Until 1928 the republic of Chile was divided into 23 provinces and one territory: the new subdivision introduced in that year reduced the provinces to 16, while the territory of Magellano was divided into two parts (Territorî of Magallanes and Aysen).
The surface and population data are shown in this table:
It should be noted that even in Chile the smaller territorial areas coincide with the territories of more ancient colonization and more populated, while the larger provinces are located north and south of central Chile. The densities fully confirm what has been said. Alongside an average value of 6 residents per sq. Km. (the value is almost equal to that of Colombia, Ecuador and slightly lower than the density of Uruguay) are the provinces of central Chile with much higher densities, with the maximum values of Aconcagua (31) and Santiago (54) ; these densely populated areas coincide with the areas of most ancient colonization, which enjoy an excellent climate both for the rains and for the temperatures, which are more cultivated, which have seen the rise of the most populated centers.
As we proceed northwards, densities decrease rapidly, reducing to 1.7 for Antofagasta and 0.7 for Atacama. These are the typically desert provinces, where life is made possible only in the oases or saltpeter mining districts: in southern Chile the densities are again very low, reducing to 0.3 residents in the Magellan area: these figures coincide with forestry and pastoral Chile (extensive breeding mainly of sheep).
In the northern provinces the population lives directly or indirectly from saltpetre and related industries, and is mostly emigrated from the central provinces of the Republic; about one sixth of the residents come from Peru and Bolivia.
The population is divided in almost equal proportions between the pampas, where the saltpeter deposits lie, and the coast, where embarkation and disembarkation centers have arisen in correspondence with the large internal mining districts.
The central provinces, from that of Aconcagua to that of Bío-Bío, are the areas of the oldest colonization and consequently have the highest densities: not only the central plain is populated, but also the valleys of the coastal range, favorable to intensive crops. Numerous centers line up in the central plain, such as Santiago, Rancagua, Curicó, Talca, Chillán, accompanying the ancient road of penetration, today connected by the great longitudinal railway artery. In the southern provinces of Valdivia and Chiloé it took place in the mid-century. XIX (from 1810 to 1853) a considerable immigration of Germans, who played a fundamental part in the colonization and exploitation of those areas: the settlers were divided into two groups; one, at the center of Valdivia, it penetrated towards the east and towards noon, bringing agriculture to the left bank of the Río Bueno; the other settled near Lake Llanquihue and began the exploitation of the area, of which the natural outlet became Puerto Montt. From Valdivia the colonization also moved north towards the Río Tolten, beyond which extended, up to the Bío-Bío, the independent Araucania, in the region that the Chilenians have continued to call the Frontera even after overcoming the last resistance of the Araucani. Numerous European immigrants (French, Swiss, English, German) were called to the new colonies established in Victoria, Ercilla, Traiguén, Temuco, etc., in the plain south-east of Concepción, all of which have now become small towns.
After the pacification of Araucania, the Chilean colonization penetrated the eastern regions, in the Andean system: the number of Chilean immigrants who settled in Neuquén between 1880 and 1890 can be estimated at 20,000.
In the territory of Magellano the very scarce population lives mainly from hunting and fishing; but on the banks of the canal of the same name, at the bottom of the southern fjords that penetrate as far as the steppe zone, a certain number of residents has come to be established. It can be said that this colonization dates from the beginning of steam navigation. The foundation of Punta Arenas dates back to 1843. Its rapid development is due to the presence of the obligatory waterway, especially up to the opening of the Panamá canal, which made it a very important passage and supply point: alongside the maritime activity, the economic activity of the hinterland, where, as we have seen, sheep farming has developed in a big way.
