Chile extends as a narrow strip on the Pacific coast of South America. The Andes with the Great Long Valley in the center and the Atacama in the north shape the natural area. Due to the nature of the land, the climate and vegetation vary greatly. The population of Chile is very unevenly distributed. Four fifths of Chileans live in cities.
As one of the 15 countries starting with C according to COUNTRYAAH, Chile is a very resource-rich emerging country with export-oriented industry and agriculture. Chile stretches between the Cordillera (Andes) and the Pacific Ocean over 4,300 km on the southeast coast of South America. It extends from the Peruvian border in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south.
The country is on average just under 200 km wide, but is more than twice the size of Germany. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast and Argentina to the east.
Important data about the country
|Surface:||756 626 km²|
|Population density:||21 population / km²|
|Growth of population:||1.2% / year|
|Capital:||Santiago de Chile|
(men / women)
|Form of government:||Presidential Republic|
|Languages:||Spanish as the regional official language Quechua u. a. native american languages|
|Religions:||89% Catholics and approx.11% Protestants|
|Climate:||in the north a tropical to subtropical desert and steppe climate, in the middle a warm, temperate Mediterranean climate with winter rains and in the south a cool temperate, always humid climate|
|Land use:||21% forest, 16% pastures, 7% arable land|
|Export goods:||Copper and other ores, saltpetre, wine, fruits, vegetables, fish meal, wool, paper|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 72,415 million (2003)|
(share of GDP 2003)
|Industry 34%, agriculture 9%, services 57%|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 4,360 / residents (2003)|
It is at least unusual that the narrow, elongated country is divided into three large areas not transversely, but longitudinally in a north-south direction:
- the main and high cordillera of the Andes in the east, over which the Argentine border runs,
- the coastal cordillera in the west, which runs parallel to the Pacific coast,
- the Great Long Valley and the Altiplano, which lie between the two Andean chains.
The landscape of Chile is mainly characterized by the two mountain ranges of the Andes, which take up 80% of the country’s area. The main cordillera is dominated by the highest mountains in Chile (Ojos del Salado, 6880 m). The majority are volcanoes, of which more than 100 are still active. To the south, the mountains gradually descend to the heavily glaciated Patagonian Cordillera, into which numerous fjords penetrate deeply.
The coastal cordillera reaches heights of up to 2500 m and dissolves in the south of Chile into thousands of mountainous islands. The Atacama Trench runs parallel to the coastal cordillera, which extends to about 8000 m depth. The oceanic Nazca plate drifts on it from the west under the South American plate. This ongoing tectonic movement is responsible for the fact that Chile is one of the most volcanic and earthquake-rich regions on earth.
Between the mountain ranges there is a tectonic depression, the Great Longitudinal Valley, which is broken up into several basins by crossbars. Within the Länstal lies one of the driest deserts on earth, the Atacama. The few oases in this area are among the driest inhabited places on earth.
In the north is the Altiplano, which is a desert-like highland in Chile with the Atacama salt pan in the center.
In central Chile, the longitudinal valley merges into a flat, undulating fertile landscape, which is the country’s most important economic region. And further south the depression in the Gulf of Ancud gradually runs into the Pacific.
The rivers of Chile are quite short. They arise in the Andes and usually pour into the Pacific. Only in the arid regions of the north do the rivers evaporate or seep away before they reach the ocean.
In the lower parts of the southern Andes there are many larger lakes that were created in the Ice Age in a beautiful mountain landscape.
Climate / vegetation
Due to the extension over 39 degrees of latitude, there are great climatic differences in Chile.
The whole of northern Chile is extremely dry. This is due to the fact that the winds blowing almost exclusively from the interior of the continent do not bring any precipitation. The few millimeters of precipitation per year are only caused by the occasional banks of fog that form over the cold Humboldt Current and slosh into the country.
The ocean current also cools the coast, because the temperatures in this region on the edge of the tropics are only a moderate 16 to 18 °C on an annual average.
Under these conditions, the Atacama Desert determines over 1000 km, one of the driest and most inhospitable coastal deserts on earth, the north of the country. In the higher parts of the coastal slopes, succulents and dwarf shrubs grow under the influence of the fog.
Central Chile, the region north and south of the capital Santiago, has a warm, temperate, Mediterranean climate. During the distinct seasons, precipitation falls in the winter months (May to August) with mild temperatures of around 11 °C to 2000 mm. The summer, however, is dry and with 28 °C in January it is hot.
Hard-deciduous plants naturally thrive here, but the area is now very much used for agriculture.
Southern Chile, from about Conceptión, has a cool, moderate climate.Throughout the year there is heavy rainfall under the influence of the westerly winds of the temperate latitudes. Increasing towards the south, the rainfall reaches almost 6000 mm. The annual mean temperatures only rise to a cool 6 to 8 °C.
Rainforests and cloud forests grow here with araucarias, the typical conifers of the southern hemisphere, which can be up to 60 m high and up to 1000 years old.
Further south to the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego, Chile is stormy like hardly any other region in the world. Rugged rocky peaks, ice-covered volcanoes and rugged, inhospitable islands form a rain-lashed wilderness that is unparalleled.
Chile is one of the more industrialized emerging countries. Its economy has been growing by more than 5% a year since the early 1980’s, making it one of the countries in South America with the highest economic growth.
The cornerstone of the Chilean economy is mining, which generates half of all export earnings in the country.
Chile has a quarter of the world’s copper reserves and its copper production covers around 40% of global demand. The largest open pit copper mine on earth is located in the Atacama Desert. The steel refiners cobalt and molybdenum are byproducts of the smelting of copper.
Other important mining products are the precious metals gold and silver, iron ore, crude oil, hard coal and, last but not least, saltpetre. On the basis of huge deposits in the Atacama, Chile had the saltpeter monopoly until around the end of the 19th century.
At that time, saltpeter was the most important raw material for the manufacture of explosives and fertilizers and it was in great demand throughout the world. The export of saltpeter therefore enabled the country to enjoy a considerable economic boom up until the First World War. With the synthetic production of substitutes, such as nitrogen, the export of saltpeter lost its importance as a dominant economic factor.
Nevertheless, Chile is still at the top of world production today.
Only the main revenue is achieved with the export of iodine, which accrues from the saltpetre processing. A structural change has taken place in the manufacturing industry over the past 30 years. In addition to the production of consumer goods, which is mainly oriented towards the domestic market, there are now many companies in the wood, fish and metal processing and food industries that manufacture competitive products for the world market.
The industry in Chile is therefore strongly export-oriented.
For the economy as a whole, agriculture is of less importance than industry. Due to the natural conditions, only about a quarter of the total area can be used for agriculture (7% of which is arable).
The cultivation area is essentially limited to the Great Long Valley.
Wheat, maize, potatoes, legumes and rice thrive here to supply the local population with food.
For some years now, however, agriculture has also increasingly produced for export. Fruit, especially apples, and vegetables as well as citrus fruits, grapes and wine are the most important export crops. Livestock farming cannot meet the country’s meat needs. Around 10 million sheep, which graze mainly in the southern parts of the country, supply high-quality wool for the textile industry. The abundance of fish in the Humboldt Stream and a fishery protection zone extended to 200 nautical miles favor fishing as an important branch of business. With 7.6 million tons (1995) Chile is one of the most important fishing nations.
The rail and road networks are well developed in the heavily populated areas of Chile. In contrast, there are large gaps in the north and south. The Pan American Highway runs along the coast through the Atacama for more than 2000 km.
Large ports through which exports and imports are handled with the most important trading partners (USA, Germany, Japan, Great Britain) are located in Punta Arenas, Antofagasta, Valparaiso and San Antonio.
- Until 1535: Northern and central Chile belong to the Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest.
- 1818: Chile becomes independent after the victory of an Argentine-Chilean army under J. DE SAN MARTIN over the Spanish colonial army.
- from 1879: Saltpeter war against Bolivia and Peru, through which Chile gains sole ownership of the saltpeter deposits in the Atacama and thus the saltpeter monopoly.
- Until 1929: the country’s economic boom, benefited by the saltpeter monopoly and promoted by European immigrants, up to the Great Depression
- 1970: Victory of the left-wing alliance Unidad Popular under SALVADOR ALLENDE in the presidential elections and start of the nationalization of key industries with continuation of agricultural reforms
- 1973: US-supported military coup against the ALLENDE government, which ends with the death of ALLENDES and leads to a military dictatorship under GENERAL PINOCHET, which kills tens of thousands of Chileans in the following years
- 1989: PINOCHET’s defeat in the presidential elections and the country’s return to democratic forms of government
The arguments about PINOCHET’s arrest in Great Britain (1998) and the attempts to hold him legally responsible for human rights violations after his repatriation in 2000 show that deep contradictions continue to run through Chilean society.