"In the beginning of time, God created the wonders of the world. When he finished, however, he saw that he had many leftover pieces. He had parts of rivers and valleys, of oceans and lakes, of glaciers and deserts, of mountains and forests, and of meadows and hills. Rather than to let such beauty go to waste, God put them all together and cast them to the most remote corner of the earth. This is how Chile was born." - Chilean Legend.
Surrounded on three sides by virtually impassable barriers, Chile's rich central valley remained a well-kept secret until the middle of the fifteenth century, when the Incas drove southward in their quest to conquer the whole of the continent. An Inca army succeeded in crossing the Atacama Desert in the northern reaches of Chile, but soon encountered resistance upon reaching the central valley. Defeated by the fierce-fighting Aruacanian Indians, the Incas established a presence in the land already taken but pressed no further into Aruacanian territory.
The Spanish-Portuguese treaty of 1494 granted to Spain all territory west of Brazil. The task of conquering Chile was assigned to Pedro de Valdiva, who led his forces into Chile's fertile Mapacho Valley in 1541. The present day capital city of Santiago was established in that year, with a number of other major cities following soon after. Even the mighty Spanish forces could not overpower the warlike tribes now clustered in the south of the country, leaving those of European blood concentrated in central Chile. When Valdiva did resume his attacks and crossed south into Mapuche (a tribe of Araucanians) territory, he paid with his life. In 1553, the Mapuche bound him to a tree and beheaded him.
Under Spanish colonial rule, northern and central Chile were part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. The south remained under the control of the Aruacanians until almost the nineteenth century. Chile first declared independence in 1810, but the resulting internal instability led to a restoration of Spanish rule in 1814. Within four years a combined Argentinian and Chilean army managed to defeat and drive out the Spanish army, restoring Chile's independence. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia to gain control of the Atacama Desert and its rich mineral deposits.
Although Chile's war of independence brought about a representative democratic government, the country's political history has not always been smooth. Presidential candidate Salvador Allende won the elections in 1970, but was deposed and died in a military coup in September, 1973. Sixteen years of military dictatorship under the rule of General Augusto Pinochet followed, marked by terror and bloodshed. In 1990 Pinochet failed to gain the popular vote, and handed over the presidency to the rightfully-elected Patricio Alywin Azocar. Chile's political climate has since remained stable, though there is still considerable tension between the military and the government concerning the human rights violations of the Pinochet era.