The Colchagua Valley and its importance in the history of Chile
This beautiful wine valley hides in its churches, cities and fields important episodes of the history of the country.
The region has been traditionally linked to agriculture and livestock, until the conquest, was inhabited by indigenous chiquillanes, defeated in 1545 by the Spanish. The first Spaniards arrived thanks to land grants granted by the governor "in consideration of the merits of the petitioners and not in response to a colonizing policy."
Memoria Chilena explains that, due to its fertility, Colchagua quickly transformed itself into a wine producer for the capital, of recognized fame beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Chile.
In 1555 wine production began and by 1778 "it was calculated at twenty thousand arrobas, double that of Quillota and a little less than half that of Santiago" . With this, the sector established a strong commercial exchange, with villas such as:
San Fernando , founded in 1742 by José Manso de Velasco and Samaniego, with the traditional style of streets and central plaza of the Spanish colonial cities on land donated by the Crown, was created to attract the Spaniards scattered throughout the estancia, recalls the newspaper The typographer.
Santa Cruz , named for its location as a crossroads, was founded in 1743 and consolidated as a must for travelers in the valley.
Despite this, Memoria Chilena concludes that Colchagua remained a peasant space with sparsely populated urban centers and Jesuit congregations.
The history of the Colchagua Valley witnessed the patriotic advance of the War of Independence. Manuel Rodríguez, who crossed the Planchón Pass several times from Argentina, started guerrilla operations. The last Governor of Chile, Francisco Marcó del Pont, reported in 1816 that there had been "an increasing number of armed brigands and conspirators, sheltered in the cordilleras of Colchagua up to the Maule, from where they make their incursions and sackings with the greatest insolence" ( Diego Barros Arana, General History of Chile, Volume X).
Later, in 1817, Rodríguez would take San Fernando.
The Planchón was the most complex of the six columns through which the Liberation Army crossed the Andes, under Ramón Freire. From San Fernando, Freire would begin to force the Spaniards to the south, while the other five columns fought around Santiago. With independence , the valley was connecting more with the world. On his famous voyage aboard the Beagle, the English naturalist Charles Darwin toured the valley and the Colchagua Museum pays tribute to the studies he conducted on its nature, minerals and the customs of the inhabitants. With the arrival of the first railroads to Chile, since 1860 railway lines and bridges were built to connect Santiago and Concepción. The history of the Colchagua Valley would change at the beginning of the 20th century, when Rancagua became the main urban center of the region, thanks to the exploitation of the copper ore in El Teniente and Sewell.
Mining, together with the wine industry, would also take terrain.