Chile is administratively divided in twelve regions (subdivided in thirty-one provinces) and a metropolitan region that includes the capital city. Chile has a population of 15,017,800 inhabitants (from a June 1999 estimate) with an annual growth rate of 1.8 percent.The national population density is 46.5 persons per square mile.
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Between the huge Andes Mountains (to the east) and the lower Coastal mountains (to the west) is the great Central Valley, which extends from Salamanca, north of Santiago, for over 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south to Puerto Montt.
The country has a total area of 292,260 square miles (756,950 square kilometers). Chile has a longitude of 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers) making of it one of the longest countries in the world.
To the south, the cold waters of the Drake Sea announce the nearness of Antarctica.
To the west, Chile looks at endless masses of the South Pacific water.
Since the late nineteenth century, both the northern and southern regions have been mainly populated by people coming from the central region, helping to strengthen the country's cultural homogeneity.
Notwithstanding the existence of a strong dominant national culture, some cultural regional traditions can be identified.
Since the late nineteenth century, Chilean culture has also been nurtured by the arrival of a large group of immigrants, mainly Germans, British, French, Italians, Croatians, Palestinians, and Jews.
Today they fill leading positions in academic and cultural circles as well as within the country's political leadership.
On Chiloé Island also in the south, a distinct chilote culture emerged over the centuries from a relatively harmonious blending of Indian and Spanish backgrounds; this culture is characterized by rich traditions of music, dance, and mythological tales.