Chile is administratively divided in twelve regions (subdivided in thirty-one provinces) and a metropolitan region that includes the capital city. Chile has a population of 15,017,800 inhabitants (from a June 1999 estimate) with an annual growth rate of 1.8 percent.
The national population density is 46.5 persons per square mile.
The indigenous population represents some 7 percent of the population.
There are about 500,000 Mapuche Indians in Chile, constituting the country's largest Native American population.
The southern region by contrast is chilly and rainy, having icy fjords and glaciers at the southernmost tip.
The capital city, Santiago, is located in the central region and constitutes the political, cultural, and economic center of the country, and the homeland of the historically dominant Central Valley culture.
Some 25 percent of Chileans are of European ancestry (mainly from Spanish, German, Italian, British, Croatian, and French origins, or combinations there of).
Chile also has a large Palestinian community (some 300,000 persons, the largest outside Palestine).
Formidable natural barriers mark present-day Chile's boundaries, isolating the country from the rest of South America.
Since the late 1980s, the country's economic prosperity and sociopolitical stability have attracted an increasing number of immigrants from Korea and from other Latin American countries (largely from Peru, Argentina, and Cuba). The official language of Chile is Spanish ( castellano as Chileans call it), which is spoken by practically all the country's inhabitants.
In the northern region some twenty thousand indigenous people also speak Aymará, while most of Chile's Mapuche population speak or at least understand their ancestral language, Mapudungu.
On Chiloé Island also in the south, a distinct chilote culture emerged over the centuries from a relatively harmonious blending of Indian and Spanish backgrounds; this culture is characterized by rich traditions of music, dance, and mythological tales.
Some two thousand miles off the coast of Chile lies the remote Eastern Island, which is inhabited by twenty-eight hundred native islanders who still keep alive many of their Polynesian cultural traditions.