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Chile History, Politics & Culture
What follows is a very brief, chronological breakdown of the most important events that have led to the creation of the Chile we know of today.
 
1500's The Spanish, who conquered practically all of the America’s, had its colonial power based in the region in Lima, Peru. At that time Chile was then a backwater - not considered particularly important and only a place “yet to be explored”.
 
1536 Diego de Almagro led an expedition, on horse back, from Peru into Chile but did not get anywhere near to the future site of Santiago because the journey was fraught with difficulty.
 
1541 Pedro de Valdivia
The man bestowed with the honour of being the original Spanish conquistador was Pedro de Valdivia. In 1540 he led an expedition from Peru to Chile arriving in 1541 to the site of where Santiago is today. Valdivia "founded" Santiago at the foot of the hill called "Huelen" (by the indigenous natives), but renamed it "Santa Lucia". He organised a local form of government and set about mining in the areas that were rumoured to have had gold during the Inca period, but he and his men endured constant attacks from native Indians who were trying to repel them. It was clear that a more secure base was required and they set about building an infrastructure which led to the development of a fort and aptly named it the "Plaza de Armas" (Armed Plaza). Shortly after completion of the new plaza many of the buildings were destroyed by the rebellious, native Mapuche Indians.
 
Naturally the new settlers set about rebuilding and stuck to within the limits of the natural boundaries of the Mapocho River and Santa Lucia hill. Urban development continued to grow for the next decade and began to resemble a Colonial settlement of importance. However, the "Conquistadores" were here in search of mineral wealth and therefore "followed their noses" to the south of Chile to the area of Arauco, deserting Santiago which then became more of a staging post.
 
1553 A violent backlash from the southern Mapuche Indians forced the Spanish invaders to retreat back to Santiago, reigniting population growth in Santiago once again.
 
1586 Construction on the "Iglesia de San Francisco" (Church) began and continued over a 44 year period until 1630. The church holds an item, which is on display, that Pedro de Valdivia brought with him on horse back all the way from Peru. Chile was now governed from Lima as part of the Viceroyalty of Peru and forced to trade with Spain via Lima. Restrictions were put in place to forbid "Chile” (not yet a country in its own right) to trade directly with any other country, which resulted in uncontrolled smuggling.
 
The Spanish Crown, as “owners” of the nation state called Chile decides to divide agricultural land and large houses between the leading families in Chile who, as a result, became extremely powerful and rich. With large swathes of land being owned by so few people, including the Jesuit church, a new underclass was created and known as "inquilinos". The “inquilinos” were only given permission to farm by the land owners if they worked for the land owner, thus creating a “serfdom” of workers who were at the mercy of the land owners they served.
 
Early economic demand focused on livestock as horses because leather and grease were needed to supply the mines in Bolivia as well as the continuing war against the Mapuche Indians in Chile.
 
1687 A massive earthquake destroys the wheat crop in Peru, which then enabled the superior quality Chilean wheat to fill gap and supply the miners working there. This, in turn, led to a rise in the price of Chilean wheat which determined the price of land in Chile throughout the 18th century. Consequently any person owning land had the opportunity to increase his wealth, whilst the workers only continued to be workers, receiving as little pay as the landowners could get away with.
 
1740 Direct trade with Spain was now permitted.
 
1750 Chile is allowed to mint its own currency.
 
1760 It is accepted, or agreed, that tenants working the land should provide a son or daughter to the landlord for household duties i.e. a maid. By the end of the 18th century, after 250 years of colonial rule, Santiago had virtually been destroyed, once by native Indians and twice by massive earthquakes. The population at this time was circa 50,000 people.
 
1808 Independence and Political Unrest
The French, under Napoleon, successfully invaded Spain resulting in confusion among the Spanish colonies as to where their allegiance lay, this in turn weakened Spanish colonial military control, which led to the beginning of the independence movement.
 
1810 A local military "junta" was formed. This "junta", along with patriots loyal to the Chilean independence movement fought many battles against troops loyal to the Spanish crown. These battles continued through to 1818.
 
