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Chile, country of cultural contrasts

Arts & Crafts

Arts and crafts in Chile are not as renowned as in its neighboring countries. However, and mostly because of its cultural diversity, you will find some very beautiful objects:

- Textile products, from north to south, in lama, sheep or alpaca wool. Ponchos, carpets, decorations, no doubt you will find something you like!

- Silver, nickel silver and copper jewelry made by artisans in San Pedro de Atacama.

- Stone sculptures from Toconao, a village close to San Pedro de Atacama.

- Creations inspired by rock art in the villages of the Atacama Desert (mostly, still, in San Pedro de Atacama).

- Pieces of pottery, including the ceramics of Pomaire (central region) and Quinchamalí, in the Mapuche region, close to Chillán.

- Pieces of basketwork, especially in Patagonia.

- Beautiful jewelry, made with lapis lazuli, a stone that is only found in Chile and Afghanistan.

- Many copper objects.


Recommended reading

According to the popular belief, Chile is a country of poets.

Two Nobel Prize in literature were born in Chile: the great Pablo Neruda (“Canto General”, “100 Love Sonnets”) and the poetess Gabriela Mistral (“Despair”).

But we must not forget some other great writers of the Chilean literature:

- Luís Sepulvada: all his work is amazing.

- Fancisco Coloane: “Tierra del Fuego”, “Cape Horn”, “El Guanaco”, a must-read for those who plan to travel in south of Chile.

- Isabel Allende: “The House of Spirits”, “The Stories of Eva Luna”, “Ines of My Soul”.

- Jodorowsky: “Where the Bird Sings Best” but most of all his comics created in collaboration with Moebius.



Chilean Music is very rich and many bands have earned international renowned: Inti Illimani, Quilapayun, Illapu, Ana Tijoux (a Franco-Chilean rapper).

From the 60’, the “Nueva canción chilena” is born, filled with social demands. Many singers will have to leave the country during the Pinochet dictatorship. The greatest representative of the new Chilean music is certainly Violeta Parra. In her peña (her music bar) in Santiago gathered the greatest troubadours of the country, including the famous singer-songwriter Victor Jara, tortured and murdered during the dictatorship because of his work.

The Viña del Mar International Song Festival is a music festival that has been held annually during the 3rd week of February in Viña del Mar, Chile. Started in 1960, it is the largest and best-known music festival in Latin America.


Identity and traditions

Compared with Bolivia, where many ethnic groups and their language are officially recognized by the government, Chile seems to be a very homogenous country. But do not be fooled by appearances! Cultural expressions vary from one region to another, on this territory crossing almost a whole hemisphere.

The North is characterized by the influence of the Andean, Aymara, Quechua, and Atacama cultures mixed with the catholic religion. The Fiesta de la Tirana is the most striking example of this syncretism.

The central region is characterized by its rural traditions. It is considered that this region, which gathers most of the population, is the source of the Chilean’s cultural identity. Important celebrations, like on the day of independence on September 18,  show the strong patriotism of the population.

The Mapuche culture predominates in the Araucania region. Almost a quarter of the Mapuche population is concentrated in Temuco, i.e. about 150,000 people. But just like in the North, in cities like Valdivia, Osorno, Puerto Varas and Llanquihue, the European influence, German in particular, is evident: colonists settled there in the second half of the 19th century to populate the region after a government’s call.

The Chiloe Island (located south of Puerto Montt) has a rich culture and its own mythology.

The southernmost regions, originally populated by four main ethnic groups, were then invaded by European colonists, including Slavs (40 % of the Punta Arenas inhabitants are descendants of Yugoslav settlers).

The Easter Island has a specific culture of Polynesian origin.

However, for the last 50 years, these cultures have been disappearing progressively and the western or occidental culture predominates in town.


Chile’s national emblems

Chile’s national flower is the Copihue (Lapageria rosea), that you can find in the Araucania forests. The Coat of arms represents the two national animals: the condor (a large bird of prey living in the Andes) and the Huemul (a white endangered deer, endemic to Chile). It bears in legend the country’s motto: Por la Razón o la Fuerza ("By reason or force").

The Chilean flag was adopted on October 18, 1817 during the independence process, and shown for the first time to the population on February 12, 1818, day of the proclamation of independence. The current flag was designed by José Ignacio Zenteno, Minister of War under the Bernardo O’Higgings government, and drawn by the Spanish soldier Antonio Arcos.

The red stands for the blood spilled to achieve independence, the blue symbolizes the sky and the Pacific Ocean and the white is for the snow-covered Andes. The five-pointed star is a reference to the powers of the state, which ensures the upholding of the nation. The blue background is exactly a third of the red band.

The first Chilean National Anthem dates back to 1819 and was written by Manuel Robles and the poet Bernardo de Vera y Pintado, after the declaration of independence. In 1846, under the Manuel Bulnes Prieto government, the Independence War is over and some Spanish still living in Chile consider some of the lyrics insulting and hostile towards Spain. Some modifications are made by Eusebio Lillo Robles and validated by Andrés Bello, and this version, still used today, was done by 1847.


Puro Chile, es tu cielo azulado,

Puras brisas te cruzan también,

Y tu campo de flores bordado

Es la copia feliz del Edén

Majestuosa es la blanca montaña

Que te dio por baluarte el Señor, (bis)

Y ese mar que tranquilo te baña

Te promete futuro esplendor.

Coro (chorus):

Dulce Patria, recibe los votos con que Chile en tus aras juró:

Que o la tumba serás de los libres, o el asilo contra la opresión.


How pure, Chile, is your blue sky

And how pure the breezes that blow across you

And your countryside embroidered with flowers

Is a wonderful copy of Eden

How majestic are the snow-covered mountains

That were given to you by God as protection

That were given to you by God as protection

And the sea that tranquilly bathes your shores

Promises future splendor for you

And the sea that tranquilly bathes your shores

Promises future splendor for you.


Beloved Homeland, receive the vows

That Chile gave you on your altars

That you be either the tomb of the free

Or a refuge from oppression

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