Geography<br />Chile is a large and narrow strip in southwest South America, bounded on the north by Peru,<br />on the east by Bolivia and Argentina, and on the west and south by the Pacific Ocean. Formidable natural barriers are Chile's boundaries, isolating the country from the rest of South America.<br />To the north the arid Atacama Desert separates it from Peru. The high Andes peaks constitute its natural frontier with Bolivia and Argentina. To the south, the cold waters of the Drake Sea announce the nearness of Antarctica.<br />To the west, Chile looks at endless masses of the South Pacific water. Between the huge Andes Mountains (to the east) and the lower Coastal mountains is the great Central Valley, which extends from Salamanca, north of Santiago, for over 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south to Puerto Montt.<br />The country has a total area of 292,260 square miles (756,950 square kilometers) <br />
Culture<br />Chileans don’t think in terms of race or color in the way people frequently do in other Latin American countries with large Amerindian and Afro-American populations<br />Chileans are quite nationalistic and patriotic. This implies, for instance, that the stressing of one's French or German background can be totally counterproductive as this makes the person in a sense "less Chilean." So most nationals prefer not to talk about their cultural roots and very often do not even know their ancestral tree. Chileans are accustomed to national leaders and members of the intellectual elites without Spanish names.<br />
Economy<br />In the mid-1970s, Chile pioneered the adoption of market-oriented structural reforms.<br />For almost two decades Chile was the best performing economy in the region and its economic and financial policy reforms served as an example for other Latin American nations.<br />From 1983 to the late 1990s, Chile experienced constant economic growth at an annual average rate of 6.4 percent.<br />Manufacturing accounts for about 17 percent of the gross domestic product, while agriculture, forestry, and fishing contribute 8 percent and mining another 8 percent.<br />Chile's GDP reached$80 billion (U.S.) in 1997, representing a per capita GDP of $5,700 (U.S.)<br />
Politics/Govornment<br />Chile has had constitutional and democratic governments.<br />In the period 1973–1990 the country experienced a military regime led by General Augusto Pinochet.<br />Since 1990 democratic rule has been restored.<br />The president of the republic is both head of government and chief of state and is elected by direct balloting for a period of six years. <br />The legislative branch consists of a bicameral National Congress.<br />The Senate has forty-seven seats of which thirty-nine are elected by popular vote for a period of eight years.<br />The remaining eight senators are nominated, while former presidents are automatically senators for life.<br />The Chamber of Deputies has 120 members who are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms.<br />
Social Life/ Classes<br />Chile is the most modern country in Latin America and has relatively low levels of poverty. however, Chile however shows the second worst distribution of wealth in the entire region (after Brazil).<br />So while the richest 10 percent of the population obtains 46.1 percent of the national income, the poorest 10 percent gets only 1.4 percent.<br />The Chilean educational system is primarily meritocractic-oriented. For instance, entrance to university is based on the points obtained at a single national academic test.Getting an academic degree or even a good job does not automatically guarantee social acceptance among the middle and upper classes. The same is true for people from lower-class origins who have made money and live in middle- or upper-class neighborhoods<br />
Food<br />Chileans normally eat four times a day.<br />The first meal of the day is breakfast, which mostly consists of toasted bread with butter and instant coffee with milk.<br />Lunch (served between 1:00 and 2:00 P.M. ) is the big meal of the day. Traditionally two main dishes are served. The first course may be a salad. A common salad is the ensaladachilena, including sliced onions, chopped and peeled tomatoes, an oil and vinegar dressing, and fresh cilantro. The second dish generally includes beef or chicken, accompanied by vegetables.<br />Around 5:00 P.M. Chileans take once, an afternoon tea with bread and jam, that often also includes cheeses and palta.<br />Around 9:00 P.M. most families serve dinner, which is usually a single but substantial dish, most often accompanied with wine grown in the many Central Valley vineyards.<br />
Religion<br />A large majority of Chileans (73 percent) are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.<br />About 15 percent of the population identifies itself with several Protestant groups. This includes Anglicans and Lutherans, but the vast majority of Chilean Protestants (90 percent) belong to the Pentecostal Church.<br />Another 4 percent of the population belongs to other religious groups (Jews, Muslims, and Greek Orthodox),<br />8 percent claim not to profess any religion.<br />Chileans profoundly respect the religious beliefs of others, and religion seldom constitutes a source for conflict or disagreement.<br />
Marriage, Family, Kingship<br />Marriage is one of the most significant rites of passage among Chileans<br />Chileans find that a wedding is not really complete without a church ceremony. Everyone is free to marry whomever he or she wants, but because Chile is a class-conscious society, people in general marry persons from similar social and educational backgrounds<br />Wedding parties are mostly organized at home or in a small hall near the church.<br />Commonly, Chileans marry young (in their early or mid-twenties) and tend to have children relatively soon after marriage.<br />Only 12 percent of Chilean women are still single at the age of forty-five. People have quite conventional views about premarital sex, and living together before marriage is still relatively rare (only 3 percent of women between the ages of twenty-five and forty-four).<br />Chile is the only country in Latin America without a divorce law.<br />As this implies a costly legal procedure, many Chileans just informally terminate a marriage, but this bars them from marrying again under Chilean law.<br />
Urbanism, Artitecture<br />Most Chilean towns and cities were originally designed following the classical Spanish pattern. They normally possess a central squarefrom which lanes and streets extend in a straight line to four cardinal points. In the past, the central square was surrounded by a town hall, a Catholic church or cathedral, and houses of notable families.<br />Today there are only a few examples left of colonial architecture. This has largely been the result of earthquakes that frequently hit the country.<br />In addition, since the mid-nineteenth century, many colonial buildings in downtown Santiago have been replaced by newer edifications in neoclassical style. This occurred after many Santiago families who became extremely rich from mining activities in northern Chile constructed large palaces in the Italian and French neoclassical style.<br />Today affluent Santiago citizens live in exclusive neighborhoods close to the foothills of the Andes Mountains in large houses of mainly French and American style. In the large middle-class neighborhoods one finds an ample variety of architectural styles with strong Spanish, French, and British features.<br />
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