Empresa Portuaria Valparaiso
Review and History

Despite the devastating earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday, February 27, 2010, the Port of Valparaiso is providing over 90% operational capacity at present. Six of the port's berths are operating, and the port is serving all types of vessels including container carriers and passenger ships. Please visit the Port of Valparaiso website for up-to-date information.

Port of Valparaiso lies on the coast of central Chile about 140 kilometers northwest of the country’s capital, Santiago. The port lies on the shores where a coastal mountain range forms a rocky peninsula and a sheltered bay. In 2003, the city’s historic quarter was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Spanish, Valparaiso (or Valle Paraiso) means “paradise valley.” The city is one of Chile’s most important ports and an important cultural center. Though it is not the country’s capital, it is home to the National Congress. In 1906, a major earthquake struck Port of Valparaiso that killed almost three thousand people.

Built on steep hillsides, Port of Valparaiso is a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys and streets. It is a treasure of cultural and architectural history. In 2003, the country’s Congress made it “Chile’s Cultural Capital” and made it the home of Chile’s new cultural ministry. Over 263 thousand people live in Port of Valparaiso, and over 892 thousand live in the Greater Valparaiso metropolitan area.

Port History

Chile’s indigenous Changos first settled Valparaiso’s bay. Conquistador Juan de Saavedra Port of Valparaiso founded Valparaiso in 1536, naming it after his Spanish birthplace. The city has been victim to pirate raids, strong Pacific storms, fires, and earthquakes. Rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1906, more buildings were damaged in earthquakes in 1971 and 1985.

While Spain ruled, Port of Valparaiso was a small village. Valparaiso grew after Chile’s 1818 independence with the growing power of Chile’s navy. Port of Valparaiso was important politically during the latter 19th Century due to its role as a stopping point for ships using the Straits of Magellan to move between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. It was an important sea-going supplier for the California Gold Rush in the middle 1800s.

Port of Valparaiso attracted many immigrants during the 19th Century, with new residents coming from England, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Bringing their cultures and languages, they transformed the city’s Spanish origins. English immigrants introduced football, French immigrants built the first private catholic school, English and German immigrants founded private secular schools. The immigrants also formed Latin America’s first volunteer fire department.

A magnet for immigrants, the city grew rapidly in its “golden age,” when it was known by sea-going men as “Little San Francisco” or “The Jewel of the Pacific.” Valparaiso is home to Latin America’s oldest stock exchange. The city also held Chile’s first public library and the world’s oldest Spanish-language newspaper in continuous publication.

When the Panama Canal opened in 1914, Port of Valparaiso’s shipping traffic fell sharply. But with the arrival of Post-Panamax ships that can’t traverse the Panama Canal and the growth in fruit exports, Port of Valparaiso ocean-going traffic has increased.

Puerto San Antonio, 63 miles south, has become the country’s most important commercial seaport, but the City of Valparaiso is still the center for Chilean culture. Writer Pablo Neruda called in the “novia del oceano” (Ocean’s sweetheart). It is one of South America’s most historic and vibrant ports.

During the latter 1900s, Valparaiso’s population growth was slow, even decreasing as people moved to Vina del Mar, a nearby tourist resort that eventually became a residential suburb. However, the city has undertaken significant efforts to modernize, and it has staged a renaissance.

Today, Port of Valparaiso is one of Chile’s most important urban centers. With nine universities, it is a center for education. Its most important industries are culture, transport, and tourism. Every year, the city has a festival on the last three days of the year where hundreds of thousands of people come from all over Latin America to join the celebration. The festival ends with Latin America’s biggest fireworks show attended by a million tourists.

As many as 50 international cruise vessels stop in Port of Valparaiso during Chile’s 4-month long summer.

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