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Valdivia, Chile

Valdivia, Chile

Valdivia, capital city of the Lake Region in southern Chile (2002 population 127,750), located on the lower Valdivia River. Founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1552 almost in the middle of Araucanian (mapuche) Indian territory, it was an isolated Spanish enclave in hostile territory during most of the colonial period. In spite of repeated sieges, it was never overrun by the Indians. After independence it was the only part of the Lake Region securely held by the Chileans, and it was chosen as the center of the colonization efforts destined to weaken the southern flank of Araucania. Between 1849 and 1880, numerous German and Swiss families settled in the intermediate depression between the Andes and the Coastal Range, cleared the forests, and started farming and logging enterprises. German colonists established breweries, lumber industries, leather manufactures, and small shipyards that fostered a period of prosperity during the first half of the twentieth century. From Valdivia colonization efforts spread to Osorno, Frutillar, Río Bueno, and Puerto Varas. When industries began to concentrate in Central Chile, Valdivia stagnated, and the powerful earthquake of May 1960 (at 9.5 considered one of world's greatest ever recorded) and the subsequent tsunami inflicted serious damage to the decaying city, changing even the flows of rivers. The presence of cultural establishments such as the University of Valdivia aided in the slow recovery.

See alsoChile, Geography; Earthquakes.


Gabriel Guarda, La toma de Valdivia (Santiago, 1970).

Additional Bibliography

Cordero, María de Jesús Cordero. The Transformations of Araucania from Valdivia's Letters to Vivar's Chronicle. New York: Peter Lang, 2001.

                                  CÉsar N. Caviedes

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