History of Chile essay

Chile is one of the few countries that are of Indian origin. This fact made an impact on the development of the country and shaped its identity. Chile’s indigenous peoples, mainly, the Mapuche, created a developed society with its complicated military, social, and religious organization in the pre-Columbian times. Presently, the Mapuche people struggle to retain their cultural and social elements along with the ethnic identities that distinguish them from the European ancestry. Like other indigenous nations, the Mapuche remember their ancient language, Mapudungu, and continue to use it for various ceremonies. Historically, Mapuche Indians protected their land from the Inca invasion and Spanish conquistadors. As a result, Spanish gained control over the land after centuries of resistance but the Mapuche still manage to keep a part of their territory where they try to maintain their usual style of life. The paper describes the main aspects of the Mapuche society, and emphasizes on the devotion to the land on the territory of Chile.

History of Chile

The modern world created technologically-based societies which are rapidly developing now. History remembers different stories and events that still have a great impact on different countries. In this context, Chile is one of the countries that were politically and socially shaped by the native population. Hence, the current paper discusses the history of Chile and focuses on the first inhabitants of the Indian origin, their military organization and social order, religion, and other aspects that characterize indigenous people of Chile. The accent is namely placed on the Mapuche population that presents the majority of the Indians.

The Indians’ Origin

Presumably, the name Chile is originated from the native word Aymará that means the “land where the earth ends”. This term also defined the nation that inhabited Chile in past times. It should be noted that Chile consisted of such Indian groups as: the Aymara, the Mapuche, Kaweskar, the Quechua, the Yamana, and the Tiwanaku. The paper depicts the life of the Mapuche Indians because they constitute “the country’s largest Native American population” of about 500,000 people that is approximately 7 percent of the population. Chile also has the European ancestry including Spanish, German, British, Italian, Palestinian communities and others. However, it was the group of native Indians that formed the identity of Chile and created the image of the country that incorporates the traditions and believes of the Mapuche. Besides, the importance of the Mapuche ancestry is based on their connection to the past. They managed to keep most of the traditions alive. For example, the Mapuche population speaks Spanish, but can even speak or understand Mapudungu, the ancestral language of the country that the Indians consider to be the language of the universe. 

Before the Mapuche Indians claimed the land of Chile as their own, other tribes have lived there. It is estimated that Chile was inhabited by the first nomadic tribes since 14,000 B.C. and by the end of “the second century of the Common Era, the Mapuche group had established itself as the main tribe of the area”. The Mapuche shared the territory with other tribes and existed mostly in peace until Spanish conquistadors forced them to live in different social and economic environment. The Indians have resisted for a long period of time and managed to survive a number of disasters (for example, spread of diseases) due to their effective organization on different levels: military, social, industrial, and others.  

Military Organization

The Indian tribes were strong groups of people who succeeded in repulsing Spanish conquerors. As a matter of fact, they were able to defend the land for more than three centuries. At the end of the fifteenth century, the Mapuche Indians became tenacious warriors who resisted Inca conquests. The first invasion of Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui was repelled by the Mapuche. The second one prepared by the son of Yupanqui, Huayna Cápac, was also confronted by the Indians in 1491. A military success of the Mapuche, however, was based on their excellent organization.

In case of a conflict, the Mapuche reformed their social order in a way that allowed them being prepared for the battles. They leaved in separate tribes but in times of war they united. As a result, larger groups required a new leadership, so they chose the one member of the group they could follow. The official title of a warrior leader was toque or toki that means “axe-bearer”. Therefore, the approach that is based on the unity and people’s spirit helped them to force Spanish conquistadors retreat. Once, when Spanish tried to claim the land of the Mapuche, the Indians rebelled and started to burn everything that was built by the colonizers. The rebellion was “the beginning of the Arauco War, in which Spain was forced to maintain a professional army to guard its territorial borders and to recognize Mapuche autonomy within indigenous lands” Nevertheless, Spanish needed to control the land and wanted to “civilize” the indigenous people. These attempts were undertaken during the campaign for the “Pacification of the Araucanía Region” in 1882. It was a violent confrontation that had the adverse consequences. For example, the Mapuche lost most of their territory and with this decline came the loss of the chiefs’ authority and the breakdown of society. Presently, people in Chile are proud to have Indian roots. It is a common tradition for Chileans to name their children after great “leaders such as Lautaro, Lincoyán, Tucapel, or Caupolicán”. Therefore, it is important to consider the most famous and respected leaders of the Mapuche people. 

The Mapuche Conquerors

People remember the stories that are dated back to the Araucanian Wars and severe conflicts between the Indians and Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish forces were led by Pedro de Valdivia who managed to occupy central Chile in 1541. This conqueror has captured some of the Mapuche. Among them was Lautaro, a young toque. The name Lautaro means “swift hawk”, and it became famous after this boy escaped from de Valdivia. Lautaro applied his knowledge of the Spanish language and their military tactics to fight the usurpers. Even though he died on the battlefield, the war continued. Right after Mapuche Indians chose another powerful leader. It was Caupolicán who inspired the Indians to fight for their land and independence. He is regarded as a brave commander of the Mapuche army. Admittedly, Caupolicán and Lautaro are vivid examples of the spirit of the indigenous people who value their traditions, culture, and religion.

Religion of the Mapuche

People around the world have different religious practices. The religion of the indigenous people is an interesting subject of discussion as it helps to understand the world according to their vision. Generally, tribes have worshiped numerous gods. In case of the Mapuche, a whole family of gods is idolized. Apart from the god of the sky, Chau or Nguenechen, there are other beings like Nguenechen, Ngunemapun, Elmapun, Kushe, and Elchen. The Indians also have the higher authority, the Pillán, who is believed to be the primary figure and the founder of the Mapuche people. For instance, shamans are the people in Mapuche tribes,  who are responsible for contacts with spirits and gods.

The Mapuche Indians practice cosmology as the basis of religious beliefs. The cosmovision involves the notion of duality. The Indians perceived the world (mapu) as the opposition of left (all the inferior things) and right (the superior things). The opposition forms a four-part system that may be “seen in religious rites, in which Mapuche shamans (machi) invoke the four great deities: the Elder Male, the Elder Female, the Young Male, and the Young Female”. The elements of the system correspond to four heavens that are symbolized in various rituals and ceremonies. For example, one of the most important ceremonies is the Nguillatún or rogativa, and it is associated with the prayers and dances that symbolize four heavens. The Mapuche also respect their dead and have performed special rituals for funerals. In old times, the Indians used canoes or stone boxes to bury people. The most common form of a ritual was a funeral urn put directly in the ground.

Social Organization

The Mapuche have their specific social order. The Indians live in small groups with a polygamous kinship system. In early times, the lineage could be traced through the male line (a patrilineal system). After the sixteenth century, Mapuche community was influenced by Spanish who wanted to civilize the native population, and the system of the social order started to change. Thus, in the nineteenth century, the Mapuche were reorganized with accordance to a protectorate that was introduced to integrate the Indians into Chilean society as a working unit. The Mapuche had little in common with other people and “had no similar concept or practice prior to the establishment of the reductional regime”. Nowadays, Mapuche society is a group of people that “reside in the working class neighborhoods of large cities”. However, they try to reestablish a cultural ancestry and keep the indigenous ethnic identity.


The Mapuche people sustain themselves with the food that is given by the earth. They are known to be farmers. Even in the twenty-first century, some of the Mapuche Indians continue to live in reservation where the way of life has not changed much since the ancient time. For instance, the Mapuche use the land to grow wheat and other crops. They are vegetarian and prefer different meals with squash, corn, carrots, nuts, and plums that they get from the trees. In this simple food the Mapuche find their connection with the ancestors.

Industry and Commerce

People used the bounty of nature to develop. They depend on the land, and for this reason defended it during the Inca conquests and Spanish invasions. Agriculture is the practice that brings the Mapuche Indians some independence. In the past, the Mapuche were also making pottery and marvelous silver jewelry that could be exchanged for other goods. Commerce was also based on woven textiles made by women. These items ensured the trade for centuries before the European encounter. Additionally, fishing is considered to be a minor industry in Chile. The Indians also have their vineyards and produce wine.

Apart from food and drinks, the land brings its people mineral resources. Chile has the deposits of copper, lithium, and nitrates. Agricultural industry, in its turn, became the second important after the raise of the mining industry. However, copper mines were developed only in the twentieth century. Nowadays, the mineral wealth is a foundation for the export-driven economy. As a further matter, the twenty-first century became a period when the forest industry develops. It is worth mentioning that the Mapuche do not approve the forest industry that prospers in the present.


The history of Chile encounters a number of fascinating stories about the development of a nation. The spirit of people also finds its manifestation in sport. Sport in Chile “dates back centuries to a traditional Mapuche game called “palin”” that bears a close resemblance to hockey. In the course of time, people in Chile became passionate about football. This kind of sport was introduced there by British immigrants who started their club named “Everton” in 1909. Almost fifty years later, in 1962 the World Cup was held in Chile and began a tradition that recognizes football as a national sport. The national football team is “La Roja” and means “the reds”. Its participation was very successful  throughout the World Cup history.

The game that is known as “Battle of Santiago” against Italy is often regarded to as notorious. It turned to be a violent spectacle that resulted in two players, Mario David and Giorgio Ferrini, being removed by the police. Apart from this event, the team managed to take the third place in the 1962 World Cup and the “third place in 1993 under-17s World Cup in Japan, in 2007 under-20s World Cup in Canada, and the bronze on the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games”. All the matches are followed by fans that devotedly support La Roja. People enjoy watching players that are known as world-class football stars (for example, Marcelo Salas, Elías Figueroa, Iván Zamorano, and others). La Roja is “in Group B in 2014 alongside Spain, the Netherlands and Australia and, despite the strength of the opposition, they have been tipped as possible dark horses”.The football team adds more stories to the history of the country and brings pride and honor to its people.


Chile is a developing country that demonstrates a huge economic potential. In the past, Chile was a home for various tribes that prospered within its territory. The Mapuche Indians are one the biggest groups of the indigenous people of Chile. It may be concluded that the Indians under consideration are an integral part of Chile due to their history, culture, and traditions. The history of the Mapuche as one of the first inhabitants of the country is rooted in constant struggles and resistance to different attempts of invasions. Besides, the world of the Mapuche was greatly influenced by Spanish conquistadors that wanted to control the land. However, the Mapuche managed to keep their social order and religious traditions that are mainly practiced in reservations. The Indians created a glorious past of the country and try to maintain their power and identity under the circumstances of dynamic economic and social changes.

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History of Chile essay

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