Chile Overview

The Aymara word chili , which means “ends of the earth”, gave its name to the South American republic of Chile, which is practically isolated from the rest of the continent by the great wall of the Andes.

The Republic of Chile is formed by a narrow and long strip of land between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Its 756,626 km 2 extend over 39 degrees of latitude, in the southern part of South America .

It is limited to the north with Peru, to the northeast with Bolivia, to the east with Bolivia and Argentina, and to the west with the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to the mainland, Chile has several coastal islands (Chiloé, Wellington, Hanover, Santa Inês etc.), the western half of Tierra del Fuego, the Juan Fernández archipelago and the Polynesian Easter islands, San Félix, San Ambrosio, Sala and Gómez, the islands located south of the Beagle Channel and others. In addition, it claims the Antarctic territory located between 53 ”and 90” west longitude.


According to Prozipcodes, Chile has a much greater ethnic homogeneity than that of other South American countries, because in the colonial period it did not participate in the black trade and also because, in the second half of the 19th century, European immigration (Germans, Italians, Slavs, French) , was never intense, contrary to what happened in Argentina or in the South of Brazil.

The majority of the Chilean population, approximately 65%, is of mixed race, as a result of the racial mixture of Indians and Spaniards during the colonial period. Next comes the white population, with about 25%, of European origin, mainly Spanish. The indigenous group has the lowest representation, with approximately ten percent. This last group is formed by three Amerindian ethnic groups: the Araucans, who occupy the southern valleys of the Andes, south of the Bío-Bío River; the Fuegians, in Tierra del Fuego; and the changos, which inhabit the northern coastal region.

Spanish is spoken from one end of the country to the other, although indigenous groups maintain their original languages.

Demographic structure

The proportion of young people in the population of Chile is quite high. Natural growth, although high, is lower than that of other Andean countries and tends to decrease due to birth control.

The distribution of the population in the territory is very uneven. Central Chile concentrates the vast majority of the country’s inhabitants, while the northern and southern ends (Atacama desert and Patagonia) are sparsely populated due to the hostility of the environment. In addition to this regional concentration, there is an urban concentration; about three quarters of the population live in cities, making Chile one of the countries with the highest level of urbanization in all of Latin America.

Most important cities

The central region of Chile has a dense urban network, unmatched in the rest of the country. Three major cities stand out: Concepción, Valparaíso and, above all, Santiago, the country’s capital.

At the southern tip of central Chile, Concepción , with its maritime annexes of Talcahuano, San Vicente and Huachipato, forms a conurbation whose economic base is the steel industry. Valparaíso constitutes the port of Santiago (140km away), in addition to a leisure and industrial center (oil refineries in Concón). However, Santiago is undoubtedly the metropolis of central Chile and of the whole country. Its metropolitan area, which is home to a third of the population of the central valley, concentrates more than half of the industries across the nation.

In the north of the country, the most important city is Antofagasta , capital of the desert region of the same name, from whose port the copper ore leaves. Finally, in the extreme south of the country, there is Punta Arenas , the southernmost city in the world. Punta Arenas was an important stopover for navigation between the Pacific and the Atlantic before the opening of the Panama Canal, but later it became a center for marketing the wool and meat produced in the southern region.


The development of the road infrastructure has been hampered by the configuration of the relief and also by the lack of uniformity in the demographic distribution.

The road network, which practically does not reach the south of the country, is organized around a main artery, the Pan-American, which departs from Puerto Montt towards the north. The Trans-Andean highway connects Chile to Argentina via the La Cumbre pass (3,832m), which remains impassable for five months a year.

The rail system is one of the best in South America, although the different gauges are a serious problem. The main trans-Andean routes connect Argentina (Los Andes-Mendoza and Valparaíso-Santiago-Antofagasta-Salta) and Bolivia (Arica-La Paz).

The insufficiency of land transport is offset by the great importance of aviation and maritime transport, both in internal and external communications. The port of Valparaíso has a movement of imports, while those of Iquique, Tocopilla, Huasco, Chañaral and Coquimbo give way to mineral exports. The main airports are in Santiago, Valparaíso, Arica, Antofagasta and Punta Arenas.

Chilean society

Social legislation

Chile stood out for having one of the most advanced labor laws in South America. In 1924 laws were enacted that regulated the contracting regime and the insurance of accidents at work and sickness. In 1931, the Labor Code was created, which expanded the previous labor legislation and, in the following years, social protection was expanded with the Social Insurance Service. Social security was ensured through private centers and the National Health Service, an organization linked to the Ministry of Health. The economic crisis that hit the country in the 1970s, however, and the anti-statist philosophy of the military regime, severely reduced services of the state social security.


The educational legislation of 1965 established the mandatory schooling of all Chileans (teaching decree between 7 and 15 years old), and promoted the renewal of pedagogical methods and school programs.

The first educational cycle, called basic education, runs from 7 to 12 years old and consists of three degrees, with two courses each. To cover the mandatory time, a fourth degree, the professional, is added. At the end of the first cycle, students choose between general high school, technical or professional, which lasts six years. Higher education is provided at eight university centers, of which two universities are public (Universidad de Chile and Universidad Técnica, both in Santiago), two are Catholic (Santiago and Valparaíso) and four are lay and private (Valparaíso, Concepción, Valdivia and Antofagasta). The country has a series of professional schools dedicated to the teaching of commerce, industry and fine arts.

Chile Overview