According to Countryaah, Chile’s recent political history has gained a significance that extends far beyond its borders. With the victory, progress and defeat of the People’s Front government in the period 1970-73, Chile became the memorial of our time to the greatest hope and greatest defeat of the socialist and democratic labor movement. While previous generations have devised their strategy and theory in the light of other defeats – for example, the Paris Commune in Marx’s time, the 1905 revolution in Russia in Lenin’s era and the victory of fascism in Germany in the Comintern era- Chile is the defeat and challenge of our generation. The experience of Chile has given rise to a comprehensive strategy debate within the socialist and communist movements in most Western countries with parliamentary democratic traditions. Among other things. in the 1970’s, the Italian Communist Party’s proposal for “the historic compromise” with the Christian Democrats was designed based on the Chilean experience. For other leftist groups and individual theorists, the Chilean events were interpreted as “the final defeat of reformism” and as evidence of the need for a non-parliamentary path for a revolutionary labor movement.
The Chilean events of the 1970’s have also left other traces than just in the socialist strategy debate. In the wake of the 1973 military coup, a comprehensive solidarity movement emerged, forming a worldwide campaign against fascism and US imperialism, in support of Chilean resistance forces.
The fact that Chile has almost become a political concept is due to the dramatic development in the country since 1970. But the background to this newer part of the country’s history is found in fundamental conditions that go far back in time.
The northern part of Chile was the southernmost part of the Incarct in the early 16th century (see Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador). The area between Copiapó in the north and Puerto Montt in the south was inhabited by the Mapuchs, which the European invasion forces called araucanos. Even further to the south, the fishermen lived yamanas and alacalufes.
In 1535, Diego de Almagro from Peru initiated the conquest of Chile with Spanish troops and Native American slaves. He reached 2,500 km to the south, but had to return to bring a revolt among the Spaniards in Lima under control. During the period 1540-58, Pedro de Valdivia established what is today the port city of Valparaíso and a number of other cities, including Santiago. The Mapuches, led by Chief Lautaro, resisted the invasion forces and defeated them on several occasions with strategic tricks they had learned from the Spaniards themselves. Valdivia even died in one of these battles. His successor, Francisco de Villagra, defeated and killed Lautaro in 1557. Governor García de Hurtado attacked and subsequently defeated the Mapuches with the help of the traitor Caupolicán. But the Mapuche revolt continued, and it wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century.
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In 1810, the Santiago city government created an autonomous government. The government was led by José Miguel Carrera, and in 1811 it proclaimed independence with the support of General Bernardo O’Higgins, the son of a former Viceroy of Peru. The war of independence between Republicans and royalists was settled in favor of the former, as they received support from José de San Martín’s forces, who came to the rescue from the other side of the Andean chain. The Spanish forces were finally defeated at the Battle of Maipú on April 5, 1818.