1818 “President” Bernardo O'Higgins
The illegitimate son of a Peruvian Viceroy, Chile's first elected leader following independence from Spain in 1818.
 
There were two key men who played a vital role in bringing independence to Chile. One was Bernardo O'Higgins, born in 1778 in Chillan (southern Chile) as the illegitimate son of an Irishman, Ambrose O'Higgins. Ambrose O’Higgins rose up through the Spanish colonial ranks to become Governor of Chile and then Viceroy of Peru. Ambrose sent Bernardo to London to be educated and during his time there he met with a number of exiles who were plotting to overthrow their own Spanish rulers. In 1882, after his father died, Bernardo returned to Chile to inherit his father’s estate and take his surname: O’Higgins. Bernardo O'Higgins led his own army of men to take on the Spanish Royalists, but after one serious defeat he retreated over the Andes to nearby Mendoza, in Argentina, where he met up and joined forces with the other key player in the Chile independence movement: Jose San Martin de Los Andes. San Martin de Los Andes had been planning to enter Chile from Argentina and overthrow the Spanish too. O’Higgins and San Martin de Los Andes joined forces and after winning a major battle in 1818 at Rancagua (just south of Santiago) O'Higgins was asked to be the "Supreme Director" of the newly independent Chile.
 
Independence was officially claimed in February 1818 with Bernardo O'Higgins as head of the first Chilean government. As you travel throughout Chile you will notice a street named after him in almost every Chilean city, town or village. Independence day is, however, celebrated on the 18 September each year and known as the “dieciocho”, which means 18.
 
After independence from Spain, which was 277 years after Pedro de Valdivia, first arrived, Santiago began its journey to become a serious urban base.
 
1822 Valparaiso was declared a free port by the independent administration, which enabled it to develop into an important financial centre and principal through-fare for business connected to the booming nitrate mining in the north and successful cattle ranching in southern Patagonia. Also at this time over 30 canals were constructed in the fertile, central valley, to provide much needed irrigation to the crop and fruit farming in this area.
 
1851 The first vineyards begin to appear.
  
1879 Arturo Pratt and “The War of the Pacific”
Chilean naval hero who led the winning naval battle against Peru.
 
On 21 May 1879 Pratt, on board the Chilean ship Esmeralda, beat the Peruvians in a maritime battle off the Pacific off near to Iquique. This led to Chile gaining all the land north of Iquique and up to Arica and in the process also cutting off Bolivia from the sea at the same time.
 
1900 The first significant fruit harvest is reaped. Santiago is booming from mining and agriculture. New constructions go up and areas are gentrified (Santa Lucia Park), but the vast majority of the population lives as servants to the rich land owners.
 
With a growing economy people came to Chile to make money and live well. Large houses and mansions were built. The State commissioned the construction of a new Congress building and Municipal Theatre. It was the newly-arriving Europeans who drove the pace as they set about recreating the kind of European environment they were used to, but leaving the poorer natives and mix-raced peoples to fill in where they could many flocking to Santiago in search of a better life, but often living in simple shacks and treated as second-rate citizens.
 
As the Santiago entered the 20th century it expanded eastwards, towards the magnificent Andes mountains, creating new "barrio altos" (literally meaning “higher settlements” both in terms of new wealth and also higher altitude). Many large farming properties (haciendas), a result of land being handed down the family line from the days of the Spanish conquerors, are broken down into smaller holdings thus forcing agricultural workers to leave the land they worked to look for more affluent work in the nitrate mines and in Santiago. The Santiago population is now around 600,000 people.
 
Telephone lines go up. The Panamerican highway is constructed north and south from the capital. Hydro electricity provides energy. Demand from the USA and Europe to fuel World War II provides a boost to the economy.
 
1920 The nitrate mining industry collapses, which leads into the 1920 great depression, which leads to social tension and unrest.
 
1952 The population in Santiago reaches over 1 million people.
 
1970 Pressure is on to reform the land ownership problem (too few land owners with vast swathes of land and too many poor people with nothing).
 
