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The Americas

South American States


Realm of Chile / Kingdom of Chile (Spanish Empire)
AD 1540 - 1818

When Christopher Columbus first landed in the Bahamas on 12 October 1492 he began a process of colonisation and empire-building on the part of Spain. By 5 December 1492, Columbus had arrived at western Hispaniola, where he founded the colony of La Navidad and became its first viceroy. Then he sailed to eastern Cuba. This became the launch-pad for the creation of New Spain within the Spanish Colonies, formed when the greatest Aztec city, Tenochtitlan, was defeated in 1521. European colonisation of central and South American could begin in earnest.

Chile is the long strip of land down the Pacific coast of South America. Human occupation can be dated back to at least 10,500 BC and people of the Western Stemmed tradition. The region was first entered by a now united-Spain's conquistadors in 1535, when Diego de Almagro led his men south from Peru in search of gold. Almagro had taken part in the conquest of Peru, during which he had captured amazing wealth. This allowed him to finance a new expedition at great expense, although it proved more difficult than expected to cross the Andes Mountains. Reaching the other side, the territory that would become Chile was claimed for Spain, but Almagro found no gold and the hostility of the natives eventually persuaded him to return to Peru.

In 1536 a fresh expedition was led by Pedro de Valdivia, and this followed a different route through the Atacama Desert, and strived harder to establish friendly relations with the natives. An advantageous location was eventually found in the River Mapocho valley. In 1540 the Spanish Realm or Kingdom of Chile was officially created as an administrative division of the viceroyalty of Peru, and administered locally by royal governors. Valdivia founded the capital of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura on 12 February 1541.

Ships of the Spanish empire

1540 - 1547

Pedro de Valdivia

First governor of Chile.


Pedro de Valdivia campaigns against the native tribes, who have begun to resist these invaders from the growing Spanish Colonies. While he is away from Santiago, the Michimalonco natives attack the capital and a desperate defence is led by Valdivia's mistress, Ines de Suarez.

Although the natives are held off for long enough so that Valdivia can return and push them back, the city is almost entirely destroyed by fire. Rebuilding commences only slowly, and is under permanently armed guard, facing the constant threat of attack from the increasingly organised natives.

1546 - 1547

It is only by 1546 that Valdivia is able to fully pacify the territory surrounding the city. The following year he returns to Peru in search of reinforcements and supplies, leaving Villagra as governor.

Andes Mountains
The very nature of Chile's topography made it one of the toughest parts of South America for the Spanish to conquer

1547 - 1549

Francisco de Villagra

Lieutenant governor.

1549 - 1553

Pedro de Valdivia

Second term of office.

1549 - 1553

Returning to Chile, Valdivia campaigns south, facing heavy resistance from the native population. In 1550 he founds Concepcion on land conquered from the Araucanian people, but their will to resist is far from broken. They unite under the leadership of Caupolican and, in 1553, Valdivia is ambushed at the Battle of Tucapel and killed.


Rodrigo de Quiroga

Interim governor.

1553 - 1555

Francisco de Villagra

Second term of office, this time as full governor.

1555 - 1556

The cities of the colony are self-governing during the period in which the position of governor is disputed, as Villagra's governorship is not officially recognised. The Real Audiencia in Peru reaches a settlement.

1556 - 1557

Francisco de Villagra

Restored to office.

1557 - 1561

Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza

1561 - 1563

Francisco de Villagra

Third term of office.


Villagra's arrival by ship for the start of his third term of office also brings with it the smallpox virus. An epidemic grips the Spanish cities in Chile, but it affects the Mapuche natives even worse, wiping out up to a quarter of their entire population.

1563 - 1565

Pedro de Villagra


1565 - 1567

Rodrigo de Quiroga

Interim governor for the second time.

1567 - 1568

The Real Audiencia of Chile temporarily governs the colony after removing Quiroga from office while he is campaigning in the south. However, their own choice, Saravia, comes into dispute with them, so he is in turn replaced by Quiroga.

1568 - 1575

Melchor Bravo de Saravia

1575 - 1580

Rodrigo de Quiroga

Former interim governor.

1580 - 1583

Martin Ruiz de Gamboa

Interim governor.

