As of 1860, Chilean society began a process of transformations that was framed in the maturation of political processes that sought to impose the contents of liberal ideology in all aspects of the national task. Simultaneously, the changes that, worldwide, the Industrial Revolution generated and with them the predominant role that the English economy assumed. Fact that had repercussions in Chile as its economy became an exporter of inputs for the agricultural and industrial development of Europe. The ties with the European continent were translated into economic links, influences and lifestyles that the leading sectors gradually adopted. These ties made the wealthiest groups adopt European-style customs and manners.
The government of José Joaquín Pérez
In 1861 José Joaquín Pérez Mascayano was elected President of the Republic, and in 1862 the liberal-conservative fusion reached the government. By 1863 the railway from Valparaíso to Santiago de Chile was inaugurated and the Santiago Fire Department was created.
According to bridgat.com, liberalism took the rise, promulgating a new electoral law in 1869, which prohibited the re-election of the President of the Republic, constitutional reforms were made in the years 1873 – 1874, and the law of the autonomous commune was enacted in 1890, all of them had a single The objective is to liberalize the institutions, their political customs, and to locate control of the political system in the oligarchic sectors, displacing it from the sphere of the Executive. The formation of the so-called Reform Club in 1868 was the beginning of the ideological process that would promote the displacement from authoritarian forms of government towards the establishment of a parliamentarianism, which was finally imposed in 1891. At this stage, political parties began to take the form of institutions with internal organizations, electoral programs that were born from party conventions, and a policy of alliances that sought agreements to reach the presidency of the Republic or remain as a majority in Congress.
This period was characterized by difficult international relations with neighboring countries and with Spain, together with attempts by other European countries to intervene directly or indirectly in the American territories, beginning in 1879 the War of the Pacific. The growth of the economy and the recognition of unoccupied geographical spaces were the main causes of armed conflicts with Peru and Bolivia, who led the Chilean armies to Lima and the unconditional surrender with delivery of territories to Chile, signing in 1866 the “Treaty of limits with Bolivia “. The same thing happened with Argentina Although they did not hold an armed confrontation, they did hold a difficult diplomatic negotiation that culminated in the signing of the “Boundary Treaty with Argentina” of 1881 and the surrender by Chile of the Patagonian territories, the cession of half of the land of the Fire and the definitive control to Chile of the Strait of Magellan, the main communication link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The expansion of the English economy as a result of the Industrial Revolution, brought as a consequence the incorporation of Chile to the commercial flow of inputs demanded by this power and its overseas empire, reaching the Chilean imports, between 1860 and 1870, a 42% of the total, while 66% of exports were destined for Great Britain. By 1871 the Ministry of Foreign Relations was created.
At this stage, the expansion of extractive activities of natural resources, destined to serve as inputs to the new technologies, gained momentum. As regards mining, new forms of smelting and different types of uses increased the demand for copper, which began to be exploited on a large scale. However, although it was in permanent competition with the deposits of Spain and the United States, it was in constant price and market fluctuations.
The resource that consolidated the economy in the mining activity was saltpeter. Requested as a fertilizer by European agriculture, the discovery of this mineral in Chilean territory in 1860 began the territorial expansion and of the Chilean population towards the Atacama Desert, which until then was uninhabited. The nitrate industry would become the support of the Chilean treasury income for almost 40 years.
Chilean society in the middle of the century was slowly transforming from a Hispanic colonial modality to a society in which agrarian and bourgeois forms coexisted. The wealthy sectors built palaces and mansions, which unleashed a stream of urban transformations, made the mundane and good tone their way of being, and abandoned the outdated and sober style of their ancestors, proof of this was the inauguration in 1875 of the building of the National Congress.
The agrarian and mining community remained as if time had stopped in the Colony, those who made it up continued to be marginalized from culture and education, locked up in farms or in mining work sites, while the middle sectors were integrated since the primary educational system to the university. For this, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile was created in 1888 and the Pedagogical Institute in 1889.
At the end of the period, Chilean society had an exceptional economic situation, due to the wealth generated by the nitrate. But the great political and social changes with which the new century would open were also in the process of germination.