Chile Brief History

Chile Brief History

South America

My tour of Chile, South America, began and ended, in the country’s capital Santiago de Chile. The city was my base for three days at the beginning of the trip to acclimatize and adapt to the times. Then I continued to Punta Arenas in Patagonia, the southernmost city in the world on the mainland. Here is Isla Magdalena where up to 160,000 Magellanic penguins nest! The trip then went north to Chile’s Lake District and the cities of Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Frutillar where I hiked among volcanoes in wonderful nature. Some of the absolute highlights of the trip I experienced during my visit to the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world. After a 24-hour bus journey, I arrived in Valparaiso, one of the country’s most important port cities whose old town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The trip went completely without mishaps, with one exception, in Valparaiso I had an attempted robbery one morning, even though it was full of people around me.

According to Aristmarketing, the name of the country can be derived from the word chilli which means “distant land” in the language of the Aymara Indians. The Aymara culture had its peak in the 1000s AD. In the 14th century, their kingdom was conquered by the Incas. The ruins of the mighty capital of the Aymara Indians, Tiahuanaco, can be seen in present-day Bolivia.

Chile history in brief

Older history

A footprint of a child, dating to about 12,500 BC, found at a site near the city of Puerto Montt shows that there was human life in South America long before the common assumption that the continent was inhabited by people who immigrated via the land bridge at Beringssund just over 11,500 years ago. This footprint is one of the oldest evidence that humans lived on the South American continent found.

During the pre-Columbian period, 10,000 BC to 1500 AD, there were several different cultures in the northern part of Chile.

The Chilean Indians lived as hunters and farmers, scattered in small communities, when the area was invaded by the Inca Empire in the 15th century. The Inca people, who already ruled in Ecuador and Peru, conquered northern Chile but were stopped in the south by the Araukans.

Some important years in Chile’s older history


On November 1, the Portuguese seafarer Ferdinand Magellan is the first European to aim for the coast of Chile as he sails his journey around the world through the strait that now bears his name.


The Spaniard Diego de Almagro tries to conquer Chile with the help of 500 soldiers, 100 African slaves and 10,000 Indian carriers. Many of these froze to death as they crossed more than 4,000 meters of eye passes and in the inhospitable environment. When Almagro found no wealth, he abandoned plans to conquer the country

1535 – 1880

The Araukans and Mapuche Indians begin their resistance against the Spaniards, which will last for over three hundred years. Their strongest strongholds were south of the Rio Biobio River

1540 – 41

The Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia with his soldiers made another attempt to conquer Chile. After crossing the Atacama Desert, they discovered a fertile valley in central Chile, where they founded the city of Santiago on September 11, 1541 on the Rio Mapocho River.
The Arauca Indians, who numbered about 500,000 at that time, strongly opposed the Spanish invaders.


The wine was introduced in Chile by the Jesuits and today the country is one of the world’s leading wine producers


The Spaniard Pedro de Valdivia was captured and killed during the Battle of Tucapel when the Spaniards met a force of 6,000 Mapuche Indians led by the legendary chief Lautaro


A treaty was concluded between the Spaniards and the Indians, which gave them the right to rule over certain areas. The indigenous population is estimated to have reached one million people when the Europeans arrived. After a century of confrontation with the Spaniards and new diseases from Europe, their numbers had dropped to half
in 1818 The South American War of Independence against Spanish supremacy spread and this year the Argentine commander José de San Martin succeeded in liberating Santiago and Chile became formally independent. The country came to be ruled under the leadership of Bernardo O´Higgins, a man of Irish descent.


Chile banned slavery, far ahead of most other American countries


defeated conservative forces liberal groups after protracted and violent battles


The country’s constitution was adopted, concentrating power on the president, while voting rights were limited to a few. Catholicism was made the state religion
The Conservatives came to rule the country for three economically successful decades. The success was based on the expansion of large-scale agriculture with the help of a growing number of poor farm workers

1834 – 35

The ship HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin on board explores the Chilean coast


The Liberals came to power


Sheep are introduced from the Falkland Islands in Patagonia, ushering in an era of prosperity for the region’s major landowners

1879 – 83

The Chilean economy, which was based on exports of wheat, silver and copper, ended up in a severe crisis during the international economic depression of the 1870s. The silver mines began theirs, and when Bolivia confiscated salt mines partly owned by Chileans, Chile went to war. Peru closed behind Bolivia and the so-called “Pacific War or the Nitrogen War” broke out. Chile emerged victorious from the war and its territory more than doubled with the conquest of the nitrate- and copper-rich provinces of Tarapacá from Peru and Antofagasta from Bolivia. Thus, Bolivia lost its coastal strip while Chile strengthened its economy, mainly through nitrate exports.
The territory of the country grew further by the definitive defeat of the militarily strong Araukan Indians in the southern part of the country


Fell one of the Indians’ most important strongholds for Spanish military superiority. Since then, the Mapuche people in particular have fought a long battle to regain the land taken from them, while other Native American tribes submitted to Spanish rule.
The Spanish Crown granted land to the colonizers in proportion to the amount of Native American labor available in each area and the Indians were often forced into slavery. Among the slaves were also some Africans, but the slaves were not enough. On the large estates, most of the workers were mestizos (a mixture of whites and Indians) who were heavily exploited by the landowners.

