History of Country Chile – A nation occupying a narrow strip of the western side of South America, extending 2,650 miles northward from Cape Horn.
In the mid-15th century, when Europeans arrived, northern Chile was part of the Inca Empire. The rest was occupied by the Araucanian Indians, who fiercely resisted the Spaniards until the late 19th century.
Diego de Almargo, who helped conquer Peru, made a long march S into Chile, beginning in 1535, and probably reached present Coquimbo. Another Spaniard, Juan de Saavedra, founded Valparaiso in 1536, but the city was not permanently established until 1544 by Pedro de Valdivia. De Valdivia began a march from Peru in 1540, founded Santiago in 1541, Concepcion in 1550, and Valdivia in 1552. Concepcion was destroyed by Indians in 1555 and refounded two years later. During most of the colonial era Chile was a captaincy general under the viceroyalty of Peru, but in 1778 it became practically independent.
A revolt against the Spanish government began in 1810 under the leadership of Juan Martinez de Rozas and Bernardo O’Higgins. The first phase of the struggle ended on October 1–2, 1814, when O’Higgins was defeated by superior Spanish forces at Rancagua. In 1817 Jose de San Martin led an army over the Andes from Argentina, and on February 12, 1817, he and O’Higgins bested the Spaniards at the battle of Chacabuco. San Martin’s victory on the banks of the Maipo River on April 5, 1818, assured independence, which had been proclaimed already on February 12, 1818.
Constitution of Chile
O’Higgins ruled Chile until 1823, when he was ousted. A new constitution in 1833 provided a government that stabilized the nation for two decades. From 1836 to 1839 Chile was at war with a dictator who ruled both Peru and Bolivia. The war ended with a Chilean victory on January 20, 1839, at Yungay, Peru. Another conflict occurred during the period 1879–84 when Chile again fought Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific. A dispute over access to nitrate fields ended with Chile annexing Bolivia’s Pacific coast region. The Tacna-Arica Controversy between Chile and Peru arose out of the treaty ending this war, in which two provinces of Peru were ceded to Chile for 10 years. Because a plebiscite to decide possession was not held as scheduled in 1909, Chile colonized the region. The controversy did not end until 1929 when President Herbert Hoover of the United States proposed that Chile retain Arica but return Tacna to Peru.
Chile Congressional Power
The later 19th century was an era of conflict between presidential and congressional power. The president was overthrown in January 1891 in a brief civil war, and congress prevailed through the early 20th century. In 1902 Argentina and Chile settled long-stand ing boundary disputes and commemorated the agreement in 1904 by erecting a statue, the Christ of the Andes, on a mountain top on their border. Chile joined with Brazil and Argentina as the ABC Powers in 1914 to mediate a dispute between the United States and Mexico. The depression of the 1930s brought hardships, blamed on the government, and in 1938 a coalition of democrats and leftists won power. Nazi supporters were active during World War II, but in 1943 Chile broke diplomatic relations with the Axis powers and in 1945 declared war on Japan.
During the 1950s and 1960s inflation was high and Chile’s economy faltered. When the Christian Democratic Party’s Eduardo Frei Montalva was elected president in 1964, his government took over foreign-owned companies and distributed land to small farmers. In the election of 1970, Salvador Allende Gossens won a narrow victory, becoming the first Marxist freely elected to head an American nation. His policies were strongly opposed, and on September 11, 1973, he was killed in the course of a bloody military coup. He was succeeded by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, who then headed a dictatorial right-wing regime. During the late 1970s Chile’s economy underwent rapid growth and lowered inflation, but the early 1980s saw a serious recession.
The Pinochet government was responsible for many human rights violations as opponents of the regime were tortured and killed by government forces and death squads. Pinochet was forced to cede control to a popularly elected government of Patricio Aylwin Azocar in 1990. Chile has remained politically stable, although there is still tension between the military and the government concerning the human rights violations of the Pinochet regime. Chile has continued to see strong economic development through the 1990s through free market policies and trade alliances such as MERCOSUR with its South American neighbors. Chile signed a free trade agreement with the United States in 2003. Santiago is the capital, and Concepcion, Valparaiso, and Vina del Mar are important cities.