There exist different explanations about the origins of the name “Chile.” The most accepted one is that it is derived from the native Aymará word chilli meaning “the land where the earth ends.” Chile is considered to be one of the most homogeneous nations of Latin America in both ethnic and cultural terms. In contrast to many other Latin American nations, Chile has not experienced the emergence of strong regionalism or conflicting regional cultural identities. Since the late nineteenth century, both the northern and southern regions have been mainly populated by people coming from the central region, helping to strengthen the country’s cultural homogeneity.
Notwithstanding the existence of a strong dominant national culture, some cultural regional traditions can be identified. In the northern provinces near Bolivia, Aymará Indians have been able to preserve many aspects of their Andean culture. In the southern region the Mapuche Indians are a large cultural group who strongly contributed to the formation of Chilean culture. 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.
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