A military coup led by General Luis Altamirano in 1924 set off a period of political instability that lasted until 1932. When constitutional rule was restored, a strong middle-class party, the Radicals, emerged. The 1964 presidential election of Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva by an absolute majority, initiated a period of major reforms, particularly in education, housing, and agrarian reform, including unionization of farm workers in rural areas. By 1967 however, Frei encountered increasing opposition from leftists, who charged that his reforms were inadequate, and from conservatives, who found them excessive. In the 1970 election, Senator Salvador Allende of the Socialist Party of Chile was elected with less than 35% of the votes, which incited a war of classes, motivated by the central government. An economic depression that began in 1972 was exacerbated by substantial capital flight. Allende adopted measures including price freezes, wage increases, and tax reforms, to boost consumer spending and redistribute income downward. Allende's program included advancement of workers' interests, replacing the judicial system with "socialist legality", nationalization of some banks and forcing others to bankruptcy, and strengthening "popular militias". The Richard Nixon administration organized and inserted secret operatives in Chile, in order to quickly destabilize Allende's government. In addition, American financial pressure restricted international capital flow to Chile. Finally, a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, overthrew Allende on September 11th, 1973. The first years of the regime were marked by human rights violations. A new Constitution was approved by a controversial plebiscite on September 11th, 1980, and General Pinochet became president of the republic for an 8-year term.
About 10,000 years ago, migrating Native Americans settled in fertile valleys and coastal areas of what is present-day Chile. The Mapuche successfully resisted many attempts by the Inca Empire to subjugate them. In 1520, while attempting to circumnavigate the earth, Ferdinand Magellan, the first European to ever set foot on today's Chile, discovered the southern passage now named after him, the Strait of Magellan. Conquest of the land took place gradually, as the Mapuche continuously fought colonization. The usurpation of the Spanish throne by Napoleon's brother Joseph, in 1808, precipitated the drive by the colony for independence from Spain. A national junta in the name of Ferdinand - heir to the deposed king - was formed on 18 September 1810, which later became Chile's Independence Day.
Currency: Chilean peso ($1= ~ 473 pesos). Chile is currently one of South America's most stable and prosperous nations, leading Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and relatively low level of corruption. However, economic inequality, as measured by the Gini index, remains high. In May 2010, Chile became the first South American country to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2006, Chile became the country with the highest nominal GDP per capita in Latin America.
Population: 16,888,760 (2011). Chile's 2002 census reported that the rate of population growth has been decreasing since 1990, due to a declining birth rate. By 2050, the population is expected to reach approximately 20.2 million people. About 85% of the country's population lives in urban areas, with 40 percent living in the Greater Santiago area. A public health book from the University of Chile states that 30% of the population is of Caucasian origin; A public health book from the University of Chile states that 30% of the population is of Caucasian origin; 5% are Native Americans (Amerindians); and the Mestizos compose the remaining 65% - the Mestizos being a mix of 60% Caucasian and 40% Native American (on average).
In the most recent census (2002), 70% of the population over age 14 identified as Roman Catholic and 15.1 percent as evangelical. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contribute to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels fully protects this right against abuse, either by governmental or private actors' agency. However, the Catholic Church enjoys a privileged status and occasionally receives preferential treatment. The patron saints of Chile are Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint James the Greater (Santiago). In 2005, St. Alberto Hurtado was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and became the country's second saint after St. Teresa de los Andes.
The Spanish spoken in Chile is distinctively accented and quite unlike that of neighboring South American countries because final syllables and "s" sounds are dropped, and some consonants have a soft pronunciation. Accent varies only very slightly from north to south; more noticeable are the small differences in accent based on social class or whether one lives in the city or the country. There are several indigenous languages spoken in Chile: Mapudungun, Quechua, Aymara and Rapa Nui. After the Spanish invasion, Spanish took over as the main language and the indigenous languages have become minority languages, with some now extinct or close to extinction. German is still spoken to some extent in southern Chile, either in small country side pockets or as a second language among the communities of larger cities. Through initiatives such as the English Opens Doors program, the government made English mandatory for students in fifth-grade and above in public schools.
Literature & Music
Chileans call their country país de poetas-country of poets. Gabriela Mistral was the first Latin American to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature (1945). Chile's most famous poet, however, is Pablo Neruda, who also received the Nobel Prize for Literature (1971). Among the list of other Chilean poets and authors are Carlos Pezoa Véliz, Vicente Huidobro, Gonzalo Rojas, Nicanor Parra and Isabel Allende, the best-selling Chilean novelist, with 51 million copies of her novels sold worldwide.
Music in Chile ranges from folkloric genres, popular music, to classical music and its large geography generates different musical expressions in the north, center and south of the country, including Easter Island and Mapuche music. The national dance is the cueca while another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. Between 1950 and 1970, Chile experienced a rebirth in folk music leading by groups such as Los de Ramon, Los Cuatro Huasos and Los Huasos Quincheros, among others with composers such as Raul de Ramon, Violeta Parra and others. Additionally, many Chilean Rock bands like Los Jaivas, Los Prisioneros, La Ley, and Los Tres have reached international success.
Chilean cuisine is a reflection of the country's topographical variety, featuring an assortment of seafood, beef, fruits, and vegetables. Traditional recipes include asado, cazuela, empanadas, humitas, pastel de choclo, pastel de papas, curanto and sopaipillas. Crudos is an example of the mixture of culinary contributions from the various ethnic influences in Chile. The raw minced llama, heavy use of shellfish and rice bread were taken from native Quechua Andean cuisine, (although now beef brought to Chile by Europeans is also used in place of the llama meat), lemon and onions were brought by the Spanish colonists, and the use of mayonnaise and yogurt was introduced by German immigrants, as was beer.
Chile's most popular sport is soccer, and the country has appeared in 8 FIFA World Cups which includes hosting the 1962 FIFA World Cup where the national team finished third. Tennis is Chile's most successful sport, with its national team having won the World Team Cup clay tournament twice (2003 & 2004). At the Summer Olympic Games Chile boasts a total of two gold medals (tennis), seven silver medals (athletics, equestrian, boxing, shooting and tennis) and four bronze medals (tennis, boxing and football). In 2012 Chile won its first Paralympic Games medal (gold in Athletics). Rodeo is the country's national sport and is practiced in the more rural areas of the country. A sport similar to hockey called chueca was played by the Mapuche in earlier times. Polo is professionally practiced in Chile and in 2008 Chile achieved top prize in the World Polo Championship, a tournament where the country has earned both second and third places medals in previous editions.