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Its length explains the great variety of climates and regions one can find from north to south.
While the northern region is extremely dry (including the great Atacama Desert and numerous places where no rain has ever been recorded), the central region is a fertile area with a mild climate.
Nevertheless, many Chileans are often not even aware of their ethnic and cultural backgrounds and they firmly embrace the dominant culture of mainstream society. Chilean culture is located within the confines of the Republic of Chile, although today some 800,000 Chileans are living abroad.
Notwithstanding the existence of a strong dominant national culture, some cultural regional traditions can be identified.
Almost six million people live in the metropolitan region of Santiago, while the northern and southern regions are sparsely populated.
Most Chileans (84 percent) reside in urban areas, while the rest live in an increasingly urbanized rural environment.
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.
Some two thousand miles off the coast of Chile lies the remote Eastern Island, which is inhabited by twenty-eight hundred native islanders who still keep alive many of their Polynesian cultural traditions.
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.