Chile’s geographic characteristics and its great length not only affect its landscape, climate, and natural resources; they are also reflected in its people, their traditions, customs, and folklore. Moreover, they affect productive activity, the ambitions and investment opportunities of Chileans, and the places where they choose to live. For example, most of the population is concentrated in central Chile.
In 1974, natural resources, population, and space were taken into account when dividing Chile into 13 administrative regions. Based on similar criteria, these regions are divided into provinces (totaling 51), and the provinces into municipalities (346). Each region has a capital city, where major political, social, economic, and development decisions are made.
Division into regions does not make Chile a federal nation. The regions are subject to central authority, and all are governed by the same laws.
Chile’s regions are governed by <i>intendentes</i>; provinces by governors; and municipalities by mayors. <i>Intendentes</i> and governors are appointed by the President. Mayors are elected by popular vote.
The government, however, is encouraging decentralization in a bid to transfer resources and decision-making power to citizen representatives and institutions in regions and municipalities.