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Friday, January 22, 2010

Valparaíso, Chile

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Valparaíso is a city in central Chile and one of that country's most
important seaports and an increasingly vital cultural center in the
hemisphere's Pacific Southwest. The city is the capital of the Region of
Valparaíso. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, Valparaiso houses
the National Congress.

Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the
19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling
between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan.
Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its
golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as "Little San
Francisco" or "The Jewel of the Pacific."

Examples of Valparaíso's former glory include Latin America's oldest stock
exchange, the continent's first volunteer fire department, Chile's first
public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous
publication in the world. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in
ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has
staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.

Though San Antonio, Chile has taken the reins as the country's most
commercially important seaport (greater tonnage moved), the City of
Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture, and the Greater
Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Mar,
Quilpué and Villa Alemana) has the third largest concentration of population
in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepción.


Valparaíso's bay was first populated by Changos, an ethnic group dedicated
to fishing and gathering. Spanish explorers arrived in 1536, on the
Santiaguillo, a supply ship sent by Diego de Almagro, who is considered the
first European explorer, or discoverer, of Chile. The Santiaguillo carried
men and supplies for Almagro's expedition, under the command of Juan de
Saavedra, who named the town after his native village of Valparaíso de
Arriba in Cuenca, Spain.

During Spanish colonial times, Valparaíso remained a small village, with
only a few houses and a church. After Chile's independence from Spain,
Valparaíso became the main harbour for the nascent Chilean navy, and opened
to international trade, which had been limited to commerce with Spain and
its other colonies. Valparaíso soon became a required stopover for ships
crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, via the Strait of Magellan
and Cape Horn, and gained particular importance supporting and supplying the
California Gold Rush (1848-1858). In its role as a major seaport, Valparaíso
received immigrants from many European countries, mainly from Britain,
Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. German, French, Italian and English
were commonly spoken among its citizens, who also had newspapers in these
same languages.

International immigration transformed the local culture from its Spanish
origins. Football was introduced to Chile by English immigrants, and the
first private catholic school in Chile was founded by French immigrants in
Valparaíso: Le Collège des Sacrés Cœurs (The Sacred Hearts School) which has
been operating for about 170 years. Immigrants from England and Germany
founded the first private, secular schools, (the MacKay School, and Die
Deutsche Schule respectively). Immigrants also formed the first volunteer
fire-fighting units (still a volunteer activity in Chile), while their
architecture reflected various European styles, not just Spanish traditions.

The golden age of Valparaíso's commerce ended after the opening of the
Panama Canal (1914), as most ships sought to avoid the Strait of Magellan,
and the port's importance and use was reduced substantially. Traffic has
increased in the last few decades with fruit exports, increasing opening of
the Chilean economy to world commerce, and Post-Panamax ships that do not
fit the Panama Canal.


Valparaíso is located in central Chile, 120 km (74 miles) to the northwest
of the capital Santiago. Valparaiso, like most of Chile, is vulnerable to
earthquakes. The last catastrophic earthquake to strike Valparaiso
devastated the city in 1906, killing nearly 3,000 people though significant
earthquakes occurred in 1985 and the 2008 Papudo earthquake.


Nicknamed "The Jewel of the Pacific", Valparaíso was declared a world
heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture
In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso's unusual system of
funicular elevators (highly-inclined cable cars) one of the world's 100 most
endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the
Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage
status for Valparaíso. Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003
thanks to its historical importance, natural beauty (large number of hills
surrounding a picturesque harbour), and unique architecture (particularly, a
mix of 19th century styles of housing). Built upon dozens of steep hillsides
overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso boasts a labyrinth of streets and
cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy.
Valparaíso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Landmarks include:

* Iglesia de la Matriz
* Sotomayor Square
* Courthouse
* The "4 season women", bought by Francisco Echaurren in 1877, in Plaza
de la victoria
* The late "Cafè Riquet" which was a classic amongst "Porteños" or
locals, along with the otherevents that often take place at the Anibal Pinto
* The 16 remaining "Funiculars", 15 public(national monuments)/ 1
private (that belongs to "Hospital Carlos Van Buren"), of which at one point
there were up to 29 of them.
* The Concepcion & Alegre Historical District
* The Bellavista hill, which has the "Museo a Cielo Abierto" or "open
sky museum".
* Monument to Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane, 10th Earl of
* Monument to Manuel Blanco Encalada, first Chilean President, Born in
Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Economy and transport