1583 - 1592

Alonso de Sotomayor


Pedro de Viscarra

Lieutenant governor.

1591 - 1598

Martin Garcia de Onaz y Loyola

Ambushed and killed.

1598 - 1600

Loyola is killed at the Battle of Curalaba in December 1598, when Mapuche people led by Pelantaru surprise the governor and his small force of fifty men, killing most of them. This ends the 'Conquista' period in colonial Chile and greatly encourages the natives to launch a long-prepared general uprising. Over the next few years the Mapuche Revolt sees much of Spanish Chile destroyed by the natives.

1598 - 1599

Pedro de Viscarra

Interim governor.

1599 - 1600

Francisco de Quinonez

Began to stabilise Mapuche Revolt but still suffered heavy losses.

1600 - 1601

Alonso Garcia Ramon

Interim governor.

1601 - 1605

Alonso de Rivera / Ribera

Interim governor.

1605 - 1610

Alonso Garcia Ramon

Second term of office. Died 1610.


A force of around 500 Spaniards under Garcia Ramon defeat a Mapuche army of around 6,000 at the Battle of Boroa. Fort San Ignacio de la Redencion is constructed near Boroa but is soon abandoned after most of its garrison is ambushed.


The illness and death of Garcia Ramon encourages the Mapuche to rise up again and take advantage of his replacement.

1610 - 1611

Luis Merlo de la Fuente Ruiz de Beteta

1611 - 1612

Juan Jara Quemada

Interim governor.

1612 - 1617

Alonso de Rivera / Ribera

Former interim governor. Died 1617.

1617 - 1618

Fernando Talaverano Gallegos

1618 - 1620

Lope de Ulloa y Lemos

1620 - 1621

Cristobal de la Cerda y Sotomayor

1621 - 1624

Pedro Osores de Ulloa

1624 - 1628

Luis Fernandez de Cordoba

1629 - 1639

Francisco Lasso de la Vega

1639 - 1646

Francisco Lopez de Zuniga

1646 - 1649

Martin de Mujica

1649 - 1650

Alonso de Figueroa y Cordoba

1650 - 1655

Antonio de Acuna y Cabrera

1655 - 1658

Pedro Porter Casanate

1658 - 1663

Diego Gonzalez Montero

1663 - 1668

Francisco de Meneses

1668 - 1672

Diego Davila Coello y Pacheco

1672 - 1682

Juan Henriquez


Antonio de Isasa

Granted the post but died before he could take office.


Marcos Garcia de Rabanal

Granted the post but died before he could take office.

1682 - 1692

Jose de Garro

Previously governor of Rio de la Plata.

1692 - 1700

Tomas Marin de Poveda

1700 - 1709

Francisco Ibanez de Peralta

1709 - 1717

Juan Andres de Ustariz

1717 - 1737

Gabriel Cano y Aponte

1737 - 1744

Jose Antonio Manso de Velasco

Became viceroy of Peru (1745).

1745 - 1755

Domingo Ortiz de Rosas

1755 - 1761

Manuel de Amat y Junyent

1761 - 1768

Antonio Guill y Gonzaga


Juan de Balmaceda y Censano

Interim governor.

1768 - 1773

Francisco Javier de Morales y Castejon

1773 - 1780

Agustin de Jauregui y Aldecoa

First captain-general (from 1776). Became viceroy of Peru (1780).


The southern territories of Peru are incorporated into the new viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, and this includes Chile, although it loses some provinces in the administrative reshuffle.

1780 - 1783?

Tomas Alvarez de Acevedo

1783? - 1787

Ambrosio de Benavides

1788 - 1796

Ambrosio O'Higgins

Became viceroy of Peru (1796).


Under Irish-born Captain-General Ambrosio O'Higgins the captaincy general becomes autonomous and is withdrawn from the control of the viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata. Chile is still relatively unadvanced when compared to Peru but that does not diminish the growing demands for independence from its colonial settlers.

1796 - 1799

Gabriel de Aviles y del Fierro

Became viceroy of Rio de la Plata (1799) & Peru (1801).

1799 - 1802

Joaquin del Pino

Became viceroy of Rio de la Plata (1801).