Political Icons
 
Diego de Almagro
Led an expedition, on horse back, from Peru into Chile but did not get anywhere near to the future site of Santiago because the journey was fraught with difficulty.
 
Pedro de Valdivia
The man bestowed with the honour of being the original Spanish conquistador was Pedro de Valdivia. In 1540 he led an expedition from Peru to Chile arriving in 1541 to the site of where Santiago is today. Valdivia "founded" Santiago at the foot of the hill called "Huelen" (by the indigenous natives), but renamed it "Santa Lucia". He organised a local form of government and set about mining in the areas that were rumoured to have had gold during the Inca period, but he and his men endured constant attacks from native Indians who were trying to repel them. It was clear that a more secure base was required and they set about building an infrastructure which led to the development of a fort and aptly named it the "Plaza de Armas" (Armed Plaza). Shortly after completion of the new plaza many of the buildings were destroyed by the rebellious, native Mapuche Indians.
 
“President” Bernardo O'Higgins
The illegitimate son of a Peruvian Viceroy, Chile's first elected leader following independence from Spain in 1818.
 
There were two key men who played a vital role in bringing independence to Chile. One was Bernardo O'Higgins, born in 1778 in Chillan (southern Chile) as the illegitimate son of an Irishman, Ambrose O'Higgins. Ambrose O’Higgins rose up through the Spanish colonial ranks to become Governor of Chile and then Viceroy of Peru. Ambrose sent Bernardo to London to be educated and during his time there he met with a number of exiles who were plotting to overthrow their own Spanish rulers. In 1882, after his father died, Bernardo returned to Chile to inherit his father’s estate and take his surname: O’Higgins. Bernardo O'Higgins led his own army of men to take on the Spanish Royalists, but after one serious defeat he retreated over the Andes to nearby Mendoza, in Argentina, where he met up and joined forces with the other key player in the Chile independence movement: Jose San Martin de Los Andes. San Martin de Los Andes had been planning to enter Chile from Argentina and overthrow the Spanish too. O’Higgins and San Martin de Los Andes joined forces and after winning a major battle in 1818 at Rancagua (just south of Santiago) O'Higgins was asked to be the "Supreme Director" of the newly independent Chile.
 
Independence was officially claimed in February 1818 with Bernardo O'Higgins as head of the first Chilean government. As you travel throughout Chile you will notice a street named after him in almost every Chilean city, town or village. Independence day is, however, celebrated on the 18 September each year and known as the “dieciocho”, which means 18.
  
Arturo Pratt and “The War of the Pacific”
Chilean naval hero who led the winning naval battle against Peru.
 
On 21 May 1879 Pratt, on board the Chilean ship Esmeralda, beat the Peruvians in a maritime battle off the Pacific off near to Iquique. This led to Chile gaining all the land north of Iquique and up to Arica and in the process also cutting off Bolivia from the sea at the same time.
 
 President Salvador Allende (in power: 1970 – 1973)
The first ever openly-elected communist leader(in the World) who ruled Chile as president from 1970 to 1973 when he was ousted from power by a bloody coup.
 
On September 4, 1970, Salvador Allende, a declared Marxist, headed a coalition of socialist parties and was democratically elected president, with a slim majority, by the poor people in the belief that he would be able to provide the changes needed for them to have a better life.
 
One half of the country was happy, but the other half – the richer half - was very concerned that the country would become a communist state like Cuba. Allende had good intentions to help the poor, but unfortunately his government programs resulted in severe economic chaos with his policy of expropriation confiscating land from land owners and literally giving it to the workers who had no idea how to manage it. Such dramatic measures only fuelled a movement against him. With the entire country in economic meltdown it was not long before the people, everywhere, demanded change. There is tension in the streets, with people having to queue 24 hrs for a loaf of bread. Garages had no fuel. People screamed to uniformed police and army personnel to “do something”. There are rumours that Allende and his supporters had imported arms from Cuba to fight an anticipated coup from the military.
 
