The Latin American State of Chile, an independent Republic since 1818, has an area of some 740,000 square kilometres, and an estimated population (mid-1972) of more than nine million. Yet, in the country’s evolution, size has been less important than shape. With its entire western boundary the Pacific shore-line, and its eastern frontier the mountain chain of the Andes, Chile extends more than 4200 kilometres in length but has an average width of only 200 kilometres, giving the country extraordinary variety of climatic conditions and great diversity of landscape. But, as a political and constitutional unit, Chile has had, for most of its independent history, centralised administration, with the government in Santiago holding the whole country in one single net of authority. The reasons for this paradox are many and involved: they lie, to a large extent, in the simple fact that for three hundred years as a colony of Spain, and for roughly half of its independent life, Chile consisted of a compact block of territory at the heart of the present Republic, some 1000 kilometres long and 200 kilometres wide, and its expansion north and south from this long-standing core in the last hundred years was simply the extension to much larger regions of well-established concepts of government and nationality.1 And that central core remains, as it always has been, the crucial part of the republic, containing today perhaps as much as seventy per cent of the national population.


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© The Estate of Dame Nancy Parkinson 1976

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  • Harold Blakemore

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