A look at the history of Chile from seeking independence to the touristic destination it has become.
When comparing countries in South America to determine a travel destination, Brazil or Colombia are often the first options. Despite its secondary popularity, Chile still benefits tremendously from visitors. In fact, tourism accounted for a little over 10% of the country’s GDP in 2018.
This is no surprise considering how many attractions there are to enjoy.
These sites not only gift a gorgeous view but contain deep historical value as well. Understanding the important roles that places like Santiago and Easter Island were in the formation of the country may convince you to make Chile a top choice.
The first settlers of the surrounding land were different tribes of natives who migrated to the region. Though there were diverse cultures, the people organized into major clans and empires. Most notable were the Mapuche in the south and the Incans in the north. These communities coexisted until settlers from Spain arrived in the 1530s.
Although the Indigenous people were eventually overtaken, they were very adept at raiding the European settlements and even added some of the outsiders’ technology, like horses and weapons, to their arsenal of clubs and arrows.
In the beginning of the conquest of modern-day Chile, Pedro de Valdivia, captain of the Spanish army, took and maintained control of the north but failed to defeat the Mapuche in the south. Despite this setback, the occupying forces remained in authority until the 1810s.
Around this same time, ideologically and politically opposed groups fought over what ideas would influence the new ruling power while Spanish troops fought for control over their colony. It wasn’t until 1818 that the country finally gained its independence and formed its own government.
The following century, however, would prove to be a tumultuous time for the Chilean leadership and people. Even though initially its government was a two-party system, dictators, like Bernardo O’Higgins and Diego Portales, were able to rise to power. And even after both were dethroned, the Roman-Catholic Church directly influenced the legislature that was passed. These decades, characterized by absolute authority, were filled with bloodshed, greed for land, and political tension.
Later, from 1891 to 1925, there was an attempt at a parliamentary-styled government that turned out to be an overpowered Congress and figurehead president. Both of which were either unwilling or unable to address the needs of the people.
This political chaos would continue until the 1990s which began the transition into democracy, and although there are still labor and constitutional issues that need to be addressed, the country is now in a much more stable place.
The effects of the Spanish presence in Chile can be observed today. Sources vary on specific numbers, but studies show that the overwhelming majority of citizens have at least some European ancestry.
The Europeans also introduced Christianity to the Chileans which is likely why Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion. The official language of the country is also Spanish although there are other languages handed down from the original Native settlers that are spoken frequently.
Another deviation from the practices from the Natives can be observed in the country’s GDP. When the Spanish were conquering the northern region of Chile, they came across deposits of gold but valued the fertile lands over these minerals. This isn’t so surprising considering that the original populations survived off of farming, hunting, and fishing.
Today, exports of minerals make up a large portion of Chile’s GDP while agriculture only comprises about 3%. A stark difference from its founding nations!
There’s a plethora of islands and sites to visit that hold invaluable historical significance. Despite that the country looks very different from its foundation, there is much beauty to be found and hope for its people.