President Agusto Pinochet (in power: 1973 – 1990)
In 1973 Allende, anticipating an imminent coup appoints Agusto Pinochet as head of the Chilean army thinking that by replacing the incumbent army leader General Carlos Pratt (later assassinated by a car bomb in Argentina) he would be safe. However, shortly after his appointment Pinochet led the armed forces in a coup against Allende. The Palace of La Moneda is bombed by the Chilean air force and Allende is found dead in his office. General Pinochet takes control and runs the country with an “iron fist” as well as implementing free market economic practices under policies drawn up by economic whiz-kinds from the University of Chicago. Over the period that followed, the economy went from boom to bust followed by a prolonged period of economic growth.
 
The coup was seen by the army as a "military mission" to save the country (much as the ongoing occupation in Iraq in 2006). General Pinochet ruled Chile for an unbroken 17-year period until 1990, during which time thousands of people with communist or socialist tendencies are said to have been tortured and went missing. On October 5 1988 a plebiscite was held to see if the people wanted a continuation of military rule or free elections. By a slim majority, considering that he had been in power for so long and that he was supposed to be an “evil dictator”, people voted 55% in favour of elections to 45% to continue with Pinochet (it should be noted that many governments get elected to power with a “mandate” on less than 45% of the vote). The following year, on December 14, 1989, the left-of centre-politician Patricio Alywin was elected as Chile's new president and military rule ended. Pinochet continued as head of the army for a few years as a way of ensuring that the newly-elected administration “behaved” itself.
 
During his presidency Pinochet has been credited for "saving" Chile from terrible economic decline and a communist take over, ridding the country of "the enemy" (Marxist forces backed by Cuba who were on the verge of ruling the country by force prior to the coup), to being accused of running a brutal regime that abused peoples’ human rights by use of ruthless torture and the cold killing of civilians.
It has been reported in the press that the coup was "supported" by the then US government (the CIA) which, at the time, was hell bent on any effort to counteract the "advancement of Communism anywhere in the world". Depending on which side of the political spectrum you are on the coup was either the best thing to happen to Chile or a vile and ruthless dictatorship that abused peoples’ human rights. Consequently, Pinochet is seen as a hero by roughly half the Chilean population (those on the right of the political spectrum, who are also generally those people with financial wealth) and an evil villain by the other half (those on the left of the political spectrum who are generally those people who are financially poor or who suffered under his regime). Even today the country is still polarised into two political camps, right and left, although for the younger generation this contentious period is, year by year, being consigned to the history books as they grow up in a stable, modern, relatively safe country far removed from the Chile that General Pinochet inherited.
However, in 1998, during Pinochet’s retirement, and on a private visit to the UK to receive medical treatment for a back complaint, a Spanish court (from a European member state country) issued an arrest warrant and the UK authorities, as a European member state, had to be seen to follow international law and had no choice other than to put General Pinochet under "house arrest". He was held for almost two years at a large house in Surrey, England whilst the British courts wrangled over how to handle the rather uncomfortable situation they found themselves in. It was, after all, Pinochet who helped the British government of Margaret Thatcher to win victory over Argentina over the Falklands war in 1982. Finally the British doctors deemed him unfit to face trial and the UK government therefore released him to return to Chile in 2000.
He arrived back to Chile in March 2000 to a warm welcome from the country's military and supporters, but spent the next six years fighting the Chilean judicial system as the Chilean courts attempted to bring him to trial, however, as in the UK he was declared "unfit" to endure such a process. This decision was later overturned but then, at the age of 91, in December 2006 Pinochet died. The 50% of Chileans who thought that he was the true saviour of their country laying the foundations for the stability and economic success that Chile enjoys today paid their respects to their “hero”, and the other 50% celebrated his death in the streets.
The issue of Pinochet is an interesting one and is not a simple “black and white” case. Indeed, if one considers the political hard line of the West in Iraq and Afghanistan, when “terrorists” were captured and taken to the “illegal” base at Guantanamo bay and subjected to methods described by some as torture, it could be argued that Pinochet ran a similar policy, in which case should not the leaders of the UK and USA be facing trial for abuses of human rights? Also, one only has to see the economic strife suffered by many other South America countries to see that Chile would likely be enduring the same fate if it had not been for Pinochet – not that that justifies killing even one innocent person, let alone hundreds, if not thousands. For the Chilean military the coup was nothing less than a “war” and the army, as mentioned earlier, viewed it as a mission to save the country, which is also how President "W" Bush viewed his fight against those who are against the “West”. The answer, as with so many of these difficult decisions will depend on which side of the political spectrum you are on and what view of the world you hold. However, on the other side of the divide are those totally innocent people who suffered quite severely under his presidency and the relatives of the deceased who feel that he never faced justice for the abuse of their human rights and they, of course, have a right to fell this way. After all, surely a just and moral society cannot justify the killing or torture of one individual just for better economic conditions.
Since 1989, when democracy returned to Chile after 17 years of military rule, rapid economic growth has resulted in a massive construction boom and the redevelopment of sectors of the city into a modern-day metropolis. Yet, despite all this, the "Plaza de Armas" in Santiago, founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541 is still there, and remains the symbolic centre of the city.

