Chile

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Chile is a long, narrow country stretching from Atacama Desert to Antarctica, and between Andes Mountains and Pacific Ocean — such varied topography and climes also contributing to a broad cultural variance. Two centuries of colonisation by Catholic Spain — from which the indigenous Mapuche managed to remain independent, an earlier dominance of Incan civilisation, and a 20th century leftist dictatorship have all left their cultural mark. 69536529_482664168957786_2035442262078390272_n

Chilean culture is often associated with the Andes mountains — but with 4,270 km of coastline, there is also a powerful marine influence. The early Mapuche peoples traded with Polynesians, according to recently discovered anthropological evidence; the seafaring Spanish found it all too tempting to take control of the country. Today, this gives the nation a particular responsibility for environmental concerns including climate change, and the capital of Santiago will host the 25th Convention on Climate [COP25] in December of this year.

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The indigenous peoples of Chile, today representing 10% of the country’s total population, is richly diverse. With 9 groups in total, the continuously independent Mapuche by far the largest at 85% of the total, the country established a special commission and protective law in 1993. Discrimination and marginalization remain, however, as they are not recognized by the constitution itself, and the law does not meet international standards.

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The Pre-Colombian civilisations of Chile were culturally rich, representing 10 peoples gathered in 3 regions. Early mythologies were animistic, with a shamanic healing tradition of ‘matchitun’ among the Mapuche that exists to today. This early mask, likely shamanic and dated 400BCE – 500CE, is from the Moche people of the north — who also lived in Peru. Incans came much later, their rule brief: 1470s-1530s.

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The arts, including street art as seen here, have flourished throughout Chile’s history, from Pre-Colombian era to the present day. Music and dance, literature — especially poetry, and visual arts all share a place of value within the culture, to which film was added in earliest 20th century.

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It’s now 46 years since General Pinochet’s dictatorship of Chile began, and he died in 2006 — but the horrors of his US-backed presidency and the destructiveness it inflicted on the society continue to define Chilean culture today. Social conflict and trauma are said to take up to 5 generations to heal — and the impunity of Pinochet and his cronies, despite multiple findings by both Chilean and international courts, has served to keep the wound open — with missing people and unanswered questions even now.

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The Pinochet legacy of societal disintegration and human rights violations has contributed to poverty and social ills in Chile even today. In 2014, the nation established a system for social protection — yet some remain on the margins of society. Chile Solidario is one of the more successful programs of social protection today — but even in the capital of Santiago, homelessness remains an issue.

~EWP