Valparaiso (literally in Spanish: Valle Paraiso (Paradise Valley) and also called "Valpo" locally) is a city in central Chile and one of the 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 Valparaiso. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, Valparaiso houses the National Congress.
Valparaiso 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, Valparaiso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as Little San Francisco and The Jewel of the Pacific.
Examples of Valparaisos former glory include Latin Americas oldest stock exchange, the continents first volunteer fire department, Chiles 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 Valparaiso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.
Though San Antonio, Chile has taken the reins as the countrys most commercially important seaport (greater tonnage moved), the City of Valparaiso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture, and the Greater Valparaiso metropolitan area has the third largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepcion.
Valparaiso'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 Almagros expedition, under the command of Juan de Saavedra, who named the town after his native village of Valparaiso de Arriba in Cuenca, Spain.
During Spanish colonial times, Valparaiso remained a small village, with only a few houses and a church. After Chiles independence from Spain, Valparaiso 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. Valparaiso 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 (18481858). In its role as a major seaport, Valparaiso 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 Valparaiso: Le College des Sacres Coeurs (The Sacred Hearts School) which has been operating for about 170 years. Immigrants from England and Germany founded the first private, secular schools, . 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 Valparaisos commerce ended after the opening of the Panama Canal (1914), as most ships sought to avoid the Strait of Magellan, and the ports 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.
Valparaiso 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. Before the earthquake of February 27th 2010, which measured 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, the last catastrophic earthquake to strike Valparaiso devastated the city in August 1906, killing nearly 3,000 people. Other significant earthquakes to affect the city were the 1730 Valparaiso earthquake, the 1985 Santiago earthquake and the 2008 Papudo earthquake.
Nicknamed The Jewel of the Pacific, Valparaiso was declared a world heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaisos unusual system of funicular elevators (highly-inclined cable cars) one of the worlds 100 most endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for Valparaiso. Valparaiso 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 . Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaiso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy. Valparaiso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Iglesia de la Matriz
The "4 season women", bought by Francisco Echaurren in 1877, in Plaza de la victoria
The late "Cafe Riquet" which was a classic amongst "Portenos" or locals, along with the otherevents that often take place at the Anibal Pinto Square
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 Dundonald.
Monument to Manuel Blanco Encalada, first Chilean President, Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Economy and transport
Major industries include tourism, culture, and transport.
Approximately 50 international cruise ships call on Valparaiso during the 4-month Chilean summer. The port of Valparaiso is also an important hub for shipping of container freight, and exports of many products, including wine, copper, and fresh fruit.
A new regional Metro system, opened to the public on 24 November 2005, updated parts of the railroad that joined Santiago to Valparaiso 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 Valparaiso and is the second metro system in operation in Chile (after Santiagos), and includes an underground section that crosses Vina del Mars downtown.
Valparaisos road infrastructure has been undergoing substantial improvement, particularly with the completion of the Curauma Placilla La Polvora 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. In addition, roads to link Valparaiso to San Antonio, Chiles second largest port, and the coastal towns in between , are also under various degrees of completion. Travel between Valparaiso and Santiago currently takes about 80 minutes via a modern toll highway.
Although technically only Chiles 6th largest city, with an urban area population of 263,499 , the Greater Valparaiso metropolitan area, including the neighboring cities of Vina del Mar, Concon, Quilpue and Villa Alemana, is the second largest in the country .
During Valparaisos golden age (18481914), the city received large numbers of immigrants, primarily from Europe. The immigrant communities left a unique imprint on the citys 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 Tipicas.
During the second half of the twentieth century, Valparaiso experienced a great decline, as wealthy families de-gentrified the historic quarter, moving to bustling Santiago or nearby Vina del Mar. By the early 1990s, much of the citys 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 Valparaiso.
The Fundacion Valparaiso (Valparaiso Foundation), founded by the North American poet Todd Temkin, has executed major neighborhood redevelopment projects; has improved the citys tourist infrastructure; and administers the citys jazz, ethnic music, and opera festivals; among other projects. Some noteworthy foundation projects include the World Heritage Trail, Opera by the Sea, and Chiles "Cultural Capital".. During recent years, Mr. Temkin has used his influential Sunday column in El Mercurio de Valparaiso to advocate for many major policy issues, such as the creation of a "Ley Valparaiso" (Valparaiso Law) in the Chilean Congress, and the possibility that the Chilean government must guarrantee funding for the preservation of Valparaiso's beloved funicular elevators.
Valparaisos newspaper, El Mercurio de Valparaiso is the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in circulation in the world.
Fundacion Renzo Pecchenino, LUKAS maintains the drawings and paintings of the artist/cartoonist who came to symbolize Valparaiso in popular culture, in a newly restored building on Cerro Concepcion, overlooking the bay.
Valparaiso is also home to the so called School of Valparaiso, which is in fact the Faculty of Architecture & Urbanism of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. 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 Valparaiso to be Chiles Cultural Capital and home for the nations new cultural ministry.
Valparaiso 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 Years 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.
The Chilean Congress meets in a modern building in the Almendral section of Valparaiso, after relocation from Santiago during the last years of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Although congressional activities were to be legally moved by a ruling in 1987, the newly built site only began to function as the seat of Congress during the government of Patricio Aylwin in 1990.
Nightlife activities in Valparaiso 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 Ingles, which can be found near Plaza Sotomayor. University students now meet at a number of local nightclubs, bars, and discotheques. A vivid guide to Valparaiso 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 Concepcion.
Health and education
The public healthcare system mainly relies on the Hospital Carlos Van Buren located at the plan and Hospital Valparaiso (officially Hospital Eduardo Pereira) located at St. Roque Hill. There are also several clinics like Universidad de Chile's Clinica Baron, Hospital Aleman (due to close), and the former Naval Hospital on Playa Acha Hill.
The city is an important educational centre with nine universities. The city has the third largest concentration of universities in Chile, and is home to four major universities:
Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso
Universidad de Valparaiso
Universidad de Playa Ancha
The local football team is Santiago Wanderers, which is the oldest professional football team in Chile,it was founded on August 15, 1892
Valparaiso Downhill is a new mountain bike race that takes place in February, and that has bicycle racers compete down stairs and alleys, going from the surrounding hills down to the "plan" (Valparaiso's "lowlands").
II Half Marathon Puerto Valparaiso 2007 was the continuation of Valparaiso Maraton Bicentenario 2006, an international event that mixes athletics and tourism through the streets of Valparaiso. On September 30, 2007, was the second race, over two distances: 10 km and 21 km, in 12 categories, for male and female runners. The race started at Muelle Baron, and the course passed by the sea side, crossing diverse architectural and geographical landmarks.
Valparaiso is the birthplace of many historically significant figures, including:
Sergio Badilla Castillo founder of poetic transrealism in contemporary poetry
Roberto Ampuero, author of the internationally published novels about the private eye Cayetano Brule and "Hijo Ilustre" of Valparaiso
John Christian Watson Australias third Prime Minister.
Tom Araya Vocalist of thrash metal band Slayer
It has also been the residence of many artists, such as Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario.
Twin towns Sister cities
Valparaiso is twinned with:
Municipalidad de Valparaiso (Valparaiso Municipality)
El Mercurio de ValparaisoMain newspaper
Wikitravel guide to Valparaiso