Presidents of Chile Since Pinochet:
 
Patricio Aylwin Azócar (in power: 1990 - 1994)
The first democratically-elected president after Pinochet. Alywin headed a centre-left coalition government called the Concertacion, and continued with the free-market economics of the previous administration and at the same time skilfully nurtured relations with the “ousted” Pinochet who still held considerable influence not only in the army, but throughout many sectors of Chilean society.
 
Eduardo Frei (in power: 1994 - 2000)
Son of a previous president of Chile, Frei was from the same political coalition party as Alywin and continued with the same policies for economic development as well as introducing some social programmes.He ran again for office in 2010, but lost out to Sebastian Pinera.

Ricardo Lagos (in power: 2000 - 2006)
Ricardo Lagos was an experienced government minister having served in the government of Eduardo Frei. He was also from the same centre-left coalition party as Frei and continued with the same agenda.

Michelle Bachelet (in power: 2006 - 2010 )
The first female president of the Republic of Chile who took office in March 2006. Michelle Bachelet's father was a general in the Chilean air force, but was opposed to the military government that took power 1973 and was arrested and died in prison. During the Pinochet years she worked clandestinely for a socialist youth group, for which she was arrested along with her mother, Angelica. However, in 1975 she was allowed to leave the country as an exile and fled to Germany where she studied, and trained to be a doctor. She is the former health and defence minister in the Lagos administration and the fourth consecutive president from the centre-left Concertacion coalition (following Patricio Alywin, Eduardo Frei and Ricardo Lagos), which has led Chile since the end of military rule in 1990. During the Concertacion coalition period the authoritarian Pinochet-era constitution has been revised and the judicial system overhauled to be inline with that of a mature democratic nation.The country enjoyed the fastest-growing economy in Latin America the 1990s posting regular double-digit annual growth and has weathered recent regional economic instability. But it faces the challenges of having to diversify from its highly dependent copper-mining economy and of addressing the still vastly uneven wealth distribution. During the end of her presidency a massive earthquake struck Chile resulting in major infrastructural damage and loss of life in and around the area of Concepcion.
 
During this period it was clear that Bachelet and her government appeared totally inept in responding to a national emergency and were lacking in any clear direction or ability to help those who were affected by the disaster. Indeed, there was a major communication mix-up between the government department covering national emergencies (ONEMI) and the Chilean Navy when ONEMI failed to warn people of a possible Tsunami hitting the Chilean coast after the earthquake. A tsunami did hit killing hundreds of unprepared civilians. It was also consequently discovered that in the aftermath of the disaster essential satellite phones were in the hands of the government, but no one knew where they were at the time nor knew how to operate them.
 
Sebastian Pinera (in power 2010 to 2014)
In March 2010 Sebastian Pinera assumed office as President of Chile after his second attempt at running for this office. Once again the closeness of Chile’s left and right political division was clear when Pinera, who was forced into a second-round run-off against previous President Eduardo Frei (from the centre left), won with only 51.6% of the popular vote and became the first freely-elected right-wing President of Chile since 1958, curtailing the succession of previous centre-left Presidents.
 
