Location and geography
Tourist Sites of Interest
The first Europeans to arrive in Chile were the Conquistador, Diego
de Almagro, and his men in 1541. These Spaniards came seeking gold
and riches they had previously encountered in the neighboring country
of Peru. Upon these men's arrival, they met with a vast amount of
Indians from various cultures who would firecely fight them, mainly
the Mapuche tribe.
In 1550 by Pedro de Valdivia, one of Francisco Pizarro's men carried
out Chile’s conquest. The Spanish did not find the riches they
sought, but recognized the agricultural potential of Chile's central
valley. Therefore, Chile was declared a viceroyalty of Peru by the Spanish.
When Napoleon's brother Joseph took over the Spanish throne, a movement
for independence began. A national junta was formed on September 18,
1810 and named after Ferdinand, the heir of the king whom Joseph had
deposed. Chile became a republic within the Spanish monarchy. Eventually
this led to a move for complete independence from Spain and the Spanish
attempts to regain control led to a long fight between the countries
in a period later known as the Reconquista. This led to September 18
becoming the national Chilean Independence day.
However, the royalists were not defeated until 1817 by Bernardo O’Higgins,
today considered a patriotic hero in Chile, and Jose San Martin, who
previously helped free Argentina. On February 12, 1818, Chile became
an independent republic under O’Higgins.
There was little social change if any due to the political revolt
and 19th century Chilean society kept a stratified colonial social
This social structure was greatly influenced by family politics and
the Roman Catholic Church. This structure is still seen today
with a distinct
division among the social classes: the rich and the poor. However,
the middle class is rapidly outgrowing both in census.
The government in Santiago strengthened its position in the south toward
the end of the 19th century. This was accomplished by suppressing the
Mapuche Indians, the most rebellious and hardest to conquer group of
natives in Chile. In 1881 Chile gained sovereignty over the Strait
of Magellan through a signed treaty with Argentina. Chile also expanded
its territory by almost one-third because of the result of the War
the Pacific with Peru and Bolivia (1879-83).