While the origins of Chile’s Mapuche people are relatively unknown, they are famous for successfully resisting several takeover attempts that were carried out by the Inca Empire. This was no small feat as the Inca were the largest empire in pre-Columbian America and the Mapuche were not very well organized at a state level.
In 1520, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan became the first European to arrive in what is present-day Chile. Magellan was attempting to circumnavigate the earth when he came across the southern passage that now bears his name (the Strait of Magellan). It was another twenty-one years later before Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia arrived, founding the city of Santiago on 12 February 1541. Despite facing attacks from the local indigenous populations, by the time of de Valdivia’s death in 1553 (at the hands of the Mapuche), several settlements had been established. Like the Incas, the Mapuche proved to be a force to be reckoned with and did not make it easy for the Spanish to colonise Chile. They often put up fights and rebellions and it took a long time to settle the entire area.
Independence movements began stirring in South America during the first decades of the 19th century. In Chile, this was the result of the emergence of the criollo (creole) class, a part of the population who were American-born Spaniards. Although the criollo people were of Spanish roots, they desperately sought self-governance. After Simón Bolívar met with success in Venezuela, Argentinian José de San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins were able to liberate Chile in 1818. The new nation quickly set about creating agriculture and mining industries and benefitted from political stability.
By the end of the 19th century, Chile’s borders had changed quite a bit with much of Patagonia being taken by Argentina. However, the country also gained territory by acquiring the remote island of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in 1888. With the arrival of the 20th century, the wealth that Chile had once enjoyed due to nitrate revenue was beginning to fall as new petroleum-based fertilizers were being discovered. Also, when the Panama Canal opened in 1914, it took a great deal of traffic away from Chile’s port cities.
Political power changed between leaders from the left and the right and there were also military coups over the years, the most famous being the regime led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Pinochet overthrew President Salvador Allende in 1973 and ruled for nineteen years. His rule was very controversial and was the subject of several human rights violations as thousands of Allende’s supporters were killed and tortured. Despite such atrocities, Pinochet also brought a degree of financial stability that the country needed before eventually stepping down and allowing Chile to embark on the road to democracy.
Chile elected the country’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet Jeria, in 2006 and she served until 2010. Today, Chile is a very optimistic country that has continued to maintain a steady economy. Tourism has grown drastically in the past few decades as the country’s unique and diverse landscapes attract nature lovers from around the world. Managing to overcome the obstacles of its past, Chile has become one of the success stories of South America.
Chile Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Chile.
Learn about the history and culture of Chile, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Chile's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Chile for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Chile tours today!
Extend Your Trip
After your Chile vacation packages, why not consider another of Goway's Latin America tours. These include a large selection of other exciting countries in Central and South America. We offer Ecuador vacation packages which include Galapagos cruises, Peru vacation packages which include Machu Picchu tours and Brazil tours including Iguassu Falls tours among many others.
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