Where is it?:
On the southwestern side of South American, a narrow long strip running along the Pacific Ocean coastline. Touches Peru on the north and shares an eastern border with Bolivia and Argentina. If the land was compacted together, it would be nearly the size of two states of Montana. The coastline is nearly 4,000 miles long.
Santiago, which is also the country's largest city with a population of more than 5 million. The centrally located city is a hub of modernity in Latin America.
The coat of arms, which says "by reason or by force," depicts the two national animals, the Andean condor and the huemul. The national flower is the copihue, or Chilean bellflower, which grows in the southern part of the nation.
Spanish is the official language, with Mapudungun, an indigenous language spoken by the Mapuche (who represent some 4 percent of the population; about 20 percent can speak the native tongue), German and English spoken as well.
More than 16.6 million, with 88 percent living in urban areas. About 70 percent of the people are Roman Catholic.
Chile was first happened upon by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, when his trip around the tip of South America took him through the Strait of Magellan. Pedro de Valdivia, who founded what's now the capital Santiago, began the Spanish conquest in earnest 20 years later. Chile declared its independence in 1810, with total independence achieved under renowned patriot Bernardo O'Higgins in 1818. Though the country has had bouts of Marxist and military rule -- Salvador Allende in the 1970s and Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s and '80s -- the country has blossomed into a respected democracy and sound economic leader.
Chile has the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America, with exports accounting for 40 percent of GDP. An estimated 18 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Inflation dipped from nearly 9 percent in 2008 to 1.7 percent in 2009. Chile claims to have more bilateral or regional trade agreements than any other country, numbering 57.
The Army of the Nation, Navy, Air Force, and Carabineros Corps (which is a national police force). Military service is voluntary, though could be compulsory at the discretion of the government. About 8.4 million men and women available for military service.
Type of government:
A republic, with the president elected by popular vote for a single four-year term and a bicameral National Congress consisting of the Senate (eight-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies (four-year terms).