Tours and Activities:
Colonial PastMarcelo Sola (1) Ilustre Municipalidad de La Serena (2) Marcelo Sola (1) Ilustre Municipalidad de La Serena (2)
We made a new discovery of La Serena on foot. As we walked around its streets, we imagined the colonial past of the second most ancient city in Chile.
Capital of the IV Region, La Serena was founded in 1544 and it is the second most ancient city in Chile. In February 12, 1981, the old city shell was named “typical zone” with the aim of protecting and preserving the urban layout and its architecture.
Cradle of many national monuments, when touring around its streets, the past and the history of this city with a taste of Spain and pre-Hispanic cultures can be breathed in the atmosphere. It is advisable to have a city map at hand. Visitors can get one at the Tourist Office. The second step is to stand in the epicenter of facts, that is to say, at the Plaza de Armas (main square). Starting there, you may tour around the center of town following a spiral pattern.
At the Plaza de Armas a large fountain sculpted in stone and made by Samuel Román -awarded with the Premio Nacional de Arte in 1964- stands out. The square was a witness to the most important events at La Serena, as well as to the pirate usurpations the city was subject to.
The Church Cathedral, a Neoclassic building, stands on the corner of Carrera Street and Cordovez Street, opposite the square. Its vitraux, its high altar and its marble chapel are quite remarkable. Juan Herbage was the architect in charge of building this structure.
On the other side of the square, stands another important church: Santo Domingo. According to tradition, it was a defense against pirate raids for the dwellers of La Serena. History still recalls that back in 1680, Pirate Sharp set fire to the city and one year later, corsair Knight took shelter in the temple after being defeated by the people. The stone façade of the church, its large cedar gate stand out and, at its entrance yard, its artistic washbasin is the most ancient construction in La Serena, according to experts.
On the corner of Cordovez and Matta Streets, we found the Gabriel González Videla house and museum. With an eclectic style, it was dwelled by the renowned President of Chile. It was built in 1894 and it is the only preserved house around the square.
Two blocks away, following Los Carreras Street, stands Casa Chadwick, an important neoclassic residence built in 1868. Its façade stands out for its decorations of wood pilasters. This house is the best testimony of the lifestyle of the families that settled down in La Serena in the second half of the XIXth century.
Going back along Matta Street and turning into Pratt Street, another important building makes reference to local lifestyles. Casa Piñera was built in 1845 by request of Alejandro Aracena, a rich miner and tradesman married to doña Paula Piñera, after whom the house was named. The building features Neoclassic elements.
From Pratt Street and turning into Balmaceda up to number 600, we came across Saint Francis’ Church. It was the first church built in stone in La Serena. It is said that the wood used inside the building was brought by Friar Jorge from the park which was later named after him. According to the details included in chronicles from La Serena, it was the only temple not to be destroyed by the 1680 fire caused by pirate Sharp, who apparently took pity on a Franciscan priest who did not want to leave the church. It seems that the pirates plundered all valuables but respected the life of the priest and his church.
We walked on along Balmaceda Street and turned into Eduardo de la Barra Street. After two blocks, we came to Cienfuegos Street. We walked along it for only two more blocks up to the corner of Cantounet Street and then we arrived in La Recova: the most important market in the area. Built in neocolonial style, it presents a wide range of restaurants, handicrafts and regional products. It is one of the sites most preferred by visitors to La Serena. We recommend you take your time to pay a visit.
Finally, going back to Balmaceda Street and walking up to the corner of Amunátegui Street, we came across Casa Carmona. This property was built in 1855 by English master Thomas James. In 1968, doña Aurora Carmona de Woodward donated it to the congregation of Salesian priests, who own the venue at present. The building has two stories and a kind of tower that would catch the attention of all dwellers of La Serena during its construction.
Thus, we toured around the historical city shell. We went passed the most important buildings in La Serena, many of which have been declared national monuments.
It is by learning about the past of each destination that we may manage a better understanding of the present condition of the society we are visiting. A good way to revalue each building making up the history of this city in the Near North.