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Valdivia is a city in southern Chile, founded by Pedro de Valdivia, located at the confluence of the Calle Calle , Valdivia and Cau Cau rivers, some 15 km east of the coastal town and bay of Corral . The city administratively belongs to X Región de Los Lagos and is the capital of the province of Valdivia.
Valdivia had 140,000 inhabitants (valdivianos) according to the 2002 census. The main economic activities include tourism, paper, metallurgy, and beer production. The city is also the home of the Universidad Austral de Chile, founded in 1954.
The city of Valdivia and the island of Chiloé were the two southernmost enclaves of the Spanish Empire and administratively depended directly from the Crown. In the second half of 19th century, Valdivia was the port of entry for German immigrants who were given land and settled in the surrounding areas. The city was also the epicenter (and most damaged city) of the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960--the most powerful earthquake in recorded history. Debris and destroyed buildings from the earthquake can still be found in the surburban areas--land subsidence improved navigability of the local rivers, while destroying and submerging buildings adjoining the water.
Valdivia was founded in 1552 by Pedro de Valdivia, as Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia. Even though after Pedro de Valdivia's death the border of the Spanish Empire shifted northwards, to the Bio Bio river, the city of Valdivia remained a Spanish enclave, and with the island of Chiloé remained the southernmost locations of the Empire. Both enclaves depended directly from the Spanish Crown because of their strategic importance to the Viceroyalty of Peru. Corral, located on the river entrance to Valdivia, became the most fortified bay at the time, with 17 forts.
During Spanish colonial times, Dutch and English corsairs tried unsuccessfully to capture the city. In addition, a Dutch attempt at a local colony was forced to leave after a few months, when huilliche natives broke trade relations with the colonists, causing a serious food shortage.
Even after Chilean Independance from Spain, Valdivia and Chiloé remained loyal to the Spanish Empire. Chilean naval forces, commanded by Lord Thomas Cochrane, captured both enclaves and integrated them into Chile (1821). Cochrane attacked the Spanish forts by surprise, avoiding a direct confrontation with the highly-defended forts.
The expansion and economic development of the city were limited in the early 19th century. To jump-start economic development, the Chilean government initiated a highly focused immigration program under Vicente Pérez Rosales . Through this program, thousands of Germans settled in the area, incorporating modern technology and know-how to develop agriculture and industry. To make space for the new immigrants, native forests were cut down and natives (mostly Mapuches ) were pushed into reservations.
On May 22 1960, Chile suffered the most powerful earthquake ever registered in modern history, the 9.5 magnitude Great Chilean Earthquake. The earthquake generated devastating tsunamis that affected Japan and Hawaii. A number of Spanish-colonial forts around Valdivia were completely destroyed. Soil subsidence also destroyed buildings, deepened local rivers, and created a new aquatic park north of the city.
Valdivia is recognized for its uniqueness. Due its architectonic and natural beauty, Valdivia is known as La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South). Spanish and German heritage are harmonically combined and the city proudly exhibits its architecture, historical fortifications and reputed beer industry.
In the last decade Valdivia gained prestige as an important cultural and scientific venue: the Valdivia Film Festival became the most important in Chile, and the Centro de Estudios Científicos moved near the Calle-Calle River.
- Ilustre Municipalidad de Valdivia (in Spanish)
- Diario Austral de Valdivia, Valdivian newspaper (in Spanish).
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