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Chile, History

The first European to visit what is now Chile was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who landed at Chiloe Island following his voyage, in 1520, through the strait that now bears his name. The region was then known to its native population as Tchili, a Native American word meaning “snow.” At the time of Magellan’s visit, most of Chile south of the Rapel River was dominated by the Araucanians, a Native American tribe remarkable for its fighting ability. The tribes occupying the northern portions of Chile had been subjugated during the 15th century by the Incas of Peru. In 1535, after the Spanish under Francisco Pizarro had completed their conquest of Peru, Diego de Almagro, one of Pizarro’s aides, led a gold-hunting expedition from that country overland into Chile. The expedition spent nearly three fruitless years in the country and then withdrew to Peru.

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