History of Valdivia

Valdivia is not just another city in the history of the conquest of the Chilean territory. Founded on January 9, 1552 by Pedro de Valdivia, who named it Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia, it was the first Spanish settlement in the area and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Magellan turned it into a precious gem.

In fact, it was the fourth city founded by the Spanish in the present Chilean territory, after Santiago, La Serena and Concepción. Its strategic location caused it to be surrounded by forts that protected it from enemy attacks.

Being rich in minerals and wood, and possessing the largest navigable river network in Chile, this location became a safe commercial path from the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Of course that, for the same reasons, Valdivia appeared as the perfect target for the rest of the colonialist powers. In fact, in 1643 the Dutch attacked and briefly occupied the city.

Once the territory was reconquered, the construction of the famous castles and forts of Valdivia was ordered, which granted the city an extremely singular look. Thus, the matchless Castles of Mancera, Corral, Niebla, Amargos and Cruces, and Forts San Carlos and El Molino, to name a few, were raised and today are delightful tourist attractions in the city.

This way, Valdivia stood for three centuries as the most important Spanish settlement in the South American territories. Its river and coast situation on the Pacific Ocean not only provided the chance to defend the city from the pirates that came in through the sea, but also from the hostile natives coming from the east.

The first European immigrants (especially from Germany) reached Valdivia in the mid nineteenth century. This was a process that did not stop for decades and which obviously changed the physiognomy of the city.

An unforgettable and miserable landmark in the history of Valdivia took place on May 22, 1960. An earthquake rating 9.5 on the Richter scale and a subsequent tsunami destroyed many of the main buildings in town. Several years were needed to manage its complete social and economic recovery.

Today, Valdivia has a booming economic development related with tourism, breweries and the wood and paper industries and its population reaches approximately 150 thousand inhabitants.