History of Villarrica

The City of Villarrica, located in southern Chile, in the IX Region, was founded by Mr. Gerónimo de Alderete. He established this settlement made up by fifty neighbors in April 1552 following the orders of Mr. Pedro de Valdivia.

Rumor has it that the original name of this district was not Santa María Magdalena de Villarrica, as traditionally pointed out, but simply Villarrica. The reason was quite simple: the belief of the first conquerors that there were plentiful deposits of gold and silver in the area. The change in the name, in fact, was due to the existence of the parish church of the city, whose patron saint was Saint Mary Magdalene.

Nevertheless, as it was nestled in the core of the Mapuche territory, its history is full of struggles, battles and riots. Actually, between 1553 and 1554 the city was abandoned by the Spaniards after the Spanish defeat at Tucapel, in which Pedro de Valdivia died. Villarrica was not founded until the following year, when the Viceroyalty of Peru ordered to repopulate it once the general Mapuche uprising was vanquished.

The zigzagging history of Villarrica asserts that in 1598 the city fell to the Mapuche siege once again. The period in which it was submerged in ruins started until December 31, 1882, when an agreement between the criollo government and the Mapuches led to a new foundation.

In that opportunity, chief Epulef and Colonel Gregorio Urrutia agreed that the Chilean government should take pacific possession of the area for good. Nonetheless, the Mapuches showed discontent before the non-fulfilled promises of the central government. In view of new native uprisings, the authorities resolved to build a fort close to Villarrica, which should protect the population. Thus, the City of Pucón was established.

With the matchless tourist attraction represented by its volcano, the lake and the snow-capped mountains, Villarrica lured tourists since very early during its history. In 1923, the first groups of visitors, who traveled by train up to Freire and then completed the journey with a five-hour ride on horseback, began to reach this destination. Ten years had to pass for the locomotives and carriages to get to these lands.

At present, according to the census carried out in 2012, it has over 50 thousand denizens and, of course, its main economic activity is tourism.