Chillan is a city in the Biobio Region of Chile located about 400 km south of the capital, Santiago, near the geographical center of the country. It is the capital of Nuble Province and, with a population of approximately 170,000 people , the most populated urban center of this province. Within the city are a railway station, an inter-city bus terminal, an agricultural extension of the University of Concepcion, and a regimental military base. The city includes a modern-style enclosed shopping mall in addition to the multi-block open-air street market where fruits, vegetables, crafts and clothing are sold. The nearby mountains are a popular skiing destination.
Chillan was founded in 1580 at the site of Chillan Viejo as San Bartolome de Chillan by Martin Ruiz de Gamboa, who was campaigning against the local indigenous peoples at the time. However, this moniker did not fare well, and was replaced by the current name, which in the local Indian language means "where the Sun is sitting".
From its foundation, Chillan has been at the heart of Chile's rich agricultural region. It is also in a region of seismic activity, suffering from devastating earthquakes throughout its history; the last, in 1939, left over 30,000 dead and mobilized international help.
Chile's national hero, Bernardo O'Higgins, was born in Chillan in 1778. He was the force behind Chile's Independence from Spain, being elected Supreme Director and declaring Independence after the Battle of Chacabuco against the Spaniards (1817). His later victory at the Maipo battlefield cemented the country's freedom. He died in exile in Peru in 1842.
The city was heavily affected by the 2010 Chile earthquake. The number of casualties is unknown. In Chillan prison guards captured 36 of 203 prisioners that had escaped following the earthquake. During the escape prisioners burned 7 houses close to the prison. A witness in Chillan asserts that he was robbed by prisoners with a machine gun and that they also forced his girlfriend to kiss them. Another witness declares to have been sexualy molested by around 20 men, who are believed to be escaped prisioners. The sitiation in Chillan was described as being like the Wild West by El Mercurio.
In addition, Chillan has offered a number of great artists to the world. A very notable example is Claudio Arrau, the world famous pianist. Additionally there is Ramon Vinay, the tenor who was "the" Otello of the 1950s. His recording of the role with Toscanini is a perennial classic. He was a regular at the New York's Metropolitan Opera, where he sang both tenor and baritone roles. One of his last performances at this house was as the Barber of Seville's Basilio, a bass role. He retired from the stage in 1969, in a performance of Otello at Santiago's Teatro Municipal.
Other "chillanejos" are also part of Chile's best artistic and literary traditions: Marta Brunet, a writer; Marta Colvin, a sculptress; Pacheco Altamirano, a painter; and numerous others who, however, did not reach the international acclaim achieved by Arrau and Vinay.
Nowadays, the city of Chillan is connected to Chile's capital Santiago by both a modern highway and a rebuilt railway system that makes the trip in less than four hours.
Chillan & Nuble Fotografico en Flickr
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