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Serving as a sort of frontier garrison, the colony found itself with the mission of forestalling encroachment by both the Mapuche and Spain's European enemies, especially the British and the Dutch.Buccaneers and English adventurers menaced the colony in addition to the Mapuche, as was shown by Sir Francis Drake's 1578 raid on Valparaíso, the colony's principal port.Although the Spanish did not find the extensive gold and silver they sought, they recognized the agricultural potential of Chile's central valley, and Chile became part of the Spanish Empire.Conquest took place gradually, and the Europeans suffered repeated setbacks.Settlement sites from very early human habitation include Monte Verde, Cueva del Milodon and the Pali Aike Crater's lava tube.The Incas briefly extended their empire into what is now northern Chile, but the Mapuche (or Araucanians as they were known by the Spaniards) successfully resisted many attempts by the Inca Empire to subjugate them, despite their lack of state organization.Spain conquered and colonized the region in the mid-16th century, replacing Inca rule in the north and centre, but failing to conquer the independent Mapuche who inhabited what is now south-central Chile.
Subsequent major insurrections took place in 1598 and in 1655.
Currently it also has the lowest homicide rate in South America.
Chile is a founding member of the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands, and features a string of volcanoes and lakes.
The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas, and islands.
The arid Atacama Desert in northern Chile contains great mineral wealth, principally copper.