1890 – 91

President José Manuel Balmaceda’s reform efforts to increase equality in Chile result in a civil war with over 10,000 dead and his suicide.
Afterwards, parliamentarism was introduced, which meant that the government must have the support of parliament for its policies

Some important years in the modern history of Chile


Liberal Arturo Alessandri won the presidential election with promises to improve the situation of the poor. However, his reforms created political strife


Alessandri was deposed by conservative military


Arturo Alessandri Reinstated as President of Reform Friends
In the new constitution, the church was separated from the state and the president regained lost power. All literate men over the age of 21 were given the right to vote


Colonel Carlos Ibáñez del Campo seized power and imposed a dictatorship. He created the national police, carabineros, persecuted political opponents and introduced press censorship


As a result of the international economic depression, Chile’s nitrate exports collapsed


Oppression and soaring unemployment led to a general strike, forcing Ibáñez to resign


Arturo Alessandri is re-elected as president


Communists, socialists and center-right parties came together in a popular front


Won the presidential election by the Popular Front candidate, Pedro Aguirre

1930s – early 1970s

Chile was the only country in Latin America with a functioning democracy


Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman and the world’s fifth, received the Nobel Prize in Literature

1948 – 58

The Communist Party was banned from operating


Introduced female suffrage


The country’s people, who were tired of inefficient governments and political intrigue, elected the independent former military man Carlos Ibáñez del Campo to a new presidency. However, the political situation remained unstable


The presidential election was won by Jorge Alessandri, the son of former President Arturo Alessandri, who was supported by a conservative-liberal coalition, over the socialist Salvador Allende and his popular front


This year’s presidential election was won by Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei, who promised social justice without socialism. Frei received support from the right and was also backed by the United States


Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru formed the Andean Community, which would build its own industry under the protection of high tariff walls.


Ahead of the presidential election, a coalition of five left-wing parties had gathered in a new popular front behind Allende. The poor now supported Allende, who received the most votes. Allende became the first Marxist president in the world to be elected in a democratic order. The
government, led by Allende, nationalized the copper mines and also took over other foreign-owned companies, certain industries, banks and large estates. The land was handed over to workers’ cooperatives. The left-wing policy pursued, however, scared away investors, capital flowed out of the country and the Treasury began its own. The United States and other countries withdrew their financial assistance to Chile and the Chilean state did not receive any loans from major US banks. The country’s military and right-wing opposition secretly received support from the United States


The attempts of the radical groups on the popular front to increase the pace of socialization led to the division of the coalition. The center-right parties agreed with Allende in parliament, but they did not get a sufficient majority in the parliamentary elections in March to be able to remove Allende. The country was paralyzed by demonstrations, inflation soared and copper prices fell. The opposition openly urged the military to take action.
In September, Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet carried out a military coup aimed at crushing Marxism, restoring order and saving the economy. Allende is alleged to have committed suicide in the presidential palace and many of his staff were killed
The coup resulted in the banning of political parties and trade unions, the introduction of siege permits and strict censorship. Parliament was dissolved for the first time in Chile’s history. Pinochet introduces dictatorship and the oppression of the military dictatorship was directed mainly at the Chilean left

After curbing inflation and returning confiscated property to previous owners, the junta launched a market economy program with privatization, welfare cuts and free trade. Chile left the Andean Community and sharply reduced its protective tariffs. Foreign loans flowed in and the economy grew. There was general talk of “the Chilean wonder”

During the economic success, Pinochet put forward a proposal for a new constitution that would legitimize his rule until at least 1989


While a state of emergency prevailed and all political parties were banned, a referendum was held on the proposal for a new constitution presented by Pinochet, the proposal of course won “the support of the people”


The new constitution came into force


Pinochet believed he had the support of the majority despite demonstrations and other expressions of dissatisfaction. among the people, Pinochet thought he had the support of the majority. In the referendum that took place, however, the people said no to his continued presidency


Presidential elections held in December and the Christian Democrat Patricio Aylwin won the election
in the parliamentary elections, which were held at the same time as the presidential election, the opposition gained a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, while the Conservatives dominated in the Senate with the help of nine unelected senators


When Aylwin took office, he commissioned a commission to investigate the military junta’s human rights abuses. Several mass graves with victims of the military regime were discovered and more than two thousand people were reported murdered or “disappeared” during the dictatorship. Those responsible remained unpunished, as the Supreme Court had approved a law on amnesty for the military and police who committed crimes in 1973-1978. The Supreme Court was dominated even after the junta’s case by members appointed by Pinochet


As the constitution prohibited the re-election of the incumbent president, the center-left alliance named Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei as its candidate in this year’s presidential election. Frei, who was the son of the former president, won big and in the parliamentary elections won the Concertación (Center-Left Alliance)


The head of Chile’s disbanded security police, Manuel Contreras, was sentenced to prison for the assassination of Allende’s former foreign minister, Orlando Letelier, in 1976.


Concertación retained its majority, albeit somewhat reduced, even in this year’s parliamentary elections


Pinochet was arrested at a private clinic outside London at the request of Spain, which wanted him extradited to bring him to justice for genocide and terror against Spanish citizens during the dictatorship. However, citing Pinochet’s age and precarious health, the British government decided to release him

Chile Brief History