Santiago, or Santiago de Chile as it is also known, is the capital of Chile. The metropolitan area, which is known as Greater Santiago, is the largest in the country with a 2016 population of 6.544 million people.
Santiago, the capital city of Chile, is also the largest, boasting a 2016 metro population across 37 municipalities of 6,544,000 people, showing an increase over the 6.4 million recorded in the 2002 census. The city proper is estimated to have a population of around 200,000. When comparing the Greater Santiago population to the country’s population of 17.9 million, it’s easy to see how Santiago is the biggest city in the country.
City Size and Population Density
The city of Santiago covers a total surface area of 641 kilometers squared (247.6 square mile). The population density currently reaches approximately 9,821 residents per square kilometer (25,436 people living per square mile).
The current metro population of 6.5 million shows just how rapidly Santiago has grown throughout the years. In 1907, census records show that the population was just over 380,000. In 1940, the population surpassed one million. The area recorded populations of over two million in 1960 before reaching almost four million in 1982. The census in 2002 showed that the population was 6.4 million, which indicates that the area continues to grow but at a much slower rate than years past.
The decline in population growth could be attributed to the changing proportions of older and younger residents. In 1990, just over 38% of the total population was under the age of 20. Estimates taken in 2007 show that this number declined to approximately 32% of men and 30% of women. It is estimated that this number will decline further in 2020, with about 26% of men and 16% of women falling into the under-20 age bracket. On the reverse side, the percentage of residents over 60 has been growing.
Over 67% respondents to the 2002 census were born in the Santiago Metropolitan region. The area has a low rate of immigration, with just 2.11% of inhabitants being born outside of Chile. Most immigrants are from other Latin American countries, including Peru and Argentina.
Like other cities in Chile, the majority of the population practices Catholicism. The 2002 census found that 68.7% of the Santiago Metropolitan population identified as being Catholic. Evangelical Protestants make up 13.1% of the population, while minority religions in the city include Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Muslim, and Orthodox. About 10% of the population are atheists or have no religious affiliation.
Santiago was founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia and was given the name Santiago del Nuevo Extremo, or Santiago of the New Frontier. The Picunche Indian tribe settled in the area under the rule of the Spanish. The moderate climate and the ease in how the area could be defended were primary reasons for settling the area. On September 11, 1541, the city was destroyed but was rebuilt in the exact same area. Going through the 16th and 17th centuries, the city enjoyed a boom in population because of immigration and the large number of churches in the area, many of which were destroyed over time because of earthquakes. A few, such as the Casa Colorada, remain standing today and showcase the city’s rich history and culture.
After declaring independence in 1818, the city was designated as the federal capital. Part of the Mapocho River was drained and buildings were erected during this time. In the 1880s, nitrate fertilizer found in northern Chile led to growth and prosperity throughout Santiago and other areas of the country. When the 1900s came about, nitrate and salt mining continued the prosperity, growth and innovation of the city.
Real growth and development began in the 1930s, with immigration increasing the numbers of residents. Growth continued through the 1950s and 1960s, and the next decade brought about political changes and society reforms. In modern times, Santiago is one of the top global cities in the world, and it’s considered to be one of Latin America’s largest and most important financial centers.
Santiago Population Growth
Following several population booms over the year, the population of Santiago continues to grow but at a much slower rate. During its earliest years, the city grew at a rate of 2.68% per year, then peaked at 4.92% annually between 1952 and 1960 due to high fertility rates and immigration, and leveled out at 1.35% in the 2000s, partly due to an aging population. The current metro population is expected to grow to 6.7 million in 2020 and is expected to surpass 7.1 million in 2030.