Did you know…?
1- Chile’s Biblioteca Nacional (National Library), completed in 1924, has 1.8 million volumes and is the largest national library belonging to a Spanish-speaking country outside of Spain.
2- The Chilean Museo Arqueológico de San Miguel de Azapa is the home of the world’s oldest mummies. The 282 Chinchorro mummies have been radiocarbon-dated back to 7200 B.C.
3- Chile has the largest annual fireworks show in all of South America in the city of Valparaíso, during its New Year’s Pyrotechnic Festival. In 2007, Valparaíso made the Guinness Book of World Records with the largest amount of fireworks exploded in one evening: 16,000.
4- In 1859, Frenchman Orélie-Antoine de Tounens landed in a remote corner of southern Chile and found himself king of the Araucanian (Mapuche) and Patagonian Indians. Humiliated to learn neither the Chilean nor the French governments would recognise his rule, he declared war and was eventually deposed to France, where he died in 1878. To this date, though, his descendants maintain a court-in-exile in Paris
5- Chile is one of the few countries on earth that has a government-supported UFO research organisation. Chile’s Central Region has had so many reported UFO sightings over the past 20 years that in 2008, the town of San Clemente opened a 19-mile UFO trail that winds through the Andes Mountains, whose plateaus apparently make great landing pads for the UFOs.
6- On the first Sunday after Easter, Chileans celebrate a unique religious ritual known as Cuasimodo. Dating back to colonial times, Cuasimodo was a procession of priests and huasos (cowboys) bringing Holy Communion to people who were too old or ill to attend mass. Cuasimodo today has been modernized to include carts, bicycles, and motorbikes.
7- Payadores are Chilean grassroots poets and musicians who engage each other in witty, passionate, poetic duels whenever they meet. These duels may occur during a barbecue lost in the heights of the Andes or in a smoky café in a city centre.
8- A popular event on the Chilean island of Chiloé is the minga, which brings the entire community together to move a house. The Chilotas mount the house on tree trunks, and then the house is pulled by oxen to the new site.
9- Huasos are Chilean cowboys. The term comes from the Mapuche word for shoulders or haunches, because the Mapuche had never seen horses before the Spanish conquest and believed the conquistadors were attached to the horse between the shoulder and haunch. Huasos live in Chile’s Central Valley where cattle are raised. The Huaso zone begins in Santiago and extends southward.
10. In 2000, the Casa de Vidrio, a transparent glass house, was placed in the centre of Santiago. A young actress lived in it for two weeks, revealing ever intimate aspects of her daily routine to curious Santiaguinos. The controversial glass house was an unprecedented attempt to lay bare the double standards of Chilean morality and protest against café con piernas, which are Chilean stand-up bars where customers are served by scantily dressed waitresses.