Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso
Valparaíso (/ˌvælpəˈraɪzoʊ/, Spanish: [balpaɾaˈiso]) is a major city, seaport, and educational center commune in Chile. Greater Valparaíso is the third largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located 69.5 miles (111.8 km) northwest of Santiago and is one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports. Valparaíso is the capital of Chile’s third most populated administrative region and has been the headquarters for the Chilean National Congress since 1990.
Valparaíso played a very 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” and “The Jewel of the Pacific”. In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a new national law named the city “Chile’s Cultural Capital.”
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, El Mercurio de Valparaíso. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso. The second half of the twentieth century was not kind to Valparaíso, as many wealthy families abandoned the city. Over the past 15 years, the city has staged an impressive renaissance attracting many artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up shop in the city’s hillside historic districts. Today, many thousands of tourists visit Valparaíso from around the world to marvel and the city’s unique labyrinth of cobbled alleys and colorful buildings.
Though nearby San Antonio has become the country’s most commercially viable seaport, the port of Valparaíso continues to be a major distribution center for container traffic, copper, and fruit exports. Valparaíso also receives growing attention from cruise ships which visit during the South American summer. Most significantly, Valparaíso has transformed itself into a major educational center with four large traditional universities and several large vocational colleges. The city has also become a shining beacon of Chilean culture, with many major festivals every year and street artists and musicians on every corner.
- Valparaíso (/ˌvælpəˈraɪzoʊ/, Spanish: [balpaɾaˈiso]) is a major city, seaport, and educational center commune in Chile.