Torres del Paine National Park

Why is Chile called Chile?


Origin of the name Chile

Image: Pixabay
    If you have ever wondered about the origin of the name of this long and narrow country in South America, you are not alone. There are many theories and stories about how Chile got its name, but none of them are conclusive or definitive. 

But one thing is clear: Chile is not named because it looks like a chili pepper. It is just a coincidence or a visual metaphor, not a historical reason.

Here are some of the most popular theories about the country's name: 

1. The name "Chile" may have originated from the Mapuche imitation of a bird call, "cheele cheele".

2. Another theory says that the name Chile comes from the word "chili" or "chilli", which was the term used by the indigenous Mapuche people to refer to the land where they lived. The meaning of the word is not clear, but some possible interpretations are "where the land ends", "the deepest point of the Earth", or "sea gulls".
3. It is also possible that the name Chile comes from the word "chin" or "tchili", which means "cold" or "snow" in Quechua or Aymara, two languages spoken by some of the native peoples of the Andes. This could refer to the cold climate and snowy mountains of the southern part of Chile.

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4. A fourth version states that the name Chile would come from the corruption of the name of a tribal chief called Tili, who ruled the valley of the Aconcagua at the time of the Incan conquest in the 15th century. The Incas, who failed to conquer the Araucanians, called this valley "Chili" by mistake.  

5. The word is also supposed to come from the similarity of the valley of the Aconcagua with that of the Casma Valley in Peru, where there was a town and valley named Chili. The Spanish conquistadors, who arrived in Chile in the 16th century, heard this name from the Incas and adopted it for their new colony.

In summary, the name "Chile" has multiple potential origins, including indigenous words, historical figures, and geographical features, reflecting the diverse cultural influences and historical events that have shaped the country.

Random Facts about Chile  

As you can see, there is no consensus on the origin of Chile's name, but there are some facts that are certain:

* Chile is not spelled Chili today, although some people still make this mistake. Chili is a spicy dish or a type of pepper, not a country.
* Chile's official name is República de Chile, or Republic of Chile, and it has been an independent nation since 1818, after declaring its independence from Spain.

Chile is the longest country in the world from north to south, with an approximate longitude of 4,270 km (4,270 miles). Despite its length, it has an average width of only 61 miles (91 kilometers), with a maximum width of 217 miles at the latitude of Antofagasta and a minimum of 9.6 miles near Puerto Natales. Chile's relief is mostly mountainous, with the Andes Mountains dominating the landscape. Due to its extreme longitude, Chile has a wide variety of climates,  from the aridity of the northern desert to the sub-Antarctic cold of the far south.

* More than 1/3 of Chile's population lives in Greater Santiago, the capital city.

* Chile claims part of Antarctica and is considered a "tricontinental" country, exercising sovereignty across three continents: South America, Oceania, and Antarctica.

* Chile is home to the world's biggest swimming pool, located at the San Alfonso del Mar Resort in Algarrobo, about 100 km (62 mi) west of Santiago, with a lenght of 1,013 meters (3,323 feet), covering 8.2 hectares (20 acres). The pool contains 250 million liters (66 million US gallons) of seawater, which is pumped from the adjacent Pacific Ocean, then filtered and treated.

* Chile is known for a traditional beer culture, influenced by German immigrants in the late 19th century.

* Chile is affectionately known by its inhabitants as the "pais de los poetas" or the "country of poets" because two of the country's most well-known and beloved literary figures were the poets and writers Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, who both won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

- Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to set foot on what is now Chile. He visited the land in 1520 during his attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

* Chile is rich in natural beauty, plant and animal life, with scenery as diverse as those of the Atacama Desert, the Andes Mountains, Patagonia and the Antarctic region.

* Chile has a diverse range of national parks and protected areas that showcase the country's unique landscapes and biodiversity. More than 21% of Chile's land area and 42% of its maritime areas are covered by protected areas, making it one of the world leaders in terms of safeguarded territory.

There is a total of 165 protected areas, 145 terrestrial and 20 marine. The country has created six national parks since 2017, expanding its National System of Protected Areas by more than 9 million acres.

Chile's nature reserves are administered by the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) and the Undersecretariat of Fisheries (SUBPESCA).

Among the protected areas are Torres del Paine National Park, known as the Eighth Wonder of the World and Cape Horn National Park in the extreme south, Laguna San Rafael National Park, Rapa Nui National Park in Easter Island, Lauca and Volcán Isluga in the extreme north, among many others.

* In Chile, spouses do not share the same surname. Wives use their single surname.

* Chile hosted the 1962 Soccer World Cup, but tennis is its most successful sport.

* Easter Island, famous for its moai statues, is geographically Polynesian but officially belongs to Chile.

* The oldest mummy in the world is not Egyptian, but Chilean.

* There are approximately 90 active volcanoes in Chile.

* The country's UNESCO World Heritage sites include the Churches of Chiloé Archipelago, the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso, Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works, Rapa Nui National Park, and the Sewell Mining Town.

*  The flags of Texas and Chile bear a striking resemblance that often leads to confusion. Both flags feature a lone star on a blue background with horizontal red and white stripes. The key difference, however, is the left side of the flags and the location of the lone star. The Chilean flag has a long red bar and a blue square, while the Texas flag has equal red and white bars and a more rectangular blue bar. Despite their similarities, the flags have different historical origins. The Chilean flag was adopted in October 1817, while the flag of the current U.S. state was officially adopted on January 24, 1839, after Texas gained independence from Mexico. 
* Chile is a fascinating country with a rich history and culture, and its name reflects some of its diversity and mystery.