Santiago celebrates 470 years with dance and bells

Plaza de Armas, the colonial centerpiece of Santiago, will host events commemorating Pedro de Valdivia’s founding of Chile’s oldest city at what is now Santa Lucía Hill.


Saturday, February 12 marks 470 years since Santiago de Chile’s founding by Pedro de Valdivia, at the foot of what is now known as Santa Lucía Hill in the city center. In honor of the anniversary, Chile’s capital and oldest city will celebrate with activities and events surrounding the Plaza de Armas, the heart of the colonial city.

Valdivia first intended to set up his fort north of the Mapocho River, eventually altering his plans to build where the Incas had once held a small population. At its official founding, the city was known as Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura. On the day of the city’s founding, many of the landmarks that still dominate the colonial center were given their names, including Cerro Santa Lucía, Cerro San Cristóbal, the Plaza de Armas and its Cathedral.

The Plaza de Armas was first marked with of a cross by the soldier Pedro de Gamboa, who then traced a chess board there that would become the plot for colonial Santiago’s perfect grid of streets.

This earliest portion of Santiago’s urban plan will host the city’s founding celebrations for the entirety of the day. The Museums of Pre-Columbian Art will offer free admission from 10am to 6pm along with guided tours through exhibits detailing the history Chile and Santiago.

At 11am, 30 dancers from the Chilean Folkloric Ballet (Bafochi) will perform an extensive dance piece in front of the municipality building on the Plaza de Armas, which will trace the history of the region, beginning with the agricultural communities of Mapuche who lived there, the appearance of Spanish soldiers and Pedro de Valdivia and the battle that ensued between them.

A 19th-century tradiotion, reintroduced in 2009, will culminate the celebrations at 9pm when the carillons of central Santiago’s churches will sound for a duration of ten full minutes. According to a report in La Tercera, this year, the municipality has invited all the churches of central Santiago to participate.

February 12 also marks an important date in the history of Chile’s independence. On this date in 1818, a ceremony marked the inception of the legal document declaring Chile’s independence.