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The culture of Chile


soldier-poet Alonso de Ercilla
soldier-poet Alonso de Ercilla

The culture of Chile is largely Spanish. Two lively and contrasting cultural strains predominate in Chile: the cosmopolitan culture of the affluent urban population, and the popular culture of the peasants, which is predominantly Spanish but contains traces of Araucanian heritage. The latter influences are strongest in Chilean music and dance. Chile has a flourishing literary tradition and has produced two Nobel Prize winners in literature, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, both poets. This literary tradition dates back to the 1500s, when soldier-poet Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga wrote what is considered the greatest Spanish American epic poem, La Araucana, about the Spanish struggle against the Araucanians. The names of some of the Indian heroes of the poem are cherished by Chileans.

During the early years of independence Chile was a center for intellectual exiles, around whom a generation of talented writers flourished. The greatest of the exiles was Venezuelan jurist, grammarian, educator, and poet Andrés Bello, who lived in Chile from 1829 until his death in 1865. Bello organized the National University of Chile in 1842. Exiles from Argentina, among them Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, later president of Argentina, brought South American romanticism, which had begun in Argentina, to Chile. It was also in Chile, at the end of the 19th century, that the modernist movement in Spanish American literature got its first focus with the publication in 1888 of Azul, a book of poems by Nicaraguan Rubén Darío.

Darío, considered to be one of the greatest Latin American poets, was living in Chile at the time.

Historians and writers of fiction


In the late 19th century and the 20th century Chile produced many top-flight historians and writers of fiction. The best-known fiction writers are Alberto Blest Gana, one of the first realistic novelists in the Spanish language; Eduardo Barrios, the writer of several penetrating psychological novels; Manuel Rojas, a novelist who often incorporated his own experiences into his works; and Maria Luisa Bombal, one of the finest writers of psychological short stories in the Spanish language. Chilean novelists José Donoso and Isabel Allende both spent time in exile during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Allende won popular acclaim in Latin America, Europe, and North America during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the best-known Chilean writers internationally are the two Nobel Prize winners, Neruda and Mistral. Colonial painting in Chile was not outstanding. The best-known 20th-century artist to come from Chile was surrealist painter Roberto Matta Echaurren, who spent much of his life in France and the United States. The folk music of Chile is of Spanish origin and came to Chile via Peru and Argentina. The national folk song and dance is the spirited cueca, or zamacueca, a courtship dance performed with handkerchiefs that is of Peruvian origin. The zapateo, a dance with intricate footwork, is also popular in Chile. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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