Santiago is the biggest city of Chile and is also its capital. It covers an area of two hundred and forty-eight square miles and has a population of over five million people. The city has an elevation of seventeen hundred feet above mean sea level and is situated in Chile’s central valley. Though the city is the capital of the country, its legislative bodies adjourn in Valparaiso. Santiago is an Alpha World City has some of the most modern amenities and the most advanced infrastructure of any Latin American city. It is the financial and industrial center of the country and generates roughly forty-five percent of Chile’s Gross Domestic Product. Santiago is home to many multinational companies including IBM, Coca-Cola, HP, Unilever, Yahoo!, Nestle, Reuters, Microsoft, Kodak, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Intel, Motorola and BHP Billiton.
Santiago also has a strong construction sector, which over the past few years has been booming. The city has undertaken several large construction projects and apartment complexes are sprouting up around the city at an alarming rate. Projects that are currently underway in the city include a three million square foot mall, a thousand foot tower, a three hundred foot hotel and two five hundred foot office towers. Also under construction are several skyscrapers, the most prominent being Titanium La Portada. Santiago’s industrial sector is also operating at full steam and the city has a significant beef production industry. Agricultural and mining operations are also operating at an increased level and the city’s exports include copper, limestone, gypsum, potatoes, beans, grapes and grains.
The city was founded in February of 1541 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, under the name of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo. This name was given to the city in honor of Extremadura and St. James. He chose the city’s location because of the mild climate and abundant vegetation in the area. The area was also a great location for a defensive structure. The river named Mapocho split into two branches and then joined back together further downstream, effectively creating an island. Though the Inca tribes in the area were quite hostile to the Spanish, Pedro de Valdivia was still able to secure supply lines to bring food and natural resources into the city. Seven months after the founding of the city, the local Inca tribes rose up against the Spanish and led an attack on the city. This led to three years of war between the Spanish and the Picunche and Michimalongo tribes. Pedro de Valdivia sent Alonso de Monroy to Peru to ask for assistance. When Alonso returned, he brought a reinforcement force and the uprising was put down. In 1817, Chile proclaimed independence from Spain and the Battle of Chacabuco was fought just north of the city. During the nineteenth century, a school system was introduced in the country and the Universidad de Chile was established. The Universidad Pontificia Catolica was also established during this time. By the end of the nineteenth century, Santiago had over one hundred and eighty thousand residents. At the start of the twentieth century, Santiago was mainly an agricultural town. By the 1930s, the city began to transform into a industrialized city with modern amenities. By World War II, Santiago had a million residents, and over the next two decades the population of the city would double. This rapid pace of growth caused many social ills in the city including poverty, homelessness and malnutrition. During the 1970s, the city experienced a turn around and wages rose in the city by sixty percent. Rent prices were frozen and social programs such as education and health care were made available to the masses for free. Santiago has recovered at a remarkable rate and the city now possesses a strong financial sector that keeps it relatively stable.
A popular tourist attraction in Santiago is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. This museum is one of the major repositories of art in the country of Chile. It was established in 1880, making it one of the oldest art museums in all of Latin America. The building which currently houses the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes was built in 1910 and commemorates the first centennial of Chile’s independence. The building was designed by Emile Jecquier and is located in Parque Forestal. It’s designed in the neoclassical style elaborated with touches of Art Nouveau architecture. The central hall is topped with a glass cupola that was designed and created in Belgium during the turn of the twentieth century. The cupola weighs over a thousand pounds. The museum’s floor plan is designed on a center axis, with a grand hall and a staircase that leads to the second floor. Inside the hall is a carving of two angels holding up a shield. To the rear of the building is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (of the University of Chile), which is located inside the Escuela de Bellas Artes. Collections here have included Malu Stewart: Water Garden, Juan Francisco Gonzalez and Gordon Matta Clark.
Other attractions in Santiago include Veramonte Winery, Santiago Zoo, Paseos en Bicicleta, Vina Undurraga, La Bicicleta Verde, Los Dominicos Handicraft Village, Isidora Goyenechea, Museo de Artes Visuales, Metropolitan Cathedral, Vina Undurraga Winery, Nueva Costanera, Convento y Museo San Francisco, Ex Congreso Nacional, Pablo Neruda’s Home, La Parva Ski Village, San Cristobal Hill, Cementerio General, Plaza de Armas, Cerro Santa Lucia, Parque Forestal, Alto Los Condes, La Moneda, Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, Vina Tarapaca, Santa Rita Winery, Iglesia San Francisco, Iglesia de La Merced, Templo Votivo de Maipu, Casablanca Valley, Jardin Zoologico, Palacio Cousino, Concha y Toro Winery, Termas de Chillan, Central Market (Mercado Central), Nueva Costanera, Museo de Colo Colo, National Museum of History, Salvador Allende Solidarity Museum, Chilean Political Forces Monument, Plaza de la Constitucion, Museo Tajamares del Mapocho, Piscina Antilen, Parque O’Higgins and Liz Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences. The city of Santiago also has numerous restaurants and hotels for visitors to enjoy.