A hugely successful businessman (a USD billionaire with numerous business interests) Pinera kept to his pre-election promise to sell off his shareholdings in a number of large companies in Chile. Since he assumed office he has quickly demonstrated clear management and organisational skills, handing to each of his ministers a computer pen drive with clear instructions of what was expected from them and what their objectives were. He also created a large organigram of the structure of government showing to the media key areas that he would target for change. His “hands on” approach showed results when, in 2010 the World witnessed the successful rescue of 33 Chilean miners who surfaced after being trapped underground for almost three months. It was Pinera who insisted that there be at least three ongoing drilling operations to drill holes to get to the miners, and even when contact was made the drilling of the other two tubes continued, thus ensuring a back-up was in place if things went wrong. It is this kind of clear direction that was so clearly missing in the latter days of the Bachelet presidency when the earthquake struck.
 
Chile Culture
 
Description
There is no definitive way to describe the Chilean culture as it is a mix between the various Indigenous Indian cultures, the culture from the Spanish Conquistadores (most of whom were Spanish “bandits”) and latter day cultures imported from different European settlers. The official language is Spanish, or to be precise Castellano, which is spoken exceptionally fast and abbreviated where possible so, to the unaccustomed "gringo” i.e. – you, who has just finished a concentrated course in learning to speak Spanish, you will not understand very much!
 
General
Speaking in general terms the Chileans, by nature, are instinctively kind. And, compared to the endemic "aggressive" nature within so many of the British population (a characteristic that has enabled the Brits to be good war fighters), they are relatively "innocent". They do, however, have a tendency to be economical with the truth, will rarely admit to making a mistake and will prefer to give you incorrect directions to get to a destination rather than admit that they do not know - a kind of "saving face" ethic. Indeed the “unreliability” that is endemic in the Chilean culture has created the need to have numerous public notary offices throughout each city in order to formally legalise any transaction, such as the selling of a car and a work contract. Unfortunately a person’s word, in Chile, is not generally trusted.
 
Religion
In theory Chile is a Roman Catholic country and the vast majority of people are Roman Catholic, however, this does not stop a very large proportion of both men and women cheating on their partners. It is quite common for both sexes to use the facilities of a motel, which is discreet and where a room is rented out by the hour, to go and enjoy each other’s company and conduct an illicit affair. There are numerous motels throughout Santiago and most other cities that exist solely for the use of couples requiring secrecy. There is also a dramatic difference between the relatively few Chileans who are excessively wealthy and the vast majority who are striving to make ends meet. It is rather strange that many of the country's wealthiest people, who claim to be Catholic, have attained their riches through exploiting the desperation of lower-paid workers, but then again this is true the world over, unfortunately.
 
National Dance
The national dance is called "the Cueca" - brought out to celebrate the Independence Day on 18 September each year and involves a man and a woman trying to "out flirt" the other whilst stomping legs to a regular rhythm and waving one arm with a bandana. The experts will be dressed in the national costume of Chilean cowboy (a “huaso”) and cowgirl and dance it very well.
 
Social Habits
Socially Chileans will have a normal breakfast, sometimes an “once” (a snack with a drink at around 11am) and lunch normally from around 14:00hrs for at least an hour and often longer. Dinner is usually a late affair with 21:00hrs quite a common time to sit down to eat. Social gatherings will invariably start much later than the time on the invitation and even at formal functions it is rare for the Chileans to show up bang on time. It is also quite common for people not to show at all with no regard for the fact that the host has planned the evening and made catering arrangements, even though they have accepted and confirmed the invitation. Evening events will usually come to life after 22:00hrs, including restaurants (bear this in mind when dining out as a restaurant atmosphere will develop late in the evening). Sunday is a family day when families will try to be together.
 