1802 - 1808

Luis Munoz de Guzman

1808 - 1810

Francisco Antonio Garcia Carrasco


Mateo de Toro Zambrano y Ureta

First count of the Conquista.

1810 - 1812

Various wars of independence break out across the Spanish Americas, and Peru serves as a centre for the royalist opposition to these revolts. The viceroy, Abascal, reincorporates the Spanish Colonial provinces of Chile, Cordoba, La Paz and Potosi (the latter two in modern Bolivia), and Quito (part of New Granada). To the east of Chile, Rio de la Plata is lost as the United Provinces of South America are formed.

Battle of El Roble
The Battle of El Roble was fought between the Chilean forces and the Royalists on the River on 17 October 1813, ending with the latter being defeated

A provisional government of independence is also formed in Chile, initially to reaffirm Spanish rule in the face of the French occupation of Spain, but it eventually sparks the Chilean War of Independence, and Mateo de Toro Zambrano y Ureta is voted its first president, although his early death at the age of eighty-three prevents him playing any role in the war. The remaining captain generals of Chile fight in opposition to the independence government.

1812 - 1813

Manuel Antonio Pareja

Died shortly after pneumonia and defeated in battle.


The Spanish government makes its first attempt to reconquer Chile, sending an expedition south from Peru. Things don't go entirely their way, with the Chilean forces under Jose Miguel Carrera and Bernado O'Higgins managing to hold their own in a series of small battles and sieges.

1813 - 1814

Juan Francisco Sanchez

1814 - 1817

A fresh Spanish attack which ignores the treaty of 1814 surprises the Chilean forces and sweeps them into Argentina, where they remain for three years while the Royalists take control of Chile.


Gabino Gainza y Fernandez de Medrano

Later first president of Central America (1821).

1814 - 1815

Mariano Osorio

1815 - 1817

Francisco Marco del Pont Angel Diaz

Defeated at the Battle of Chacabuco.


Bernado O'Higgins returns with Argentine support and manages to begin to secure Chile for the republic with a strong victory at the Battle of Chacabuco.


Mariano Osorio


Mariano Osorio is victorious at the Second Battle of Cancha Rayada on 18 March 1818 while O'Higgins is injured in the arm. However, the Battle of Maipu on 5 April is a disaster for the Spanish, ending any hopes of reconquering Chile.

Modern Chile
AD 1818 - Present Day

Located in South America, the long coastal strip of territory which forms Chile lies between the southern Andes and the Pacific Ocean. It borders Peru and Bolivia to the north, and Argentina to the east. Its capital is Santiago, located in the upper central region of the country.

There is evidence of humans living in southern Chile around 10,500 BC, immediately after the disappearance of the Clovis culture. They appear to have been an entirely separate group of migrant-descendants, due to the lack of cultural similarities with the Clovis people. Instead they, and a long western coastline of similar groups, are seen as being part of the Western Stemmed tradition.

During its drive towards independence during the wars of the early nineteenth century, Chile's rebel forces were led by Jose de San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins, the colourful illegitimate Irish-Spanish son of a former captain-general of Chile. He grew up in Chile but completed his studies in England, and returned to Chile to become a gentleman farmer on his late father's lands. When the country began its path towards independence, he joined the anti-Royalist faction in an increasingly influential role.

(Additional information from External Link: Chile's political establishment swept away, Kirsten Sehnbruch (The Guardian).)

1810 - 1814

The provisional government of Chile manages the organisation and defence of the country in the face of Spanish attacks from Peru. In 1814, the junta is disposed of by Francisco de la Lastra on 14 March 1814 and he is overthrown by Jose Miguel Carrera on 23 July 1814, who is opposed by Bernado O'Higgins, albeit ineffectually.


Francisco de la Lastra

Leader, Chilean provisional republic.


Jose Miguel Carrera

Leader, Chilean provisional republic. Executed by O'Higgins, 1821.

1814 - 1818

A fresh Spanish attack which ignores the treaty they had signed that very year surprises the Chilean forces and sweeps them into Argentina, where they remain for three years while the Royalists take control of the country. In 1817, O'Higgins returns with Argentine support and manages to secure Chile for the republic with a strong victory at the Battle of Chacabuco, a defeat at the Second Battle of Cancha Rayada in 1818, and a final victory at the Battle of Maipu.


Jose de San Martin

First supreme dictator of Chile but declined to take power.

1818 - 1823

Bernado O'Higgins

Son of captain-general, Ambrosio O'Higgins. Second dictator.

1821 - 1824

The Spanish vice-regents in Peru are defeated and agree to leave Peruvian territories by 1824, ending the Spanish fight to retain its South American colonies. In Chile, O'Higgins oversees a successful and productive start to the republic, but later differences of opinion and increasing alienation of the landowners see him removed in a coup.


Agustin Eyzaguirre

President of the interim governing junta.

1823 - 1826

Ramon Freire

Dictator and former supporter of O'Higgins. Resigned.

1826 - 1827

Manuel Blanco Encalada

Admiral and self-titled 'president of the republic'.


Ramon Freire

Restored by a revolution. Confirmed as president and resigned.


With the establishment of a presidential style of government in 1827, Freire's resignation allows a new president to be freely elected in the form of Francisco Antonio Pinto, who promptly resigns just two weeks after being elected. Nevertheless, the system remains in place for almost all of Chile's subsequent history.

1836 - 1839

The dictator of Peru is defeated and executed by Bolivian forces which invade the country. The subsequent Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation creates tension between it and Chile and this leads to the latter declaring war on 28 December 1836. Chile's ally, the Argentine confederation, follows suit on 9 May 1837. Eventual defeat for Bolivia comes in 1839.

1879 - 1883

Chile is victorious against Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific, gaining the provinces of Arica and Tarapaca.


Chile annexes Easter Island. This South American nation, which is located far to the east of Easter Island, allows a Scots company to manage the island as a giant sheep ranch until 1958.


Peru's border with Bolivia is ratified with the Treaty of Polo-Bustamante which formally partitions Lake Titicaca, and also marks the boundary with Tacna (which until then had been part of Chile).

1917 - 1918

Unlike many of its neighbours in the Americas, Chile remains neutral during the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire.


The resignation of the president, Juan Esteban Montero, forces the creation of a military junta which elects General Arturo Puga Osorio to lead it. A new president is democratically elected and governs the republic from 13 September 1932.


Arturo Puga Osorio

President of the government junta, 4-16 Jun.


Carlos Davila

President of the government junta, 16 Jun-8 Jul.


Chile joins the Second World War as an ally of the USA and Great Britain on 11 April 1945 against Japan and Germany.


The native Rapanui on Easter Island rebel, with the result that they obtain Chilean citizenship, and win the right to elect their own mayor. Within about thirty years they begin to enjoy a boom in fortunes and numbers, with the island's population reaching five thousand in 2012, although fewer than half are Rapanui.

1973 - 1974

A US-backed coup which is led by Augusto Pinochet, commander-in-chief of the Chilean army, deposes the democratically-elected president on 11 September 1973. The former president, Salvador Allende, dies the same night, apparently by his own hand. A military junta which is headed by Pinochet elects him as 'president', although in reality he is a military dictator who governs by means of mass incarcerations and unexplained deaths and disappearances.

Santiago in Chile
The twenty-first century Santiago in Chile, nestling in the shadow of the mountains, is one of South America's most modern cities

1974 - 1990

Augusto Pinochet

Military dictator. Died 2006.


After the occupation by Argentina of the Falkland Islands, Peru promises support while Chile sides with Britain.


Pinochet steps down voluntarily and peacefully after voting himself immunity from prosecution. He remains commander-in-chief of the army until 1998, while Chile's republic is restored.

2020 - 2021

In October after twelve months of almost continuous protests, Chileans vote overwhelmingly in a national referendum in favour of establishing a new constitution. This result finally sounds the death knell of a constitution that had been instituted by General Pinochet in 1980.

At the end of May 2021, the members are elected for the constituent assembly which will be charged with writing this new constitution in a democratic process. In a political landscape in which democratic power has long been rigged so that left and right coalitions have obtained roughly half the votes, the election results are nothing short of an earthquake: support for the right-wing coalition of President Sebastián Piñera plummets to 24% of the vote as the electorate swings heavily to the centre-left or far left.

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