The Italian colony in Chile has been assuming ever greater numerical importance from 1854 to today. According to Chilene statistics, our colony in 1854 included about 400 people. In 1875, according to the official Chilean census, about 2000 Italians resided in Chile. In 1898 a census was launched by the newspaper L’Italia of Valparaiso, gave 12,000 Italians present in the republic. This figure gradually increased until 1907, in which year it rose to 13,000 people, and then fell due to the war to 11,500 in 1920. From 1920 to 1927 the Italian colony increased rapidly, being able to calculate a total of 23,000 for 1927. people. The colony is especially devoted to trade. The Italian schools in Chile in 1927 amounted to 30 and the colleges to 11; there were 70 associations, of which 11 in the consular district of Santiago and 59 in that of Valparaiso.
The population of Chile has increased significantly: the 1835 census gave just over a million residents, which rose to 1,819,000 in 1865, to 2,712,000 in 1895, to 3,250,000 in 1907, to 3,753,000 in 1920, to 4,427,212 in 1930. Overall, this demographic increase is attributable only to a very small extent to foreign immigration: from 1883 to 1907 it did not exceed 500,000 individuals, against the 2,400,000 who entered Argentina; the 1920 census gave 120,000 foreigners, or 3% of the total population.
Among foreigners, those originating from neighboring states have the first place, then immigrants from southern Europe and in the third place the Germanic element. There are both Negroes and Asians, with the exception of the so-called Turcos, from Syria, dedicated to trade. The increase in the population is largely due to the surplus of births over deaths: 18,200 in 1865; 25,250 in 1885; 32,500 in 1907; 42,000 in 1925.
According to 800zipcodes, the proportion of the urban population has been increasing significantly: it constituted 39% of the total in 1895, 47% in 1920. In central-southern Chile, south of Santiago up to Chiloé, the rural population prevails: the population of the provinces of Santiago and Aconcagua has increased above all thanks to the development of the two great centers, the capital and Valparaiso; in the northern plains the agglomerated population absolutely prevails and its greater or lesser development depends on the conditions of the mining market: they are provinces populated by immigration, which therefore have a higher percentage of males, a lower than average mortality and birth rate.
The only major centers of Chile Santiago and Valparaiso, which together have a population of about 800,000 residents, or about 1 / 5 of the total population of the Republic. There are 25 other cities with over 10,000 residents, but many of them still have the appearance of rural centers.
Santiago, the capital, is located at 520 meters above sea level, at 37 ° 27 ′ lat. S. and at 70 ° 41 ′ of long. O., on the Mapocho River. Its population has been increasing in an extraordinary way: from 115,000 residents in 1865 to 256,000 in 1895; it exceeds 500,000 in 1920, it reaches 574,000 in 1926. A very important railway center, full of parks, gardens, adorned with magnificent buildings, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in South America, the most important of the cities of the South Pacific.
Port of Santiago, terminus of the great trans-Andean artery, second city of the republic by number of residents is Valparaiso, whose population reaches almost 200,000 residents: joined to the center of Valparaiso extends the center of Viña del Mar, with about 40,000 residents, for which the urban agglomeration reaches 240,000 residents. The population of Valparaiso was 70,000 residents in 1865: the rapid increase is essentially due to the huge traffic, which has been developing thanks to the excellent position of the center on the bay of the same name, to the fact that the city was soon joined by rail with Santiago (1863); this in turn was connected with the populated centers of the plain to the south (in 1866 the line already touched Curicó); in this way Valparaiso became since the second half of the century.
Taken together, the Chilean urban centers have the characteristic of being either on the sea or in the central plain. On the northern coasts are the three important cities of Iquique, Antofagasta and Taltal, which owe their rise and subsequent development to the very important nitrate industry. From 1885 to 1905 Iquique was the main city of the coast, but starting from 1905 it was overtaken by Antofagasta, which now has 60,000 residents. It also has the great advantage of being the terminus of the railway leading to Bolivia. The traffic of the port is huge, integrated by that of Mejillones. South of Valparaiso the most important coastal cities are Concepción, Valdivia, built on the left bank of the Río Calle-Calle, a short distance from the sea, and Puerto Montt.