Chiloé, the second largest island in Chile and the fifth largest in South America, is an interesting place. It’s known for its culture and tradition, the influence of a strong indigenous presence, and really does feel distinct from the mainland. And yet, many of its principle tourist attractions are due to the influence of Spanish conquistadors and the islands integration into the greater Chilean polity. These two realities mix, creating a fascinating environment.
For example, Chiloé is known for its distinct architectural style and its wooden churches, both of which make for great tourist attractions. The churches are a clear reflection of Spanish influence on the island; that being said, the churches look unlike any others in Chile. This is because, with its relative isolation, Chiloé was able to accept outside influence but adopt it to fit its already existing style.
The island is also interesting from a political perspective. One of the preeminent domestic conflicts in Chile in recent decades has been the fight of the Mapuche (the very large indigenous population) for proper rights and representation. To put in perspective the kinds of discrimination these people face, Mapuches at my University told me they usually change their names when they come to big Chilean cities because it’s harder to get a job with an indigenous name. Just a week or so after I was on Chiloé, the people blocked access to the island, claiming a lack of support from the Chilean government in the face of a bad fishing season and lack of food.
The amalgamation of venerated tradition, modern integration, political relevancy, and natural beauty make Chiloé a great destination. While there, my friends and I spent time in the cities of Ancud and Castro, as well as the surrounding areas. Here are some pictures of what you can expect from a visit to this island: