The name of the archipelago means “land of Cahuiles”. Cahuiles in the native tongue, refer to the many species of gulls that are abundant in the inhabited coastal areas of Chiloé, and along the maritime routes used by fishing boats and other sea vessels.
The geophysical isolation and climate of the island allowed for the development of a biological diversity which gave space to the growth of many endemic species. The abundance of rain water that characterized the interior of the island led to the development of an evergreen forest which provides a suitable habitat for animals such as the Pudú (the smallest species of deer) and Darwin's fox.
The cold, nutrient rich sea currents provide an extremely favorable environment for different species of fish, whales and marine mammals, such as those found in the Gulf of Corcovado, one of the favorite feeding grounds for blue whales, orcas, dolphins and sea lions among others.
The island, originally populated by Chonos and Hulliches was invaded by the Spanish in the mid 1500s. The new inhabitants settled by the coast, as their indigenous predecessors had done: the sea was always an essential element in life, important as a source of food as well as the preferred means of transport.
Even if there was no clear cultural crossbreeding, the hard living conditions and the isolation generated a unique culture in the archipelago, based on strong religious beliefs, well represented by the many old churches, itinerant priests and community worship, which go hand in hand with strong mythological beliefs found on the islands. The isolation, climate and the well developed local imagination created a pantheon of magical beings who even today are still sustained as real in some of Chiloé's household.
This phantom ship, is usually represented as having various masts flying torn sails. It is reputedly manned by sorcerers and shipwrecked sailors from the depths of the ocean, and is apt to appear suddenly on full moon nights, and then disappear again into the depths or summon a dense haze which engulfs it. It is said that those who look at the Caleuche directly are severely punished by the sorcerers, ending up with a twisted the mouth or back and sometimes even taking their lives. Sea Horse
This is a long faced horse with a strong tail, and can only be seen by the “brujos”(sorcerers), who are the only ones able to ride it out to the Caleuche. The locals believed that the water that suddenly gushes upwards when a wave hits a rock is a clear evidence of a playful Sea Horse in the area. The Pincoya.
An extraordinarily beautiful woman, who comes to the aid of shipwrecked sailors in heavy seas. She tries to save them, but if she is unable to, will transport them carefully to the Caleuche, so that he may sail again.
It is said the when she is observed dancing on the beach facing the ocean, then the seas will provide abundant fish. If on the other hand, she is facing land, fisehmen had best seek fish or shellfish somewhere else. The Trauco.
A short unappealing being who lives in the forest, wearing clothes made from plants and bark of trees, a cone shaped hat and carrying an axe, which he wields with such strength that it can cut down any tree in the forest with one swing. He is of a lascive nature and can magically enchant young girls with his breath. Many a young virginal girl has fallen under his spell and has had his way with her.