Chile extends in a ribbon down the west coast of South America. It returned to elected civilian rule in 1989 after a referendum forced out military dictator General Pinochet.
Geography: Fertile valleys in the center between the coast and the Andes. Atacama Desert in north. Deep-sea channels, lakes, and fjords in south.
Climate: Arid in the north. Hot, dry summers and mild winters in the center. Higher Andean peaks have glaciers and year-round snow. Very wet and stormy in the south.
People and Society: Most people are of mixed Spanish–Amerindian descent, and are highly urbanized. Almost a third of the population live in Santiago, many in large slums. There are three main indigenous groups, including the Rapa Nui of Easter Island. General Pinochet’s dictatorship was brutally repressive, but the business and middle classes prospered
The Economy: World’s biggest copper producer. Growth in foreign investment due to political stability. Exports include wine, fish-meal, fruits, and salmon.
Insight: Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth
Official Name: Republic of Chile
Date of Formation: 1818
Population: 17 million
Total Area: 292,258 sq. miles (756,950 sq. km)
Density: 59 people per sq. mile
Languages: Spanish*, Amerindian languages
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, other and nonreligious 20%
Ethnic Mix: Mixed and European 90%, other Amerindian 9%, Mapuche 1%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Chilean peso = 100 centavos