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The Great Depression that begun 1929 was felt strongly in Chile from 1930 to 1932.[1] Saltpetre and copper exports collapsed.[1] The World Economic Survey of the League of Nations declared Chile the worst affected nation by the depression.[1] The crisis caused the authoritarian regime of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo to fall in July 1931 followed by a succession of short-lived governments until the election of Arturo Alessandri in December 1932.[1] The economic crisis rose the levels of unemployment and caused a migration of unemployed saltpetre miners from the north to Santiago.[1] Miners constituted around 6% of the active population but made up more than half of the unemployed during the crisis.[2] Numerous soup kitchens sprang up in Santiago while homeless people begun to dwell in caves in the hills around Santiago.[1] The state responded to the crisis by gradually raising tariffs, increasing internal demand and increasing control over the "flux and use" of foreign currency.[3][4][2] Quotas and licences were established for imports and the gold convertibility was once again abolished in 1931.[2][5]

Soup kitchen to feed the unemployed in 1932.

These policies contributed to an industrial recovery and for the industry to already by 1934 surpass the levels of activity of 1929.[4] In the 1930s the massive industrial growth was spearheaded by the textile industry, but non-metallic mining, chemical industries and machine and transport factories did also expand.[4][6] Overall industry recovered and expanded faster than the traditional exports in the post depression period.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "El impacto de la Gran Depresión en Chile: De la prosperidad a la pobreza", Memoria chilena, retrieved June 30, 2013
  2. ^ a b c Drake, Paul W. (1984), "La misión Kemmerer en Chile: Consejeros norteamericanos, estabilización y endeudamiento, 1925-1932" (PDF), Cuadernos de historia (4): 31–59
  3. ^ Villalobos et al. 1974, pp. 762-763.
  4. ^ a b c Salazar & Pinto 2002, pp. 141-142.
  5. ^ Villalobos et al. 1974, pp. 767-768.
  6. ^ Salazar & Pinto 2002, pp. 143-144.
  7. ^ Lee, C. H. (1969), "The Effects of the Depression on Primary Producing Countries", Journal of Contemporary History, 4 (4): 139–155, doi:10.1177/002200946900400409