1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Valparaiso (city)

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VALPARAISO, a city and seaport of Chile, capital of the province of Valparaiso, on a broad open bay of the Pacific in lat. 11,30 0' 2” S., long. 71° 41' 15” W., about 70 m. N.W. of Santiago. Pop. (1902) 142,282; (1907, estimated) 180,600. The almost semicircular Bay of Valparaiso is slightly over 3 m. across from Punta Angeles to Punta Gruesa, and the city stands on the south side, on the slopes of a spur of barren hills projecting into the Pacific and forming a rocky peninsula terminating in Punta Angeles. This point affords good shelter from southerly and westerly storms, but the bay is open to those from the north. The city occupies a narrow strip of beach extending around the head of the bay, and extends up the steep slopes and valleys of the enclosing hills, which have an altitude of 1000 to 1400 ft. The extreme outer points of the bay are strongly fortified. Valparaiso is pre-eminently a commercial city. The foreign trade is largely in the hands of foreign merchants. Among industrial establishments are the government railway shops, large foundry and machine shops, coach building works, a large sugar refinery, breweries, distilleries, bottling works and numerous small factories. The trade of the port, which is the largest and most important on the Pacific coast of South America, makes it a terminal and port of call for several regular lines of steamers, which afford frequent communication with Europe and the United States. The transcontinental railway line between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires (the Andean tunnel was opened in April 1910) adds to the traffic of the port, through the transhipment of passengers and freight to escape the long and dangerous voyage by way of the Straits of Magellan. Two cable lines give telegraphic communication with Europe and the United States—a West Coast line running N. to Panama; and a land line across the Andes to—Buenos Aires in connexion with the cable to Europe from that port. There is but one railway out of Valparaiso—the government line to Santiago, with a branch running to Los Andes and the international tunnel through the Andes. There are a wireless telegraph station in regular communication with the islands of Juan Fernandez, state telegraph lines communicating with all parts of the republic, and an efficient telephone service. Valparaiso has an attractive suburb, Viña-del-Mar, immediately E. of Punta Gruesa, only 15 minutes by rail from the city.

Valparaiso was founded in 1536 by Juan de Saavedra, who named it after his birthplace near Cuenca, Spain. It was an ill-chosen name, however, for there is nothing in it descriptive of the barren hills, dirty streets and foul-smelling shores of Valparaiso (Paradise Valley). The port and town were of but little note during the colonial period, for free commercial intercourse with the colony was forbidden. In 1819, near the end of the war with Spain, its population barely reached 5000. In 1578 it was captured by Sir Francis Drake, and in 1596 by Sir John Hawkins. In 1600 it was sacked by the Dutch under Van Noort. On the 31st of March 1866, it was bombarded by a Spanish fleet under the command of Admiral Nunez, when a large part of the town was laid in ruins, and on the 28th of August 1891, after the victory of the congressional troops over Balmaceda's forces in the vicinity, it was partially sacked by the Chileans themselves. Valparaiso has suffered much from earthquakes—in 1730, 1822, 1839, 1873 and 1908. The last mentioned caused the destruction of a large part of the city, including public edifices, private residences, the water mains, public lighting service and transportation facilities. A large part of the population was deprived of shelter and had to take refuge on the plateau above. Aid was promptly given by the national government, and assistance was sent from foreign countries; and the national government made a grant for the rebuilding of the city.