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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Facts About Chile, an Atypically Shaped Nation

Facts About Chile, an Atypically Shaped Nation

Of all the facts about Chile that jump into one’s mind, the most striking has to be its unusual shape. Chile stretches about 2,880 miles north-to-south along the southwestern shores of South America and protrudes, at its widest point, a mere 150 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

Much of Chile’s slender land mass, which totals nearly twice the size of the state of Montana, is in view of the towering Andes Mountains and includes extreme environmental changes ranging from possibly the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert in the north; to the thickly populated central valley marked with vineyards and forests; then to the cold southern region that includes the southernmost city in the world, Punta Arenas.

Interesting facts about the Republic of Chile include:

* Originally, Chile was under control of Inca Indians in the north and the nomadic Araucanos Indians in the south

* 1540-41 Spanish begin conquest of Chile; found Santiago, now the nation’s capital and largest city

* 1879-1883 Fights Peru and Bolivia in War of the Pacific; victory earns title to Antofagasta, until then Bolivia’s only outlet to ocean

* 1891-1925 Parliamentary dictatorship

* 1944 President Juan Antonio Rios, originally pro-Nazi, sides with Allies

* 1970 Salvador Allende becomes first president in a non-Communist country freely elected on a Marxist platform

* 1973 Allegedly with CIA assistance, Allende is killed in military coup

* 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet becomes brutal dictator; government report in 2004 says nearly 28,000 people were tortured and 3,200 killed or discovered missing during his reign

* 2006-present Socialist Michelle Bachelet, subjected to torture, prison, then exile during Pinochet’s dictatorship, is Chile’s first female chief of state

* More than 50 active volcano peaks in Chilean Andes, with earthquakes and tsunamis other natural hazards

* With population of 16.6 million, about 70 percent of them Roman Catholic, Chile has a 96 percent literacy rate

* Copper, much of it from North Chile, accounts for one-third of government revenue

The Republic of Chile claims to have more bilateral or regional trade agreements (57) than any other nation; and its primary export partners are China, the U.S., and Japan, while its primary import partners are the U.S., China, Brazil, and neighboring Argentina.

It’s not surprising that a country 19 times longer than it’s width at its widest point has multiple climate zones. Those range from the nearly rainless Atacama Desert in the north to the southern coast which receives more than 100 inches of rain annually. Terrain ranges from sea level to the 22,540-foot peak of Ojos del Salado, South America’s second highest mountain.

In addition to its long, narrow mainland, Chile claims ownership over several islands, including the Juan Fernandez Islands and Easter Island, located 415 miles and 2,300 miles into the Pacific Ocean respectively.

Anyone researching facts about Chile likely will come to the conclusion that, in large part because of its unusual shape, diversity is a cornerstone of its personality.

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