Valparaíso (/ˌvælpəˈraɪzoʊ/, Spanish: [balpaɾaˈiso]) is a city, port, and commune of Chile, center of its third largestconurbation (Greater Valparaíso). It is located 69.5 miles (111.8 km) northwest of Santiago and is one of the country’s most important seaports. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile’s official capital, the National Congress of Chile meets in Valparaíso since 1990.
Valparaíso played a very important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific.”
Examples of Valparaíso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world,El Mercurio de Valparaíso. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.
Though nearby San Antonio has become the country’s most commercially important seaport in terms of tonnage moved, the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture. The Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué and Villa Alemana) has the third-largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepción.