History of Chile

A young country that holds traces of the first human beings to inhabit the Americas over 12,500 years ago

Wednesday, July 29, 2009  
Santiago is founded by Pedro de Valdivia

In 1976, farmers from the area of  Puerto Montt, in the southern part of the country, gave the young Chilean student Luis Wenger some giant mastodon bones. What at first seemed like a curiosity or a strange occurrence became a news event with a global impact, as the bones were from the first human settlement in the Americas, the oldest  ever known.

The place is called Monte Verde and the remains are at least 12,500 years old. Diverse ethnic groups were to inhabit the area in the centuries that followed, as the "Atacameños", "Onas" and "Mapuches", among others, all of whom left traces of immense heritage value, as their native language.

The first Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 16th century, facing the resistance of native peoples for more than 300 years. Colonial society harbored desires for independence that became a reality in the second decade of the 19th century.

Already organized as a republic, the Chilean state was formed first as a strong presidential regime, then it experienced periods of internal upheaval, a parliamentary reaction in the early twentieth century, the emergence of a working class and the rise of the middle classe in an environment of increasing democratic participation.

After many social reforms in the 70s, the political system was in crisis. Between 1973 and 1989, Chile was ruled by a military dictatorship. Since 1990 the country has been governed democratically and in 2006, Michelle Bachelet became Chile's first woman president, while in 2010 Sebastian Pinera, was elected , representing a change in the governing coalition.