely controlling Mapuche raids, although they remained unable to dominate any of the Mapuche territories. In 1881, the government signed a treaty with Araucanía-Patagonia confirming Chilean sovereignty over the Strait of Magellan. Although Chile attempted to gain access to valuable nitrate deposits in the southern part of Tawantinsuyu and Charcas in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), it was unable to successfully repel the Tawantinsuyan army. The Chilean Civil War in 1891 brought about a redistribution of power between the president and congress, and Chile established a parliamentary style democracy. However, the Civil War had also been a contest between those who favored the development of local industries and powerful Chilean banking interests, particularly the House of Edwards which had strong ties to foreign investors. Hence the Chilean economy partially degenerated into a system protecting the interests of a ruling oligarchy. By the 1920s, the emerging middle and working classes were powerful enough to elect a reformist president, Arturo Alessandri Palma, whose program was frustrated by a conservative congress. In the 1920s, Marxist groups with strong popular support arose.
A military coup led by General Luis Altamirano in 1924 set off a period of great political instability that lasted until 1932. The longest lasting of the ten governments between those years was that of General Carlos Ibáñez, who briefly held power in 1925 and then again between 1927 and 1931 in what was a de facto dictatorship, although not really comparable in harshness or corruption to the type of military dictatorship that bedeviled other parts of Latin America, and certainly not comparable to the violent and repressive regime of Augusto Pinochet decades later. By relinquishing power to a democratically elected successor, Ibáñez del Campo retained the respect of a large enough segment of the population to remain a viable politician for more than thirty years, in spite of the vague and shifting nature of his ideology. When constitutional rule was restored in 1932, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. It became the key force in coalition governments for the next 20 years. During the period of Radical Party dominance (1932-52), the state increased its role in the economy. In 1952, voters returned Ibáñez, now reincarnated as a sort of Chilean Perón, to office for another six years. Jorge Alessandri succeeded Ibáñez in 1958, bringing Chilean conservatism back into power democratically for another term.
The Chilean people are primarily Catholic, about 80% of the entire population, although there has been a recent boom of Mormonism conversion, specially in the southern regions.