Sunday, 9 July 2017

CHILE: Valparaíso Chile's Cultural Capital

Valparaíso is a major city, seaport, and educational center in the county or 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 is also home to no more than 7 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, 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.

Valparaíso's bay was probably first populated by the Picunche natives, known for their agriculture, or the Chango people, who were nomads dedicated to fishing, and traveling between modern-day Caldera and Concepcion. Spanish explorers, considered the first European discoverers of Chile, arrived in 1536, aboard the Santiaguillo, a supply ship sent by Diego de Almagro. 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.

In 1810, a wealthy merchant built the first pier in the history of Chile and the first during the colonial era. In its place today, stands the building of El Mercurio de Valparaíso. The ocean then rose to this point. Reclamation of land from the sea moved the coastline five blocks away. Between 1810 and 1830, he built much of the existing port of the city, including much of the land reclamation work that now provides the city's commercial centre.

The 1906 Valparaíso earthquake caused severe damage throughout the city on August 16, 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 injured. After the removal of the debris, reconstruction work began. This included the widening of streets, culverting and covering streams,Jaime and Delicias – creating the current avenues Francia and Argentina respectively. The main street of the city Pedro Montt was laid and Plaza O'Higgins was created; a hill was removed to allow the passage of Colon Street.

The damaged Edwards mansion was demolished and in its place the present Cathedral of Valparaíso was built and, among many other works, this gave shape to the current Almendral Valparaíso area.

Currently Chile's legislature along with other institutions of national importance like the National Customs Service, the National Fish and Aquaculture Ministry, the Ministry of Culture and the Barracks General of the Chilean Navy are sited in the city. In addition to the capital of the Valparaíso Region hosts the Regional Administration and government.

In February 2013, about 105 homes were destroyed in Valparaíso, affecting 1,200 people. On April 13, 2014, a huge brush fire burned out of control, destroying 2,800 homes and killing 16 people, forcing President Michelle Bachelet to declare it a disaster zone.

Valparaíso is located in central Chile, 120 km (75 mi) to the north west of the capital Santiago. Valparaíso, like most of Chile, is vulnerable to earthquakes. Before the earthquake of February 27, 2010, which measured 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale,the last catastrophic earthquake to strike Valparaíso devastated the city in August 1906, killing nearly 3,000 people.Other significant earthquakes to affect the city were the 1730 Valparaíso earthquake and the 1985 Algarrobo earthquake.

Because of Valparaíso's proximity to the Peru–Chile Trench, the city is vulnerable to earthquakes. The Peru–Chile Trench stores large amounts of energy for a very long time and sometimes ruptures after short intervals in a violent earthquake.

Nicknamed "The Jewel of the Pacific", Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso's unusual system of funicular lifts (steeply inclined carriages) one of the world's 100 most endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for Valparaíso.

Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso has a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy. Valparaíso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Landmarks include:

- Iglesia de la Matriz
- Plaza Aníbal Pinto
- Plaza Sotomayor
- Courthouse
- 16 remaining funiculars called ascensores: 15 public (national monuments) and 1 private which belongs to Hospital Carlos Van Buren.
- The Concepcion and 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
- Cemeteries on Panteón Hill – Cemetery Number One (Catholic) and Dissidents Cemetery (Protestant)

Major industries include tourism, culture, shipping and freight transport.

Approximately 50 international cruise ships call on Valparaíso during the 4-month Chilean summer. The port of Valparaíso is also an important hub for container freight and exports many products, including wine, copper, and fresh fruit.

There are two large shopping centres and various other major retail developments:

Portal Valparaíso (Jumbo/Easy/Paris/La Polar)
Harbour Station Mall
Baron Square
Kenrick Mall
Axis Avenida Pedro Montt
Axis Avenida Uruguay
Axis Avenida Condell

During Valparaíso's golden age (1848–1914), the city received large numbers of immigrants, primarily from Europe. The immigrant communities left a unique imprint on the city's noteworthy 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 Britain, Germany, and Italy, each developing their own hillside neighbourhood, preserved today as National Historic Districts or "Zonas Típicas."

During the second half of the 20th century, Valparaíso 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 city's 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 Valparaíso where nowadays also a vast number of murals created by graffiti artists can be viewed on the streets, alleyways and stairways.

The Fundacion Valparaíso (Valparaíso Foundation), founded by the North American poet Todd Temkin, has executed major neighborhood redevelopment projects; has improved the city's tourist infrastructure; and administers the city's jazz, ethnic music, and opera festivals; among other projects. Some noteworthy foundation projects include the World Heritage Trail,Opera by the Sea,and Chile's "Cultural Capital".

During recent years, Mr. Temkin has used his influential Sunday column in El Mercurio de Valparaíso to advocate for many major policy issues, such as the creation of a "Ley Valparaíso" (Valparaíso Law) in the Chilean Congress, and the possibility that the Chilean government must guarantee funding for the preservation of Valparaíso's beloved funicular elevators.

Valparaíso's newspaper, El Mercurio de Valparaíso is the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in circulation in the world.

The Fundacion LUKAS maintains the drawings and paintings of the cartoonist Renzo Antonio Giovanni Pecchenino Raggi (stage name LUKAS),who came to symbolize Valparaíso in popular culture, in a new restored building overlooking the bay.

Valparaíso is also home to the so-called "School of Valparaíso", which is in fact the Faculty of Architecture & Urbanism of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. The "School of Valparaíso" was in the 1960s and 1970s one of the most experimental, avant garde and controversial Architectural schools in the country.

Valparaíso 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 Year's 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. Even though everyone calls it the Valparaíso Fireworks, it is in fact a fireworks display running along a great part of the coast from Valparaíso, past Viña del Mar and all the way to Concón.

In 2003, the Chilean Congress declared Valparaíso to be "Chile's Cultural Capital" and home for the nation's new cultural ministry.

Valparaíso offers various urban nightlife activities. Traditional bars and nightclubs can be found near Plaza Sotomayor. A vivid guide to Valparaíso can be found in the novels of Cayetano Brule, the private detective who lives in a Victorian house in the picturesque Paseo Gervasoni in Cerro Concepción.



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