Ever since its founding in 1536, Valparaíso, located only 120 km northwest of Santiago, has been the primary port of Chile. In the second half of the 19th century, it was a boom town, thriving on global maritime trade and Chile’s rich commodities. As one of the wealthiest cites in Latin America, grand public buildings graced its harbour, while tycoons’ mansions kept watch from the surrounding hills. The city attracted immigrants from across the world, making it a vibrant cultural centre. Due to its cold summer Mediterranean climate, hilly topography and its economic vigour, Valparaíso was often called “Little San Francisco”. Unfortunately, the two cities would also share something tragic in common, as on August 16, 1906, Valparaíso was nearly leveled by a massive earthquake (just over four months after the Great San Francisco Earthquake). The tragedy costed 3,000 lives and left dozens of urban blocks in complete ruins, while most of the grand public edifices were either totaled or heavily damaged.
From 1910 to 1930, Valparaíso’s cityscape and port were extensively rebuilt, on more modern lines. The present map was drafted in 1936, in the prevailing Art Deco style, by the local cartographer Alfonso Jara, and is one of the finest works to depict the ‘new’ Valparaíso.
Jara’s map outlines and labels every street and shows the city centre to occupy a narrow piece of flat land between the harbour and the sharply rising hills. In the centre, with its old colonial grid of streets, many of the main thoroughfares were widened and streams covered, creating Avenidas Francia and Argentina, and the new main street, Avenida Pedro Montt, along with Plaza O‘Higgins. Amongst the hills, the winding, steeply inclined streets and lanes remained the same, although many new houses had been built, while old ones were renovated. The port was also extensively remodeled, with a grand breakwater, the ‘Molo de Abrigo’ and new quays and piers.
The map was published in Santiago by Talleres Gráficos “Helios” and orginally inserted within a 28-page pamphlet, the ‘Índice de calles’ (published in Santiago: Imprenta La Ilustración), which contains an index of the streets featured on the map. The present example of the map had been excised from the pamphlet, which is here lacking.
A Note on Rarity
We can trace only a single institutional example of the map, held by the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile (Santiago). Moreover, we are not aware of any examples as having appeared on the market in recent times.
References: Biblioteca Nacional de Chile: MP0002053; OCLC: 55418806; Anales del museo historia naturale de Valparaíso, vol. 31 (2018), p. 155; Anuario de la prensa chilena (1936), no. 12630, p. 515.