The long, thin landmass that makes up the South American nation of Chile has a rich and vibrant history. From significant archaeological discoveries, to ancient civilisations, to turbulent 20th-century politics, Chile is a country full of fascinating heritage and interesting trivia. However, before you delve deeper on your Chilean adventure, it’s good to know some basics. Here, we’ll run you through five top Chile fun facts in our crash course to this beautiful county’s history.
1. The first Chileans
The first of our Chile fun facts is a discovery that astounded archaeologists in the 1980s. Hidden in marshy grassland near Monte Verde, is a 12,5000-year-old footprint. This small mark threw into question the ‘Clovis paradigm’, which claims man didn’t populate the Americas until he crossed Bering land bridge in Alaska about 11,500 years ago. The discovery laid the path for a number of new ideas about the Americas’ first inhabitants and their journey to the continent.
2. The world’s oldest mummies
Before colonisation, a number of different indigenous peoples lived in Chile. One of the most famous of these cultures were the Chinchorro, who were sedentary fisherman that lived in southern Peru and northern Chile. The Chinchorro are most notable for being the culture that created the world’s oldest intentionally preserved mummies. For example, whilst the oldest mummy found in Egypt dates from approximately 3000 BC, the earliest Chinchorro mummy is from about 5050 BC.
3. Chile’s ill-fated conquistador
The first Spaniard to set foot in Chile was Diego de Almagro in 1535. However, Diego chose a treacherous route through the Andean mountain passes from Peru. Subsequently, his expedition was a disaster, where many men and horses froze to death. However, his retreat north back towards Lima laid the way for a Pedro de Valdivia, who journeyed through the deserts to the Mapocho Valley where he founded the city of Santiago on 12 February 1541.
4. The Irishman who became Chile’s first president
Chile became an independent country in 1810. The Spanish were defeated in The Battle of the Andes by Argentine liberator José de San Martín and a man with a very unusual name – Bernardo O’Higgins. The illegitimate son of a noble Irish emigreé, O’Higgins became the Chilean republic’s first supreme director. However, the landowning gentry forced out O’Higgins in 1823 as they objected to his plan to abolish titles, limit inheritance and raise taxes.
5. Marxism in Chile
Left-wing, Marxist political ideas gained popularity in Latin America during the 20th century as many of the continent’s economies struggled. In 1970, Salvador Allende became the first Marxist to be democratically elected as president in a non-communist country. However, Chile’s socialist government wasn’t going to last. In 1973, Allende was murdered in a violent military coup led by the notorious dictator General Pinochet.
More Chile fun facts to discover…
General Pinochet’s dictatorship came to an end in 1988. Since, Chile has flourished as a forward-thinking, modern Latin American democracy. With so much fascinating history, vibrant culture, delicious cuisine and incredible landscape, the country is a must for any intrepid explorer – with plenty more Chile fun facts to find on your journey.