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Chile History

Chile History is a continuous chronicle of one of the most colorful countries in the Southern Americas. Chilean history is thus a colorful saga of the country's trials and tribulations and its final victory against the enemies of the nation.

Ancient Chile was originally ruled by the Incas of the north and the peregrine Araucanos in the south. The first European visit to these shores of Chile was paid by the Portuguese maritime pioneer Ferdinand Magellan. He grounded at Chiloe Island after his travels, in 1520, through the strait that now bears his name. At the time the region was called as Tchili, by its native population, the word is a Native American word meaning "snow." A Spaniard in 1541, Pedro de Valdivia, established Santiago. Chile gained its independence in 1818 from Spain under an Argentinian, Jose de San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins. Dictator until 1823, O'Higgins established the cornerstones of the advanced state with a bi-party system and a concentrated government.

Diego Portales, who reigned as a dictator from 1830 to 1837, went to war with Peru in 1836-1839 to expand Chilean territory. Again in 1879 to 1883 Chile fought the War of the Pacific with Bolivia and Peru annexing extensive areas from Peru and Antofagasta, Bolivia's sole gateway to the sea. The parliamentary dictatorship established after the revolt of Pedro Montt in 1891 lasted until the adoption of the new constitution in 1925. Before the beginning of the World War I rapid industrialization caused the formation of Marxist groups. During World War II, Juan Antonio Rios, the then president was at first inclined towards the Nazis but changed his mind in 1944 and decided in favor of leading his nation into the battle on the side of the Allies.

Salvador Allende, who in 1970 became the first Marxist president in a non-Communist country quickly forging relations with Cuba and the People's Republic of China, was responsible for the introduction of Marxist social and economic reforms, and nationalization of numerous private companies. Among these are a few U.S.-owned ones too. Allende was overthrown on Sept. 1973 and killed in a military coup ceasing a 46-year epoch of constitutional government in Chile.

The Army Chief of Staff Augusto Pinochet, who led the coup headed by a four-man junta, ultimately ascended the office of president. The junta banned political activity, closed down the parliament and sternly restricted civil and political liberties. Under the monocratic rule of Pinochet there were many allegations of torturous imprisonment, mysterious disappearances, and abrupt execution and exile of numerous of Chileans.

However, despite all the allegations the economy slowly improved after Chile's restoration to market economy under Pinochet. In 1989, Pinochet lost a plebiscite on whether he should remain in power. He stepped down in January 1990 after the public voted in favor of his ouster from office. He was succeeded by Patricio Aylwin. Pinochet died in December 2006 at the age of 91.

March 2000, saw the return of Socialist regime in the country with the presidential run of Ricardo Lagos. Chile's economic growth rate fell to 3% in 2001, partly due to the drop in international copper prices and the economic turmoil in neighboring Argentina. In 2003 there were several minor financial scandals involving insider information and bribery. In response to retardation in the economic growth of Chile and the various financial outrages Lagos introduced new measures showing promise of more clarity in governance.

In 2006 presidential elections, Socialist Sebastián Piñera won a majority mandate from the people of Chile becoming its first woman president.