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Chiloé, island archipelago province with nearly 155,000 inhabitants (2002) in southern Chile. The earliest known inhabitants of the islands were the nomadic people called the Chonos and also the Huilliche, with links to the Mapuche. On the Isla Grande de Chiloé, the largest island, the Spaniards established several fortified settlements (Castro, Ancud, Curaco de Vélez) to protect the southern flank of the Viceroyalty of Peru from English and Dutch corsairs sailing into the Pacific after crossing the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn. With strong attachments to Spain, Chiloé was Chile's loyalist stronghold during the Wars of Independence. Since the nineteenth century residents of the islands, called Chilotans, have migrated to Argentine Patagonia or the Chilean province of Magallanes for work. Tourism and aquaculture are important to the economy. The island's unique wooden architecture has received international attention. The particular style, evident in small wooden churches, developed with the arrival of Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century; the churches combine native and Christian belief systems. Set at the water's edge, the buildings have wooden shingles carved from the Alerce tree known as tejuelas, and besides creating a striking geometric design, can keep out rain.

See alsoChile, Geography; Tourism.


Renato Cárdenas, Apuntes para un diccionario de Chiloé (Castro, 1978).

Philippe Grenier, Chiloé et les chilotes (Aix-en-Provence, 1984).

Additional Bibliography

Berg Costa, Lorenzo. Iglesias de Chiloé: Conservando lo infinito, proyecto y obras 1988–2002. Santiago de Chile: Universidad de Chile, 2005.

Guarda, Gabriel. Los encomenderos de Chiloé. Santiago: Ediciones Universidad Católica de Chile, 2002.

Urbina B., Rodolfo. La vida en Chiloé en los tiempos del Fogón, 1900–1940. Valparaíso: Universidad de Playa Ancha Editorial, Editorial Puntángeles, 2002.

                                        CÉsar N. Caviedes

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