Alcohol
With regard to alcohol consumption the attitude is relaxed, even though there are severe penalties for driving a car with too much alcohol in one’s blood. However, the fear of being caught as a drunk driver does not deter people from drinking as much as they want because in reality there is not a high chance of being stopped by the police (Carabineros). However, it will be quite the norm for younger Chileans to opt for a soft drink when out with friends with Coca-cola being a main choice. In fact Coca-cola, Whisky and Pisco are the favourite drinks among the Chileans. Pisco is a grape-based brandy and used to make the national drink – a Pisco Sour, but this is also claimed by Peru as its national drink. Pisco is also mixed with Coca-cola to form the drink “Piscola”.
 
Dress Code
Chileans do take pride in their appearance. In fact, culturally, it is very much a "presentation" society, whereupon people make sure they look good no matter how poor they may be or what few clothes they may possess. So, if you are invited to any kind of social event make sure you look good - it is important here. For a woman it is paramount to look feminine, attractive and sexy, whatever age you may be and consequently most foreigners in Chile love the way the women look! More recently, however, the younger generations are dressing very much like the youth in Europe and North America and are appear not to be so concerned about their appearance as their parents were.
 
Social Etiquette
Social behaviour is also very important, especially table manners and controlling the need to burp or break wind. To do either, even by complete accident, will be considered extremely rude and offensive, and not taken as a joke.
 
Gastronomy
Chilean gastronomy is basic, but tasty. The principal dishes are sea food, red meat on a barbeque, a chicken or meat stew called “Casuela” and the famous “Empanada”, which is a pastry-filled pie containing either mince or shell fish or cheese. Chile is blessed with food natural resources such as fish, shell fish vegetables, fruit, river fish and wine.
 
Way of Life
Considering that most of the population lives in the central section of the country and that this area enjoys a Mediterranean climate, it is not surprising that the Chilean way of life is an outdoor one.
 
National Sport
The national sport is football, and players such as Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas made the grade to play for top European football teams and some tennis players have gained respect in the tennis arena, especially Marcelo Rios who was ranked number one in the world at one time. The main rural sport is a rodeo whereupon two Chilean cowboys will ride on their horses in a circular pen and work together to ram a cow into the side wall. Points are scored for the cleanest ramming and where the cow was pinned on its body by the horse. For richer Chileans polo is played too.
 
Chilean Iconic Cultural Figures
There are two Chilean people that stand out when it comes to making their mark on the world stage and both for their literacy contributions. They are poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.
 
Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) Nobel Prize Winner in Literature 1945
Gabriela Mistral is a pseudonym for Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, born in Vicuña, Chile. The daughter of a dilettante poet, she began to write poetry as a village schoolteacher after a passionate romance with a railway employee who later committed suicide. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.

The love poems in memory of the dead, Sonetos de la muerte (1914), made her known throughout Latin America, but her first great collection of poems, Desolación [Despair], was not published until 1922. In 1924 appeared Ternura [Tenderness], a volume of poetry dominated by the theme of childhood; the same theme, linked with that of maternity, plays a significant role in Tala, poems published in 1938. Her complete poetry was published in 1958.
 
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) Nobel Prize Winner in Literature 1971
Pablo Neruda (whose real name is Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto), was born on 12 July, 1904, in the town of Parral in Chile. His father was a railway employee and his mother, who died shortly after his birth, a teacher. Some years later his father, who had then moved to the town of Temuco, re-married doña Trinidad Candia Malverde. The poet spent his childhood and youth in Temuco, where he also got to know Gabriela Mistral, head of the girls' secondary school, who took a liking to him. At the early age of thirteen he began to contribute some articles to the daily "La Mañana", among them, Entusiasmo y Perseverancia - his first publication - and his first poem. In 1920, he became a contributor to the literary journal "Selva Austral" under the pen name of Pablo Neruda, which he adopted in memory of the Czechoslovak poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). Some of the poems Neruda wrote at that time are to be found in his first published book: Crepusculario (1923). The following year saw the publication of Veinte poemas de amor y una cancion desesperada, one of his best-known and most translated works. Alongside his literary activities, Neruda studied French and pedagogy at the University of Chile in Santiago.

