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Chilean Law: Getting Started


Chile, like other Latin American nations, follows the civil law tradition.  Civil law, which has its roots in Roman law, features reliance on codified law, rather than precedential case law.  A helpful introduction to the civil law tradition is noted below. 

In general, locating and then interpreting sources of Chilean law can be challenging, particularly for non-Spanish-speaking researchers.  Keep in mind that, when approaching a question related to Chilean law (or foreign law generally), it is often advantageous to start with a secondary source.  There are several online guides in English that can serve as introductions to understanding and researching Chilean law. These resources are listed at right.

On October 25, 2020, Chileans overwhelmingly voted in favor of drafting a new constitution. The plebiscite was covered extensively in the local, regional, and international press. On May 15 and 16, 2021, Chileans again went to the polls to elect 155 representatives to the Constitutional Convention. 

On December 20, 2021, Chilean citizens elected thirty-five-year-old Gabriel Boric to be the country's next president. Boric is a leftist and former student leader who will become Chile's youngest president when he is sworn in on March 11, 2022.

Webinar on Chile's Constitutional Convention (2021)

"Chile's Constitutional Convention: What's Next?". Webinar conducted on May 19, 2021. Recording available. Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Americas and Columbia University Global Centers (Santiago). Speakers included Claudia Heiss, Head, Political Science, Institute of Public Affairs, University of Chile. 


BBC Radio Interview with Michelle Bachelet (2019)

An interview with Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and currently the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rightswas conducted on BBC Radio as part of its "Her Story Made History" series. The interview was conducted on August 29, 2019, and is posted here.  The discussion primarily  focuses on Dr. Bachelet's experiences under the Pinochet regime. The interview is in English and lasts about twenty-eight minutes. 

NACLA Report on the Americas

The Fall 2013 issue of NACLA Report on the Americas was dedicated to the topic of "Chile 40 Years Later:  The Politics of Memory and the Memory of Politics.”  LUC patrons may gain access to this issue via the LUC Libraries' subscription database, Academic Search Complete

Understanding Civil Law

An excellent introduction to civil law systems is available via the WWW link listed below. Other books on civil law may be located using the LUC Libraries' online catalog (see the "Books" tab for more info).

Chile's Legal Reforms

Chilean law professors Hugo Rojas and Rafael Blanco of the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, and Loyola adjunct law professor Richard Hutt, wrote an excellent article in English about Chile's criminal justice reforms:

Rafael Blanco, Richard Hutt, & Hugo Rojas, Reform to the Criminal Justice System in Chile:  Evaluation and Challenges,"  2.2 LOY. U. CHI. INT'L L. REV.  253 (2004-2005).

Introductions to Chilean Law and Researching Chilean Law

There are several websites that provide introductions to Chilean law and Chilean legal research.  Note that a number of U.S. law libraries offer webliographies for Chile.  Try Googling "legal research" and "Chile" to locate these pages.  See also the "Databases" tab for information on several commercial databases that also provide introductions and descriptions of Chilean law and legal resources.


The Chile Reader

Published in 2013, this book is a compilation of essays on the history, culture, and politics of Chile. Essay authors include Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Andrés Bello, Salvador Allende, and Patricio Aylwin.  One chapter is dedicated to "Returning to Democracy:  Transition and Community." 


Thanks to a generous donation, the Law Library has purchased several DVDs related to events in Chile: 

The 2008 PBS documentary, The Judge and the General, follows Chilean judge Juan Guzmán’s investigations of two criminal cases brought against former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet.  The first case focused on the 1973 death of Manuel Donoso, a sociology professor who was killed near Arica, Chile, as part of Pinochet’s infamous “Caravan of Death.”  The first volume of the investigative dossier of this case is held in the Law Library’s Dan K. Webb Rare Books Room.  The second case chronicled in the film involved the disappearance of Cecilia Castro, a young Chilean law student and political activist.  For more information on the film and its creators, Elizabeth Farnsworth and Patricio Lanfranco, see


No is a 2012 Chilean film, directed by Pablo Larraín, starring Gael García Bernal.  The film depicts the advertising campaign utilized during the 1988 plebiscite held to decide whether Augusto Pinochet should be granted another 8-year term as President.  In 2013, No was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 


Both films are currently held on permanent reserve behind the Circulation Desk.

Chilean Materials in the Dan K. Webb Rare Books Room

The Loyola University Chicago School of Law currently sponsors a formal exchange program with the Law School of the Universidad Alberto Hurtado (UAH) in Santiago, Chile.  Each year, several UAH law faculty and students visit Chicago, and a seminar class from Loyola travels to Santiago during Spring Break. 

Since the program's inception, UAH has periodically donated items related to Chilean law to the Law Library.  Grouped together as the "Universidad Alberto Hurtado Collection," these materials are housed in the Rare Books Room, and currently total over 20 items.  The items, which are primarily in Spanish, range from copies of UAH Law School periodicals, to an investigative dossier of former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. 

Use of the materials in the "Universidad Alberto Hurtado Collection" is limited to Loyola Law School faculty, staff, current students, and alumni.  Individuals wishing to review any of the UAH items are asked to call the Reference Desk at 312.915.7205 to schedule an appointment.

Legal Spanish of Chile

Intermark Language Services has posted a short introduction to legal terminology in Chilean Spanish. 

Chilean Contract Law

PowerPoint Presentations

The first PowerPoint accompanied a talk on Chilean legal research given at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in Seattle on July 16, 2013.  The speaker was Sergio Stone, Robert Crown Law Library, Stanford University. (Posted with permission.)

The second set of PowerPoint slides was prepared for the LUC Law School course, "Comparative Law Seminar:  Legal Systems in the Americas."

Online Translators

English translations of Latin American legal materials are often difficult to locate and can be unreliable.  Only in rare instances are authoritative English translations available.  If authoritative versions are not available, look for "official" translations that are created by, or for, a government organization.  Further, look for synoptic translations, which allow for side-by-side comparisons of the vernacular with the English translation.  Some types of Latin American legal materials are translated into English more often than others, such as those pertaining to commercial law. 

Many online translators are available on the WWW, but these should be used with caution since web translators do not generally include specialized legal or commercial vocabulary.  Online translators, however, may be of some help in getting the general sense of a document or passage.  Examples of WWW translators are: