Santiago, or Saint James the Greater, is the national saint of Spain, being attributed with first bringing it the gospel of Christ. With the Spanish fondness for naming cities after such holy persons, it should be no great wonder to us that we find cities called Santiago several places in the Spanish-speaking world.

For obvious reasons the oldest of them all, Santiago de Compostela, lies in Spain and is where we find the tomb of the holy James, which was discovered in the 9th century. It has been a popular goal of pilgrimage from the middle ages until the end ones, and ranks third in important places to visit for Catholics, after Jerusalem and Rome.

Santiago de los Caballeros is in the Dominican Republic, Santiago del Estero lies in Argentina, and Santiago de Cuba is surprisingly located on Cuba. In addition there is a small Santiago in Panama and a very large one in Chile.

Santiago de Chile, political, commercial, and financial centre of Chile and indeed its capital, is populated by 6 million souls, give or take a few. It lies inland in the middle of Chile on the river Mapocho. At an altitude of 544 metres above sea level, the city has a panoramic view of the Andes Mountains, most notably the majestic Cerro El Plomo. The proximity to the mountains offer its inhabitants easy access to ski slopes, while on the other hand they can just as easily head for the beaches of Viña del Mar or Valparaiso.

The Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia is honoured with having founded it at the foot of the Santa Lucia hill, originally called Huelen. Created and named Santiago de Nueva Estremadura in 1541, the city was nearly destroyed by an uprising of the native Mapuche in the same year. Their unsuccessful attempt at devastation proved the city had a will to survive, just like a 1647 earthquake and several floodings by Rio Mapocho have failed to erase it. Santiago continues to grow.

Plaza de Armas with its colorful gardens is the natural centre of the city, surrounded by historical buildings like the Townhall, the National Museum of History and the baroque Catedral Metropolitana, placed on the same spot where the first church of Santiago was built. Palacio de La Moneda, a couple of blocks away, originally produced money on order of the Spanish king, but after the colonial times became the residence of Chilean presidents. This is the house where Salvador Allende was murdered during the 1973 coup d'etat.

Unlike many other capitals in South America, Santiago is also industrially active. Textiles and foodstuffs are made here, and there are large iron and steel foundries in the city. Although there are still many buldings left from colonial times, most of the city is fairly new and modern in atmosphere.

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