Population: 16.5 million (2007 estimate)
Area: 302,778 square miles (756,945 sq km)
Bordering Countries: Peru and Bolivia to the north and Argentina to the east Coastline: 3,998 miles (6,435 km)
Highest Point: Nevado Ojos del Salado at 22,572 feet (6,880 m) Official Language: Spanish
Chile, officially called the Republic of Chile, is South America's most prosperous country. It has a market-oriented economy and a reputation for strong financial institutions. Poverty rates in the country are low and its government is committed to promoting democracy.
History of Chile
According to the U.S. Department of State, Chile was first inhabited about 10,000 years ago by migrating peoples. Chile was first officially controlled briefly by the Incas in the north and the Araucanians in the south .
The first Europeans to reach Chile were the Spanish conquistadores in 1535. They came to the area in search of gold and silver. The formal conquest of Chile began in 1540 under Pedro de Valdivia and the city of Santiago was founded on February 12, 1541. The Spanish's then began practicing agriculture in Chile's central valley and made the area a Viceroyalty of Peru.
Chile began pushing for its independence from Spain in 1808. In 1810, Chile was proclaimed an autonomous republic of the Spanish monarchy. Shortly thereafter, a movement for total independence from Spain began and several wars broke out until 1817. In that year, Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martín entered Chile and defeated supporters of Spain. On February 12, 1818, Chile officially became an independent republic under the leadership of O'Higgins.
In the decades following its independence, a strong presidency was developed in Chile. Chile also grew physically during these years, and in 1881, took control of the Strait of Magellan. In addition, the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) allowed the country to expand north by one-third.
Throughout the rest of the 19th and into the...
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