Essay, Research Paper: Chile


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The first European to visit what is now Chile was the Portuguese explorer
Ferdinand Magellan, who landed at Chiloé Island following his voyage, in 1520,
through the strait that now bears his name. The region was then known to its
native population as Tchili, a Native American word meaning "snow." At
the same time of Magellan's visit, most of Chile south of the Rapel River was
dominated by the Araucanians, a Native American tribe remarkable for its
fighting ability. The tribes occupying the northern portions of Chile had been
subjugated during the 15th century by the Incas of Peru. In 1535, after the
Spanish under Francisco Pizarro had completed their conquest of Peru, Diego de
Almagro, one of Pizarro's aides, led a gold-hunting expedition from that country
overland into Chile. The expedition spent nearly three fruitless years in the
country and then withdrew to Peru. Chile is a republic in southwestern South
America, bounded on the north by Peru, on the east by Bolivia and Argentina, and
on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It has an extreme northern-southern
length of approximately 4270 km (about 2650 mi), but its average width is less
than 180 km (less than 110 mi). Archipelagoes extend along the southern Chilean
coast from Chiloé Island to Cape Horn, the southernmost point of the South
American continent. Among these are the Chonos Archipelago, Wellington Island,
and the western portion of Tierra del Fuego. Other islands belonging to Chile
include the Juan Fernández Islands, Easter Island, and Sala y Gómez, all of
which lie in the South Pacific. The country has a total area of 756,626 sq km
(292,135 sq mi). Chile also claims a section of Antarctica. The country's
capital and largest city is Santiago. Two lively and contrasting cultural
strains predominate in Chile: the cosmopolitan culture of the affluent urban
population and the popular culture of the peasants, which is predominantly
Spanish but contains traces of Araucanian heritage. The latter influences are
strongest in Chilean music and dance. Chile has a flourishing literary tradition
and has produced two Nobel Prize winners in literature, Gabriela Mistral and
Pablo Neruda, both poets.

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