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Chile is a country in South America occupying a long and narrow coastal strip wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific forms the country's entire western border. Chile's unusual, ribbon-like shape gives it a hugely varied climate, ranging from desert in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to a snow-prone Alpine climate in the south. The central area dominates the country in terms of population and agricultural resources and was the cultural and political centre from which Chile expanded. Southern Chile is rich in forests and has a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of channels, peninsulas and islands.

History of Chile

Early European visitors to Chile had been explorers such as Magellan who made no attempt to settle and rule the country. Chile was settled by the Spanish Empire in 1540 by Valdivia who was a lieutenant of Pizarro during the conquest of Peru. He founded the city of Santiago which became capital of the new colony. Chile became part of the Spanish Vice-Royalty of Peru. Although the Spanish did not find the gold or silver they sought, they did find that the country was suitable for agriculture. The rest of the country was only gradually occupied.

The movement for independence from Spain was precipitated by usurpation of the Spanish throne by Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Joseph in 1808. A national junta was formed in 1810 which proclaimed Chile to be an autonomous republic under the Spanish Crown. After that a movement for total independence from Spain was started. Spanish attempts to re-impose arbitrary rule led to a war of independence.

Intermittent warfare continued until 1817, when an army led by Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martín crossed the Andes into Chile and defeated the royalists. In 1818, Chile became an independent republic under O'Higgins' leadership.

In order to defend the new country from Spanish attempts to reassert control, O'Higgins developed the Chilean navy with Lord Cochrane as admiral. In 1820, Cochrane captured Valdivia. He also cut out the frigate Esmeralda, the strongest Spanish naval ship in the country. Later Cochrane attempted but failed to capture Chiloé Island the last Spanish stronghold in Chile.

In 1820, San Martín and O'Higgins decided assist the rebels in overthrowing the Viceroyalty of Peru. They sent a fleet and army commanded by San Martín and Cochraneto Peru. However, the Cochrane's dash conflicted with San Martín's caution and the attempt was unsuccessful until Bolivar replaced San Martin.

In the Canon

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