Between 1927 and 1935, the government put him in charge of a number of honorary consulships, which took him to Burma, Ceylon, Java, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Barcelona, and Madrid. His poetic production during that difficult period included, among other works, the collection of esoteric surrealistic poems, Residencia en la tierra (1933), which marked his literary breakthrough.

The Spanish Civil War and the murder of García Lorca, whom Neruda knew, affected him strongly and made him join the Republican movement, first in Spain, and later in France, where he started working on his collection of poems España en el Corazón (1937). The same year he returned to his native country, to which he had been recalled, and his poetry during the following period was characterised by an orientation towards political and social matters. España en el Corazón had a great impact by virtue of its being printed in the middle of the front during the civil war.

In 1939, Neruda was appointed consul for the Spanish emigration, residing in Paris, and, shortly afterwards, Consul General in Mexico, where he rewrote his Canto General de Chile, transforming it into an epic poem about the whole South American continent, its nature, its people and its historical destiny. This work, entitled Canto General, was published in Mexico 1950, and also underground in Chile. It consists of approximately 250 poems brought together into fifteen literary cycles and constitutes the central part of Neruda's production. Shortly after its publication, Canto General was translated into some ten languages. Nearly all these poems were created in a difficult situation, when Neruda was living abroad.

In 1943, Neruda returned to Chile, and in 1945 he was elected senator of the Republic, also joining the Communist Party of Chile. Due to his protests against President González Videla's repressive policy against striking miners in 1947, he had to live underground in his own country for two years until he managed to leave in 1949. After living in different European countries he returned home in 1952. A great deal of what he published during that period bears the stamp of his political activities; one example is Las Uvas y el Viento (1954), which can be regarded as the diary of Neruda's exile. In Odas elementales (1954- 1959) his message is expanded into a more extensive description of the world, where the objects of the hymns - things, events and relations - are duly presented in alphabetic form.

Neruda's production is exceptionally extensive. For example, his Obras Completas, constantly republished, comprised 459 pages in 1951; in 1962 the number of pages was 1,925, and in 1968 it amounted to 3,237, in two volumes. Among his works of the last few years can be mentioned Cien sonetos de amor (1959), which includes poems dedicated to his wife Matilde Urrutia, Memorial de Isla Negra, a poetic work of an autobiographic character in five volumes, published on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, Arte de pajáros (1966), La Barcarola (1967), the play Fulgor y muerte de Joaquín Murieta (1967), Las manos del día (1968), Fin del mundo (1969), Las piedras del cielo (1970), and La espada encendida.

Further Neruda works:
Geografía infructuosa / Barren Geography (poetry), 1972
El mar y las campanas / The Sea and the Bells, tr. (poetry), 1973
Incitación al nixonicidio y alabanza de la revolución chilena / A Call for the Destruction of Nixon and Praise for the Chilean Revolution, tr. (poetry), 1974
El corazón amarillo / The Yellow Heart (poetry), 1974
Defectos escogidos / Selected Waste Paper (poetry), 1974
Elegía / Elegy (poetry), 1974
Confieso que he vivido. Memorias / Memoirs, tr. (prose), 1974
Para nacer he nacido / Passions and Impressions, tr. (prose), 1978

Chile
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Ivan Zamarano
Ivan started playing football for a local team in Chile and soon progressed up the ranks before he was signed by a Swiss team. He then moved to Real Madrid in Spain and became a local hero before moving to Inter Milan, in Italy. He was a prolific goal scorer and was also Captain of the Chilean national side. He is now retired and headed up the promotional campaign for the brand new Santiago bus transport system called Transantiago, which has been a disaster and has made Ivan, through his association with Transatiago go from hero to zero.
 
Marcelo Salas
Another highly-respected national football hero who also played in Europe and scored an amazing goal against England at Wembley, giving all Chileans a good reason to feel proud. He is now in the last years of his career and is playing for local Santiago sides.
 
Marcelo Rios
Known as "Chino" Rios because of his Chinese-look.
Marcelo was ranked number one in the tennis ATP rankings for about two weeks through points accumulation without having won any major grand slam event. He was very talented and could have been one of the greats in world tennis, but he did not demonstrate the hunger to be so.
 
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