Located 670 kilometers (402 miles) south of Santiago, Temuco lies on the north bank of the R√≠o Caut√≠n. This young city was founded only in 1881, after a peace treaty was signed with the Mapuche. Before, all this land belonged to the Mapuche nation, who had successfully kept not only Chileans from occupying this region south of the R√≠o B√≠o B√≠o, but also the Spaniards and the Inca. Once the wars ended, Fuerte Recabarren was established as the frontier outpost from which south-central Chile was colonized. Later the fort grew into the city today known as Temuco‚ÄĒmeaning in Mapudungun ‚Äúsap of the temu‚ÄĚ (a medicinal tree). Temuco is the capital of the Regi√≥n de la Araucan√≠a. On the eastern horizon two snow-capped volcanoes, Villarrica and Llaima, scrape the sky.
The center of the city is Plaza Pinto. Here, a statue, Homenaje a la Regi√≥n de la Araucan√≠a, shows the history of Temuco via various figures: Mapuche leader Ercilla Kallifulifan, a Machi (female religious authority), a European immigrant and a soldier of the Wars of Pacification. Aspects of this history are found throughout the city.
Atop Cerro √Ďielol is a tree called La Patagua, under whose boughs the armistice between Chile and the Mapuche nation was sealed in 1881. After the treaty's signing, Temuco was founded (February 24, 1881) and European immigration to the region was encouraged by the central government. Dutch refugees from South Africa‚Äôs Boer war formed one significant group. The British were another, leaving landmarks like the Saint Trinity Anglican Church, a clapboard chapel built in 1910 (corner of Mackenna and Lautaro, Plaza Teodoro Schmidt). Germans built their mansions along Avenida Alem√°n, some of which now house exclusive shops and bistros in the city‚Äôs Zona Rosa.
This Ciudad de los Nobeles was home to both of Chile‚Äôs Nobel Prize winning poets. Gabriela Mistral (Lucila Godoy) was headmistress at the Liceo de Ni√Īas in 1920. At that time, she met the young prodigy Neftal√≠ Reyes (the future Pablo Neruda), whose father was a railroad worker. His family home still stands on the 1400 block of Calle Lautaro.
The Museo Feroviario Nacional preserves locomotives instrumental in pushing the frontier southward. Temuco was damaged by the 1960 mega-earthquake that struck Valdivia. The Tumuquense cathedral was destroyed and is now replaced by a new church designed by Geraldo Rendel. It features a wrap-around, second-floor balcony (open daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m.).
Avenida Balmecado has a horse chestnut-lined median park. At its west end, between Freire and Avenida Preito Norte, is Parque para la Paz with a monument dedicated to the disappeared and executed during the 1973-1990 dictatorship.
Temuco is a major commercial center in the south of Chile. A main cornerstone of its economy is lumber mills. Several universities are based here, including Universidad de la Frontera, Universidad Cat√≥lica de Temuco, Universidad Aut√≥noma de Chile (ex-Aut√≥noma del Sur) and Universidad Mayor. Temuco serves as a gateway to Conguillio, Tolhuaca, Villarrica and other national parks in the Lakes District, and to prime tourist destinations like Puc√≥n.
(Altitude: 107 meters / 349 feet, Population: 246,350, Phone Code: 045)