Approximately 50 international cruise ships call on Valparaíso during the
4-month Chilean summer. The port of Valparaíso is also an important hub for
shipping of container freight, and exports of many products, including wine,
copper, and fresh fruit.
Funicular in Valparaiso

A new regional Metro system, opened to the public on 24 November 2005,
updated parts of the railroad that joined Santiago to Valparaíso and cities
in between (originally built in 1863). The new metro constitutes the
so-called "fourth stage" ("Cuarta Etapa" in Spanish) of Metropolitan
improvements. The metro railway extends along most of Gran Valparaíso and is
the second metro system in operation in Chile (after Santiago's), and
includes an underground section that crosses Viña del Mar's downtown.

Valparaíso's road infrastructure has been undergoing substantial improvement
particularly with the completion of the "Curauma — Placilla — La Pólvora"
freeway bypass, which will allow trucks to go directly to the port facility
over a modern highway and through tunnels, without driving through the
historic and already congested downtown streets.


Although technically only Chile's 6th largest city, with an urban area
population of 263,499 (275,982 in municipality), the Greater Valparaíso
metropolitan area, including the neighboring cities of Viña del Mar, Concón,
Quilpué and Villa Alemana, is the second largest in the country (803,683


During Valparaíso's golden age (1848-1914), the city received large numbers
of immigrants, primarily from Europe. The immigrant communities left a
unique imprint on the city's architecture. Each community built its own
churches and schools, while many also founded other noteworthy cultural and
economic institutions. The largest immigrant communities came from England,
Germany, and Italy, each developing their own hillside neighborhood,
preserved today as National Historic Districts or "Zonas Típicas."

During the second half of the twentieth century, Valparaíso experienced a
great decline, as wealthy families de-gentrified the historic quarter,
moving to bustling Santiago or nearby Viña del Mar. By the early 1990s, much
of the city's unique heritage had been lost and many Chileans had given up
on the city. But in the mid 1990s, a grass roots preservation movement
blossomed in Valparaíso.

The Fundación Valparaíso" (Valparaíso Foundation), founded by the North
American poet Todd Temkin, has executed major neighborhood redevelopment
projects; has improved the city's tourist infrastructure; and administers
the city's jazz, ethnic music, and opera festivals; among other projects.
Some noteworthy foundation projects include the World Heritage Trail, Opera
by the Sea, and Chile's "Cultural Capital". During recent years, Mr. Temkin
has used his influential Sunday column in El Mercurio de Valparaíso to
advocate for many major policy issues, such as the creation of a "Ley
Valparaíso" (Valparaiso Law) in the Chilean Congress, and the possibility
that the Chilean government must guarrantee funding for the preservation of
Valparaíso's beloved funicular elevators.

Valparaíso's newspaper, El Mercurio de Valparaíso is the oldest
Spanish-language newspaper in circulation in the world.

"Fundación Renzo Pecchenino, LUKAS" maintains the drawings and paintings of
the artist/cartoonist who came to symbolize Valparaíso in popular culture,
in a newly restored building on Cerro Concepción, overlooking the bay.

Valparaíso is also home to the so called "School of Valparaíso", which is in
fact the Faculty of Architecture & Urbanism of the Pontificia Universidad
Católica de Valparaíso. The "School of Valparaiso" was in the 60s and 70s
one of the most experimental, avant garde and controversial Architectural
schools in the country.

In 2003, the Chilean Congress declared Valparaíso to be "Chile's Cultural
Capital" and home for the nation's new cultural ministry.

Valparaíso stages a major festival attended by hundreds of thousands of
participants on the last three days of every year. The festival culminates
with a "New Year's by the Sea" fireworks show, the biggest in all of Latin
America, attended by a million tourists who fill the coastline and hillsides
with a view of the bay.

Nightlife activities in Valparaíso are claimed to be among the best in the
country. Sailors and students alike favour the harbour sector due to the
various traditional bars and nightclubs, among them "Bar La Playa", "La
Piedra Feliz," and "El Bar Inglés", which can be found near Plaza Sotomayor.
University students now meet at a number of local nightclubs, bars, and
discothèques. A vivid guide to Valparaíso can be found in the novels of
Cayetano Brule, the private detective who lives in a Victorian house, in the
picturesque Paseo Gervasoni, on Cerro Concepción.

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