International Handbook on Mental Health Policy

By Donna R. Kemp | Go to book overview

4
Chile

Benjamin Vicente and Mabel Vielma


OVERVIEW

Chile is a long, narrow ribbon of land stretching almost 2,700 miles along the west coast of South America. Although it is one of the world's longest countries, its average width is only 100 miles, with a maximum width of only 250 miles.

Chile is wedged between the Andes Mountains on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west and is bordered by Peru on the north and Bolivia and Argentina on the east. It is larger in area than any European country except the former USSR. Southern Chile is an archipelago with Cape Horn at its tip, where the Atlantic merges with the Pacific. Chile has four distinct and well-defined geographic regions divided into thirteen political regions: the northern desert (one- fourth of the country's land area); the high Andean sector; the central valley; and the southern lake district and archipelago.

Chile's population was about 13.17 million in 1990. Unlike most Latin American countries, Chile is mainly urban (79 percent). More than one-third of its people live in the capital ( Santiago) and environs. As in the other developing countries, the population is youthful, with nearly 80 percent of all Chileans under forty years of age and half of the population under twenty-one. Only about 5 percent are sixty-five or over. Chile is one of the more sparsely populated countries of Latin America (about 44 persons per square mile). Its annual population growth rate is slightly over 1.8 percent.

The largest ethnic group is Spanish. Other groups include German, English, Italian, Yugoslav, French, and Arab. The population includes a small number of Indians, but few Asians or blacks. The Indians live mainly south of the Bio-Bio River and in the North. The most important aboriginal group is the Mapuches, also known as Araucanians. Few South American populations are more homogeneous than the Chi

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