|seriously, how does this happen?|
so this week for world wide wednesdays, we're going to look at these two and pose the obvious question: are chile and argentina really so different that they just had to be two separate nations? or are they just trying to fool us?
|buenos aires, argentina|
- both are former spanish colonies and as a result, both are spanish-speaking
- both were partially conquered by the incas
- both gained independence from spain at around the same time: chile declared independence in 1810, but did not achieve a decisive victory over the spanish until 1818, whereas argentina seceded as part of the united provinces of the rio plata in 1816 [but didn't exist as "argentina" until the early 1860s, following an extended period of civil war].
- both score "very high" on the human development index- the two highest in south america [only one other latin american country is rated as very high- cuba]
- both are heavily urbanized, with around 90% of the population of each country residing in an urban zone
- both are signatories to the 1989 indigenous and tribal peoples convention- the only binding international law relating to indigenous persons [side note :: only 22 countries have ratified the convention, including spain, the netherlands, and nepal, but not including canada, the united states, australia, new zealand, or russia.]
- both are at or nearing the tipping point of becoming an aging population, with declining birth rates and medical advances extending life expectancy.
- both had brutal right wing dictatorships [backed by the united states and their allies], argentina in the 1970s and chile from 1973-90
argentina seems to have been the first to host a human population, with some artifacts dating back to the paleolithic [and, incidentally, causing all manner of problems for the prevailing theory on the timeline for the settling of the americas], but the area was sparsely populated and different groups had little to do with one another.
chile, on the other hand, was settled later, but by about 600bce, had a group entrenched in the southern part of the country called the mapuche who were a pretty fearsome lot. how fearsome? they stopped the incas progress in its tracks and, indeed, repelled the spanish. only after their population suffered a sharp and massive decline [historian ward churchill estimates it feel from roughly half a million to twenty-five thousand] were the spanish able to start incorporating their territories. in fact, the mapuche continue to be fearsome opponents, serving as a voice of conservation of chilean forests and forcing american giant home depot to revise its import policies in order to ensure that the natural ecosystems and the industry itself were protected. mapuche activists have also been prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws in recent years.
the vast majority of the populations of both chile and argentina are of european extraction and are racially caucasian, but in chile, there was a much greater tendency for immigrants to mingle with the indigenous locals, meaning that the vast majority of the population has a mix of european and amerindian genetics. there are some estimates that chile is about equally split between european and indigenous heritage, but it's rarely one or the other. in argentina, while there are certainly amerindian ethnic groups, the waves of european immigrants from spain, italy, russia, wales and other places overwhelmed the indigenous population. certainly, there are people with significant amerindian heritage, but argentinians are more likely to look like europeans. chileans often have the dark hair and eyes, broad, flat cheekbones, and high foreheads typical of amerindians, whereas it's not odd to find argentinians who are fair with light colouring. [side note :: the transnational divide is weaker in the southern extremity of both countries, where the mapuche have been less concerned with enforcing the border and even further to the south, which was largely unexplored and unsettled. in fact, argentina and chile have had ongoing disputes over the exact placement of the southern border, and over their roles in the management of adjacent antarctica. ownership of patagonia and the tierra del fuego has been contentious for over a hundred years and numerous treaties have only been able to maintain a tense stalemate.]
here's a quick look at what i mean. here are three well-known chileans:
|singer victor jara [murdered by the pinochet regime]|
|author isabelle allende- fair, but look at the bone structure|
|footballer alexis sanchez. you're welcome.|
|footballer lionel messi|
|actor rodrigo guirao diaz|
|and of course, eva peron|
chile also has a much more threatening geography, being located on the pacific "ring of fire" that can bring catastrophic earthquakes to japan and california. in fact, the largest magnitude earthquake in recorded history, a literally earth-shattering 9.5 on the richter scale, struck valdivia chile in 1960. [side note :: chile can thank its centralized population for the fact that the valdivia quake doesn't come close to being the most deadly in history- valdivia was not a major centre- but it still caused a billion dollars in damage.]
argentina feels earthquakes, some of them serious, but they are sheltered from the worst the ring of fire has to offer.
the final verdict? the world's third longest shared border, a common language and similar histories before modern times does not a single nation make. chile and argentina exhibit significant differences that date back to pre-colonial times and leave them distinct in terms of genetics and political culture and their proximity belies a geological schism that goes beyond what's experienced in north america. so yes, while it might look a little strange to have a narrow strip of land form a separate country along the spine of a much larger neighbour, it is sensible and even required.
you can see the spirit of competition between the two nations on display this weekend as chile and argentina face off in the final of the cope america. chile is the host, while argentina are the heavy favourites to win.
and they're both so beautiful, here's just a couple more photos:
|wildlife in the mountains, chile|
|tierra del fuego, argentina|