When the first Spanish settlers
arrived in the sixteenth century three main tribes controlled
Chile. Quechua tribes occupied the northern region and Araucanian
tribes occupied the central and northern part of the southern
region. The Incas occupied northern and parts of central Chile.
The first Spanish settlements were, Santiago in 1541 and Concepcion
in 1550 mainly because of the pleasant climate and fertile soil.
Repeated assaults from the Araucanians lasted into the second
half of the nineteenth century.
By the mid-seventeenth century,
the population of the Spanish settlements and their surroundings
numbered approximately 100,000. This population grew to about
500,000 by mid-eighteenth century and to one million by 1830.
Those with European blood were concentrated in central Chile,
between Santiago and Concepcion; few settled in the northern and
southern regions. This pattern of dispersion began to change only
in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the rapid growth
of mining activities and the inmigration of non-Iberaian Europeans.
Under Spanish colonial rule,
northern and central Chile were part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.
The south remained under the control of the Araucanians almost
until the nineteenth century. Independence was first declared
in 1810. At that time, central Chile was to a large extend controlled
by a small, upper class of Creoles (locally born Europeans), most
of them owned large estates. A period of internal instability
and striffe followed, which resulted in the restoration of Spanish
rule in 1814. Combined Argentinian and Chilean forces under Jose
de San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins, who crossed the Andes from
Argentina, managed to defeat and drive out the Spanish army and
restore Chile's independence (1818). O'Higgins became Chile's
Chile defeated Bolivia and
Peru in a war (1879-1883) for the control of the Atacama Desert
and its rich mineral deposits. In the course of this war, Chilean
troops occupied Lima. Chile won the disputed territory. Bolivia
lost its outlet to the open sea and Peru the Tarapaca district.
A multiparty, parliamentary
regime came into being in 1891, however, the interests of the
upper class, comprised mainly of owners of large states and wealthy
business people, continued to predominate. After a short period
of military rule (1924-1925), followed by the reinstatement of
the democratically elected president Arturo Alessandri, a new,
more progressive, constitution came in force (1925). Left-wing
parties, including communist, gained much influence from 1930s
onward and played an important role in elections of several presidents.
However, the right-wing parties ramained in actual control.
A presidential candidate of
the left-wing parties, Salvador Allende, won the elections in
1970. Upon ussuming office, he nationalized the mines, industries,
and public services. Allende was deposed and died in a military
coup in September 1973, which was followed by 16 years of military
dictatorship by General Augusto Pinochet. Democratic elections
were held in 1989. Democracy was restored in 1990 with the asumption
of the presidency by Patricio Alwin Azocar, following free elections.
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