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Chiloé Island (Spanish: Isla de Chiloé, or Isla Grande de Chiloé ["Big Island of Chiloé"]) is an island off the Pacific coast of South America, part of Chile. Chiloé Province is a province of Chile that includes Chiloé island, part of the Los Lagos Region.
Chiloé Island (8,394 km², 3241 sq mi), is the second largest island in Chile (and South America), after the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. it is separated from the Chilean mainland by the Chacao Strait ("Canal de Chacao") to the north, and by the Gulf of Ancud and the Gulf of Corcovado to the east. The Pacific ocean lies to the west, and the Chonos Archipelago lies to the south, across the Gulf of Corcovado. The island is 190 km (118 mi) from north to south, and averages 55-65 km wide (35 to 40 mi). The capital is Castro, on the east side of the island; the largest town (although not by much) is Ancud, at the island's northwest corner, and there are several smaller port towns on the east side of the island, such as Quellón, Dalcahue, and Chonchi.
Chiloé province includes Chiloé Island, the northern third of the Chonos Archipelago, and a section of the Chilean mainland across the Gulf of Corcovado east of Chiloé Island. The area of Chiloé province is 23,446 km² (9058 sq mi). The administrative center of the province is Castro, while the seat of the Roman Catholic bishopric is Ancud. Chiloé province is part of the Los Lagos region (Región de los Lagos), which includes the Chilean lakes region on the mainland north of Chiloé. The administrative center of the region is Puerto Montt.
Chiloé and the Chonos Archipelago are a southern extension of the Chilean coastal range, which runs north and south, parallel to the Pacific coast and the Andes Mountains. The Chilean Central Valley lies between the coastal mountains and the Andes, of which the Gulfs of Ancud and Corcovado form the southern extension. Mountains run north and south along the spine of the island. The east coast is deeply indented, with several natural harbors and numerous smaller islands.
Chiloe runs from 41º 40' S to about 45º 45' S latitude, and has a humid, cool temperate climate. The western side of the island is rainy and wild, home to the Valdivian temperate rain forests, one of the world's few temperate rain forests. Chiloé National Park (Parque Nacional de Chiloé) is located on the Island's western shore and includes part of the coastal range. The rainforests are made up of evergreen southern beech (Nothofagus), and several native conifers, including the magnificent alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides).
The eastern shore, in the rain shadow of the interior mountains, is warmer and drier, and home to almost all of Chiloé's population, agriculture, and aquaculture, which includes wheat, potatoes, and Atlantic salmon.
The population of the province with its ten municipalities according to the 2002 census was 154,775; of this, 44% lived in rural areas, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas (INE). Chiloé's people are known as Chilotes.
Chiloé's first known inhabitants are the Mapuche, who, together with related peoples, inhabited most of Central Chile before European settlement. Spain established a settlement at Castro in 1567, which later became the seat of a Jesuit mission, and was capital of the province until the founding of Ancud in 1768. Chiloé was separated from the rest of Chile by Mapuche territory, and was the last stronghold of Spanish loyalists in the Chilean war of independence; it was not conquered by Chile until the 1826 military expedition led by Ramon Freire, after a prior expedition led by Lord Cochrane failed. Charles Darwin visited during the summer of 1834–1835, writing about his impressions of southern Chile in his diaries . Whaling, fishing, agriculture, and timber were the mainstays of the island economy. The cathedral in Ancud was totally destroyed and Castro was badly damaged by the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960, widely considered to be the most powerful ever recorded. In 1982, the provincial capital, after over 200 years, was returned to Castro.
In part because of its physical isolation from the rest of Chile, Chiloé has a very special architecture and local culture. They have a rich folklore with many mythological animals and spirits (La Pincoya , El Trauco, El Caleuche, etc.). The Spanish, who arrived in the 16th century, and Jesuit missionaries who followed, constructed hundreds of small wooden churches in an attempt to bring God to a pagan land; the result was a mixing of Catholicism and pagan beliefs. These unique buildings have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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