San José State University
Valparaiso, Chile

By Yasna Borne

Valparaiso City Location

Valparalso is located 70 miles from Santiago, the capital of Chile. The City of Valparaiso is on the coast of the South Pacific Ocean at similar latitudes as Australia in the Southern latitudes and Washington DC in the Northen latitudes.

The City and its Discovery

The large inlet that the discovers named Valparaiso was inhabited by natives known as Changos who worked as farmers and fishermen. For their sea activities they used inflated rafts made out of sea lion skin, ropes and wooden boards.
The first contact between the natives and the Spaniards in this part of the world was in 1536, when Captain Juan de Saavedra, the commanding officer of an advanced group of soldiers of Diego de Almagro, anchored the Santiaguillo in this bay, carrying provisions from Peru. In 1544, Pedro de Valdivia confirmed the name given to this place, and defined it as the Natural Port of Santiago. In the year 1599 the first delimitation of the village was done, starting from a church built in the actual site of La Matriz Church.

On April 17th 1791, the first town council of Valparaiso was formally created, being the first Mayor Jose Santiago de Moya. This date is considered as the Official Day of the city.

The Port of Chile

The first pier built in Chile was in Valparaiso during the colonial period, and it was called "Muelle Villaurrutia". In 1832 the first cargo warehouses were built. The Fiscal Pier was built between 1870 and 1876. After this last construction a passenger pier was built named "Muelle Prat." The present facilities were built between 1910 and 1930. The frontside is more than 1.5 miles long.

This port handles one of the largest amount of cargo in the country during a year.

Valparaiso is a major seaport and manufacturing center and is one of Chile's largest cities. Manufactures of the area include processed food, textiles,chemical, and leather and metal products. Economic activity is concentrated on the narrow level area near the bay, and residential districts are located on the slopes of the hills that enclose the city.
Valparaiso was an important port of call for ships rounding "Cape Horn" before the opening (1914) of the Panama Canal.

The city has a population of 293,800. (1998).