Valparaiso | Chile

Valparaíso (/ˌvælpəˈraɪzoʊ/, Spanish: [balpaɾaˈiso]) is a major city, seaport, and educational center in the commune of Valparaíso, Chile. Greater Valparaíso is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaíso is located about 120 km northwest of Santiago by road 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 has seven universities.

Valparaíso 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. Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, as a magnet for European immigrants, 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 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

Notable features 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 second half of the twentieth century was unfavorable to Valparaíso, as many wealthy families abandoned the city. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a serious blow to Valparaíso’s port-based economy. However, over the past 15 years[when?], the city has staged a recovery, attracting artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up in the city's hillside historic districts. Today, many thousands of tourists visit Valparaíso from around the world to enjoy the city's labyrinth of cobbled alleys and colorful buildings. 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 that 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 exemplifies Chilean culture, with festivals every year, and street artists and musicians.

On March 28, 1814, the USS Essex is defeated by British frigates Phoebe and Cherub during the War of 1812, leading to the deaths of 58 US Marines. (Captain David Porter, a survivor of this attack, would retire to Portersville, IN and request changing the name to Valparaíso, commemorating the only naval battle he ever lost.) By August 2, 1820, the Liberating Expedition of Peru sails from Valparaíso.

At half past ten on the evening of November 19, 1822, Valparaíso experienced a violent earthquake that left the city in ruins; of the 16,000 residents, casualties included at least 66 adults and 12 children, as well as 110 people wounded. The next day, a meteor trail was visible from Quillota to Valparaíso, seen as a religious experience for much of the population.

In 1826, the Royal Navy Great Britain established a South America Station in Valparaíso to maintain British naval interest in the region. It would remain until 1837, when it was relocated to Esquimalt, British Columbia.

September 12, 1827 saw the establishment of El Mercurio de Valparaíso, currently the oldest circulating newspaper in the Spanish language worldwide.

In May 1828, a constitutional convention begins regular meeting in the church of San Francisco. By August 9, the Constitution of the Republic of Chile would be fully drafted and disseminated.

On June 6, 1837, Minister Diego Portales is shot at the port outside of Baron Hill on suspicion of promoting conspirators who opposed the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, considered a turning point of Chilean public opinion and the purpose of the war.

By 1851, the first fire brigade in the country is formed. The next year potable running water becomes available, as well as the first telegraph service in Latin America, between the city and Santiago. It would be another four years before streetlights, with 700 gas lanterns, are installed. In 1861 the first tram company is formed, mostly using horse or mules to draw them, and fully established over the next few years.

Although technically only Chile's 6th largest city, with an urban area population of 263,499 (275,982 in municipality ), the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area, including the neighbouring cities of Viña del Mar, Concón, Quilpué and Villa Alemana, is the second largest in the country (803,683 inhabitants).

According to the 2002 census of the National Statistics Institute, the commune of Valparaíso spans an area of 401.6 km2 (155 sq mi) and has 275,982 inhabitants (135,217 men and 140,765 women). Of these, 275,141 (99.7%) lived in urban areas and 841 (0.3%) in rural areas. The population fell by 2.4% (6858 persons) between the 1992 and 2002 censuses.

Residents of Valparaíso are commonly called porteños (feminine: porteñas).

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