Ferdinand Magellan was the first European explorer to visit Chile, setting foot here on October 21, 1520.
In the late 15th century, the Incas extended their empire south, attempting to conquer Chile; they were successful in the north, but their influence (central and south) was limited as they faced fierce resistance from the indigenous Araucanian peoples.
In 1540, the Spanish explorer, Pedro de Valdivia arrived, and later founded the capital city of Santiago in 1541. He managed to control the local Indians, forcing them into hard labor, but in the south, the Araucanians would not budge.
Numerous Spanish settlements were built in central Chile, and their population base eventually exceeded one million. Those initial settlers suffered repeated attacks (often brutal) by Araucanians, and that remained a serious (hard to control) problem into the 19th century.
The colonies secretly detested Spain's military rule, but remained loyal to the Spanish crown for nearly three centuries. When the King of Spain was overthrown at the beginning of the 19th century, Chileans began to consider independence and self-government.
And speaking of freedom, Jose de San Martin, and Bernardo O'Higgins, and their up-start armies drove out the Spanish and achieved their independence from Spain in 1818. Bernardo O'Higgins would later become Chile's first president.
Chile defeated Bolivia and Peru in a regional war (1879-1883) for the control of the Atacama Desert areas. During that war Chile gained more land to the north and Bolivia lost its outlet to the open sea; proving disastrous (even today) for its economy.
Beginning in 1891, and over the next 80 years, Chile was governed by self-serving parliamentary regimes, military rule, left-wing, right-wing parties (including Communists) and a long line of democratically elected presidents.
All remnants of democracy were tossed aside when the repressive military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet began in 1973; finally ending in 1989, when democratic elections were held again
Today, this underdeveloped country with an overdeveloped landscape is primed for the 21st century, as it controls a great portion of the planet's most spectacular scenery, as well as untold natural resources and riches.