In the capital of Chile
Santiago Travel Blog› entry 3 of 25 › view all entries
Santiago is the capital of Chile, and the center of greater Santiago. It is located in the country's central valley, at an elevation of 520 m. Although Santiago is the capital, legislative bodies meet in nearby Valparaíso.
Approximately two decades of uninterrupted economic growth have transformed Santiago into one of Latin America's most modern metropolitan areas, with extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping malls, and impressive high-rise architecture. The city also boasts some of Latin America's most modern transportation infrastructure, such as the growing Santiago Metro (the metropolitan underground train system) and the new Costanera Norte, a toll-based highway system that passes below downtown and connects the Eastern and Western extremes of the city in a 25-minute drive. Santiago is headquarters to many important companies and is a regional financial center. Santiago was founded by Spanish Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia on February 12, 1541 with the name Santiago de Nueva Extremadura. The founding ceremony was held on Huelén Hill (later renamed Cerro Santa Lucía). Valdivia chose the location of Santiago because of its moderate climate and the ease with which it could be defended the Mapocho River then split into two branches and rejoined further downstream, forming an island.
The city was destroyed on September 11, 1541 by the Indian forces under the chief Michimalonco, which led to the Arauco War. The first buildings were erected with the help of the native Picunche Indians. The south bank of the Mapocho River was later drained and converted into a public promenade, known as the Alameda (now Avenida Alameda Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins). The city was slightly damaged during the War of Independence, in the Battle of Maipú, which was fought south-west of the city. Santiago was named capital in 1818. During the early 19th century, Santiago remained a small town with few buildings excepting Palacio de La Moneda, the building used as the Chilean mint during the Spanish period, and a few churches and other civic buildings. The Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús caught fire during an 1863 church service, and 2000 people died, one of the worst modern fires.
In the 1880s extraction of nitrate fertilizer in Northern Chile brought prosperity to the country, and promoted the capital city's development. Important landmarks were built in 1910 during the Centennial celebrations of independence from Spain, such as the National Library, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Mapocho Train Station (Estación Mapocho, now an events center). Santiago began its transformation into a modern city in the 1930s, with the building of the Barrio Cívico, surrounding Palacio de La Moneda. The city also grew in population, due to migration from the north and south of Chile. In 1985 an earthquake destroyed some historically significant buildings in the downtown area.
We arrived at Santiago do Chile airport at around 08:30 on an Air France flight and after contacting Nelson and Rute we discovered that they had lost their connecting flight in Madrid and were headed for Uruguay and then on to Santiago to meet up with us at the Plaza de Armas at around 16:00. Dani was also out of luck because his 10kg luggage stayed in Paris and was only going to arrive in Santiago in 3 days. Dani is the king of guy that can travel the world for 8 months and only have to take with him 10 kg of close….. how Air France lost his luggage will always be a mystery to us.
After extensive negotiations we were able to hire a taxi for our trip to the center of the city which in South America is always at the Plaza de Armas, the capital's main plaza, sight of the national cathedral and main post office. As soon as we arrived at the Plaza de Armas we saw a group of Journalists at the National Cathedral of Santiago do Chile and discovered that as in Portugal they were also celebrating Labor Day. We checked out the cathedral which was holding mass and then decided to check out the city. All the stores were closed as we strolled along the downtown area passing by the official residence of the President, the La Moneda Palace. We decided to have lunch at Donde Augusto in Santiago’s central fish Market. Although a rather touristy place the seafood was delicious.
After lunch we headed for the Parque Metropolitano to get a bird’s eye view of Santiago. This vast park is home to Cerro San Cristóbal.