Valparaíso is a city, port, and commune of Chile, center of its third largest conurbation (Greater Valparaíso). It is located northwest of Santiago and is one of the country's most important seaports. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, the National Congress of Chile has met in Valparaíso 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.”
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, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.
Though nearby San Antonio has become the country’s most commercially important seaport in terms of tonnage moved, the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture. 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 probably first populated by Picunches Indians, who were dedicated to agriculture. Other accounts say that it was the Changos who were nomads dedicated to fishing, and traveling between Caldera and Concepcion. Spanish explorers arrived in 1536, aboard 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 (1818), Valparaíso became the main harbour for the nascent Chilean navy, and opened to international trade, formerly limited to commerce with Spain and its other colonies.
Valparaíso soon became a desired stopover for ships rounding South America via the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horn. It 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 founded and published newspapers in these languages.
International immigration transformed the local culture from Spanish origins and Amerindian origins, including the construction of the first non-Catholic cemetery of Chile, The Cemetery of Dissidents. Football (soccer) 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 Scotland and Germany founded the first private secular schools, (The Mackay School, and Die Deutsche Schule, respectively). Immigrants formed the first volunteer fire-fighting units (still a volunteer activity in Chile). Their buildings reflected a variety of European styles, making Valparaíso more varied than some other Chilean cities.
The golden age of Valparaíso’s commerce ended after the opening of the Panama Canal (1914). Shipping shifted to the canal as captains sought to avoid the risks of the Strait of Magellan. The port's use and traffic declined significantly, causing a decline in the city's economy. Since the turn of the 21st century, shipping has increased in the last few decades with fruit exports, increasing opening of the Chilean economy to world commerce, and larger-scale, Post-Panamax ships that do not fit the Panama Canal.
The city was affected by the 27 February 2010 earthquake.
1822: a half past ten in the evening of November 19 in Valparaiso occurs a violent earthquake that left the city in ruins, killing 66 adults and 12 children, in addition to 110 wounded, 16 thousand people who had the city at the time. Among the wounded Account Liberator of Chile and then the country's Supreme Director Bernardo O'Higgins who slept in the palace of city government, and not for what took in a litter, he had died crushed by the building collapsing. The next day was a meteor visible from Quillota to Valparaiso, which aroused religious sentiments in the population.
1837: June 6. In Baron Hill is shot and did not die because, lead to ballonetazos, the minister Diego Portales, military conspirators who opposed the war against the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, promoted by the minister.
1851: the first fire department in the country is formed. This year is the first case in Valparaiso insurance company national character
1856: September 18, the first street lighting system with 700 gas lanterns lighting opens.
1861: The first tramway company is formed, starting the first car to roll - animal traction - in 1863.
1866: taking the total lack of defenses in Valparaiso, the Spanish fleet commanded by Casto Méndez Núñez bombarded the city during the Spanish-South American war. Spanish Chilean merchant fleet sunk, except those vessels whose captains hoisted foreign flags.
1872: as a merger of the National Steamship Company and Chilean Steamship Company, the South American Steamship Company was created as a national response to the increasing dominance of the shipping Pacific Steam Navigation Company.
1880: August 25 is set to Valparaiso Chilean Telephone Company of Edison, which formed by American Joseph Husbands, Peter Mac Kellar, James Martin and the U.S. consul in Valparaiso Lucius Foot, became the first telephone company of Chile.
1883: on December 1 Concepción elevator opens, that running a hydraulic system and coordination cries, becomes the first of its kind in the city.
After the country's independence and its consequent openness to international trade, Valparaíso became an important center for trade routes of the world, settling in the city lot of immigrants, mostly Europeans and Americans, who helped him a marked cosmopolitan look, thus including Valparaiso and Chile in the then industrial revolution the world, creating different city in civil institutions, financial, commercial and industrial, many of which still exist in the country.
All this resulted in a population increase the city that reached more than 160 000 inhabitants in the late nineteenth century, being necessary to use the steep hills to build houses and mansions then even cemeteries. Shortly after, and the lack of available land, began to attract land in what was once sea to build administrative, commercial buildings and industrial infrastructure.
The twentieth century began with the first big protest of dockworkers, Chile on April 15, 1903, due to complaints of Dockers for their excessive working hours and a salary increase, requests that were ignored by employers, creating a situation tense that led to serious violence on May 12, as taking the quartermaster by Protestants, burning CSAV offices and shot and kill people in different parts of the city. All this prompted the intervention at the state level, whichever siege for several days in the city. This protest was important for the future of unionism in the country.
The same year, electric streetcars, which replaced the previous urban railways were opened to animal traction.
On August 16, 1906 earthquake occurred on Valparaíso, which caused severe damage throughout the city, which was at that time the heart of the Chilean economy.
Damage was valued at hundreds of millions of pesos of the time, and human victims were counted at 3,000 dead and over 20,000 wounded. After removing the debris, reconstruction work began. These included the widening of streets, paving the vaulting and the estuaries of Jaime and Delicias, creating the current avenues France and Argentina respectively, the main street of the city was laid: Pedro Montt, Plaza O'Higgins was created, blew up a hill to allow the passage of Colon Street, the damaged Edwards mansion was demolished and in its place the present Cathedral of Valparaíso was screened, among many other works that gave shape to the current Almendral Valparaiso neighborhood.
In 1910 the port expansion work of the city, which ended in 1930 began. Among the built a breakwater (1 km long and 55 mt of profundad), piers and docking terminals, the Breakwater and Pier Baron account.
The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 caused a reduction of port activity, the latter losing its importance as a shipping route node Magellan channel.
Currently Chile's legislature along with other institutions of national importance like the National Customs Service, the National Fish and Aquaculture, Ministry of Culture and the barracks General of the Chilean Navy. In addition to the capital of the Valparaíso Region hosts the Administration, which is the seat of the regional government, reaching this city the majority of its services, known as Seremías (Regional Ministerial).