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Culture & People

Northern Chile was an important centre of culture in the medieval and early modern Inca empire, while indigenous Mapuche and other Araucanian cultures developed in the Central and Southern regions. Culture was afterwards dominated by the Spanish during the Colonial and early Republican period. Other European influences, at first chiefly English and French, began in the 19th century and have continued until today, as in other Western societies.


The national dance is the cueca (short for zamacueca) and first appeared in 1824. Another form of traditional Chilean song, though not a dance, is the tonada. Arising from music imported by the Spanish colonists, it is distinguished from the cueca by an intermediate melodic section and a more prominent melody. There has been several groups who took the Tonada as their main form of expression, such as Los Huasos Quincheros, Los Huasos de Algarrobal, Los De Ramón and others. Other less known styles are: the Sirilla, the Sajuriana, Refalosa, Polka.

In the mid-1960s native musical forms were revitalised by the Parra family with the Nueva Canción Chilena, which became associated with political activism and reformers like Chilean socialist Salvador Allende and his Popular Unity government. Violeta Parra, Víctor Jara, Los Jaivas, Inti-Illimani, Illapu and Quilapayún are performers of this music. During the military rule in the 1970s, all forms of public expression contrary to the junta were repressed, and protest songs, which were played and circulated in a clandestine manner. In the late 1980s and after the return of democracy in the 1990s, new musical bands like La Ley, Los Tres and Los Prisioneros, began to appear.

Margot Loyola is a well-known Chilean musician and folk singer who has also been a renowned and active researcher of the folklore of her country and, in general, of Latin America.


Chileans call their country País de Poetas ("land of poets"). The country has produced two Nobel Literature laureates: Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda. Other major poets include: Pedro Prado, Vicente Huidobro, Pablo de Rokha, Juvencio Valle, Rosamel del Valle, Maximiliano Ilich Prieto, Gonzalo Rojas, Jorge Teillier, Enrique Lihn and Nicanor Parra. The major novelist and short story writer of the 20th century was probably Manuel Rojas, although not as well known outside of the country. Isabel Allende, another novelist, has achieved worldwide success with her stories of magic realism in Latin America, probably reaching a larger audience than any other Chilean prose writer. Jorge Edwards, José Donoso, Miguel Serrano and Roberto Bolaño are also notable novelists.





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