The Bío-Bío River is the largest stream of continental Chile (380 km) with sources in the Andean lakes Galletué and Icalma. Major affluents are the Laja, Renaico, Malleco, and Vergara rivers. Its upper course, in the Lonquimay Valley, is famous for its Mapuche native inhabitants. On its lower course lie several important cities and industrial centers (2002 census): Concepción (216,061), Talcahuano (250,348), Los Angeles (166,566), and Chiguayante (81,302).
Since the late 1970s the Region of Bío-Bío, the Eight Region, has surpassed in population (1,861, 400) and economic significance the Region of Valparaíso-Aconcagua (the Fifth Region), once the country's second hub. A steel mill, paper mills, textile factories, building materials manufacturing, and the main navy base at Talcahuano contribute to the economic strength of the region. Concepción, the regional capital, is famed for its first-class university.
During colonial times the Bío-Bío River was the southernmost boundary of Spanish colonization. To the south stretched the territory of the indomitable Araucanian Mapuche who submitted to Chilean rule only in 1881. In the early republican years (1818–1830) the unruly aristocracy of Concepción challenged the supremacy of the noblemen in the capital of Santiago, but eventually they submitted. During the 1960s and early 1970s the Bío-Bío region was a stronghold of the militant Left and suffered harsh treatment under the rule of General Augusto Pinochet (1973–1988).
Instituto Geográfico Militar. "Región del Bíobío." Geografia de Chile, Vol. 9. Santiago de Chile: Author, 1986.
CÉsar N. Caviedes