Valparaíso, Chile During Colonial Era (16th to 19th Centuries)

Valparaíso, Chile During Colonial Era

The official discovery of Valparaíso for Europeans occurred within the framework of the expedition to Chile by the Spanish Diego de Almagro, who in 1534 organized from Cuzco (after “differences” with Francisco Pizarro) his trip to Chile that began on 3 in July 1535, seeking large amounts of gold as the Incas had in the southern country. For this, apart from the land expedition commanded by Almagro, there was a support marine expedition under the command of Juan de Saavedra, which included the Santiaguillo ship. This ship anchored in Quintil Bay in the first days of September 1536 and Saavedra renamed it Valparaíso in memory of his native town in Europe.

Although his mission to find gold in Chile was a resounding failure (and the trip to the country, both outward and return, an ordeal), he discovered to his surprise two Spaniards who were already perfectly settled: Gonzalo Calvo de Barrientos and Antón Closed, both living in the indigenous way in what is now Quillota, in central Chile. Realizing that further south there was cold territory, without gold and populated by hostile indigenous people, Almagro decides to return to Cuzco, where he began a fratricidal fight with Pizarro. In this conflict, Captain Pedro de Valdivia stood out on Pizarro’s side, whose presence helped the subsequent victory over Almagro.

In 1536 the Santiaguillo arrived in the bay of Valparaíso (Quintil), which is part of a flotilla of caravels that brought supplies for the first advance of Diego de Almagro, commissioned by the viceroy of Peru to conquer Chile. The flotilla is in charge of Don Alonso de Quinteros who stops in the bay of Cancanicagua (today Quinteros), advancing the Santiaguillo to the south and is found from land by Don Juan de Saavedra who is recognized as the discoverer of the sector.

Pedro de Valdivia, Spanish conqueror, founded Santiago de Chile in 1541 and the 13 of September of 1544 designates Valparaíso as “natural port of Santiago” and appoints the marine Genovese Juan Bautista Pastene as a first lieutenant in the territorial south and first official public of the Quintil valley.

At his own request, Pizarro granted Valdivia permission to “conquer” Chile. Its first official act was the founding of the city of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura in 1541, with Valparaíso being designated as its natural port on September 3, 1544.

In 1552, the privileged geographical situation of Valparaíso helped to consolidate the founding process of the new lands granted to the King of Spain, for which, in November 1552, a port was ordered to be built in the bay. A small village begins to grow but its movement and activity are very poor. This is mainly due to the fact that Lima and its natural port, El Callao, important enclaves of the Viceroyalty of Peru, exercise a monopoly that negatively affects the commercial management of Valparaíso.

In 1559. A sketch of the city begins to be outlined, with a chapel rising in the place that today is occupied by the church of La Matriz. At that time, the whole place was very close to the coast and wineries and small houses appeared around it.

At this time, the looting, destruction and deaths caused by pirates were relatively common, especially those of English origin such as: Francis Drake in 1587 or Richard Hawkins at the end of the 16th century.

On 13 September as as 1599 sets sail from Goerce the Dutch privateer Oliver Van Noort. He was the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world. Van Noort attacked Valparaíso in 1600 burning three ships and capturing three other ships. He acted cruelly executing thirty Spanish sailors who he captured, keeping only one navigator to guide him to Peru, whom he simply threw into the sea when he was no longer useful. Earlier, near Concepción, Van Noort attacked a ship called El Buen Jesús. Before being caught, the captain threw his treasure into the sea and the Dutchman did not know until time after his loss.

In August 1614, the German privateer at the service of Holland George de Spielberg called Joris Van Spielbergen set sail from the port of Texel with a fleet of six ships, who anchored in the port of Valparaíso in 1615.. He had been informed by one of the captains of his ships of the presence of lights and the distant sound of a horn. Two hundred men landed attacking the town made up of three squalid buildings. The Spaniards defended themselves by firing at the landing boats hidden among the cliffs, then starting towards the ravines of the hills. The Dutch embarked and bombarded the beach, thus constituting the first bombardment that Valparaíso suffered.

In 1676 the construction of the Castillo de la Concepción began.

In 1682. One of the major consequences of the visits of corsairs is the declaration of Valparaíso as “Plaza Fuerte”, which begins the construction of several castles and forts. These sites never fired a single shot.

In 1684 the construction of the San José castle began in front of the Valparaíso bay, providing great identity to the sector.

The 8 of July of 1730 occurred a great earthquake of 8.75 on the Richter scale that hit the city of Valparaiso, as well as other places like Santiago and Rancagua. According to sources at the time, it lasted a quarter of an hour and generated a tsunami that affected areas ranging from the Peruvian city of Callao to the north, passing through Valparaíso (so far this is the only destructive tsunami in Valparaíso, flooding an area that goes from La Matriz Church in the south, to the current O’Higgins square in the north), Concepción, until reaching Valdivia in Chile in the south. This tsunami crossed the Pacific Ocean to destroy the Japanese province of Sendai.

The 17 of April of 1791, Ambrosio O’Higgins, Governor of Chile, establishes in Valparaiso the first Cabildo and points to “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes de Puerto Claro” as the patron saint of Valparaiso. In addition, the name of the patron is proposed as a name for the city. Neighbors do not accept and complain to the King of Spain to keep the name of Valparaíso, which the King ratifies by royal decree of 1802, declaring it an official name.

Valparaíso remained a port town, inhabited sporadically (due to both natural disasters and damage caused by pirates), by no more than five thousand residents practically during all the years of the colonial era, with few houses, a church and a Pierbuilt by private initiative only in 1810, shortly before the de facto independence of Chile.

Due to the above, in Valparaíso, unlike other places in Chile and Latin America with similar antiquity, nothing that was built during the colonial era is preserved. Everything that can be seen in the city today was built after the independence of the country.

Valparaíso, Chile During Colonial Era