Siddhesh Joshi

OHiggins Region

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Country  Chile
Population  780,627 (2002)
Area  16,387.0 km2
Capital  Rancagua
Destinations  Rancagua, San Fernando, Rengo, Santa Cruz, Pichilemu

The VI Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region (Spanish: VI Region del Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins), often shortened to OHiggins Region, is one of Chiles 15 first order administrative divisions. It is subdivided into three provinces. It is named in honour of Bernardo OHiggins Riquelme, one of Chiles founding fathers.


Map of OHiggins Region

The Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region is bordered to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the east by the Republic of Argentina, to the north by the Valparaiso and Santiago Metropolitan Regions, and to the south by the Maule Region. It extends approximately between the parallels of 33°51’ and 35°01’ south latitude, and between the meridian of 70°02’ west longitude and the Pacific Ocean.

The capital and largest city of the region is Rancagua. The second major town is San Fernando.

In pre-Quaternary times extensive Nothofagus forests covered much of Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region.

The Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region is part of the very restricted range of the endangered Chilean Wine Palm, Jubaea chilensis; in prehistoric times this Chilean endemic tree had a significantly larger range.

From 9000 BCE to 300 BCE (the Archaic Period), the humans who inhabited the region moved between the coast and the valley as well as the Andes. At sites such as Pichilemu, Cahuil and Bucalemu, they left trash deposits or shell middens bearing testimony to their raids. During the Agroalfarero Period (300 BCE - 1470 CE), the inhabitants experienced changes in their way of life, the most important being the cultivation of vegetables and the manufacture of clay objects. From 600 CE onwards, they started cultivating beans, maize, squashes, pumpkins and quinoa. All of these except quinoa and some types of maize required irrigation, which prompted them to move to the banks of creeks and rivers. During this period, groups of people lived in Quincha houses with straw roofs, in the vicinity of irrigation channels and horticulture crops, a style of life attributable to the Promaucaes or Picunches and to the Chiquillanes. During the Colonial Period (1541 CE to 1811 CE), the region became dominated, like the rest of the country, by the Spanish, and a system of ranching became predominant.

The Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins region contains a large part of the rural population (surpassed only by the Maule Region). Amongst the highly populated cities, Rancagua (206,971 inhabitants) stands out for having been transformed, in recent times, into an outskirt of Santiago. It is close being located 87 km south of Santiago. It is the capital of the Cachapoal Province as well the Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region. According to the census of 2002, other densely populated cities are: San Fernando (49,519 inhabitants); Rengo (30,891); Machali (23,920); Graneros (21,616); San Vicente de Tagua Tagua (18,914); Santa Cruz (18,603); Chimbarongo (13,795); Pichilemu (12,392), a well-known beach resort city founded by Agustin Ross Edwards in the late 19th century; and San Francisco de Mostazal (12,037).

The main industrial and export activity takes place at CODELCO’s El Teniente mine, which contributes 7.7% of Chile’s copper production. The ore is processed at the Sewell and Colon concentrator plants, smelted and refined at Caletones, and shipped from the port of San Antonio, in the Valparaiso Region. Byproducts include molybdenum and silver.

Agriculture contributes 30.1% of the region’s GDP. One out of every four hectares of fruit orchards in Chile is in the Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region. The main crops are apples and pears, followed by table grapes, plums, kiwis, and nectarines.

Manufacturing activity in the region is mostly related to copper mining, agribusiness, and food and beverages. One particular growth area is the production of fruit juices and pulp, and dehydrated fruit.

Over the past few years, there has been significant development in the forestry sector, especially plantations of eucalyptus and radiata pine.

The region is governed by an intendant, who is appointed by the president. Moises Saravia is the current intendant (2011).

The administration of the region rests with the regional government, which is headed by the intendant and the regional council (Consejo Regional de Chile). The latter comprises sixteen regional administrators, who are elected indirectly (ten from Cachapoal, four from Colchagua, and two from Cardenal Caro).

For purposes of interior administration, the Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region is divided into three provinces:

  • Cachapoal Province, capital: Rancagua,
  • Colchagua Province, capital: San Fernando,
  • Cardenal Caro Province, capital: Pichilemu.

The provinces are subdivided into 33 communes.

This area is known as the "huaso province" after the name of the Chilean cowboy, the huaso. Sashes and mantas – traditional items of the huaso costume – are woven in Donihue on heavy vertical looms. Designs imitate vine leaves, bunches of grapes, pines and copihues. Other designs of colored stripes are woven on horizontal looms.

The population is a mixture of both European (including Argentinan immigrants) and Indigenous races and cultures, thus the region has a homogeneous culture known as Chileanidad is present and a mestizo imprint is evident.

The Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region was settled by Spaniards (notably Andalusians, Basques, Aragonese and Navarrese) and other Europeans. French and Italian families established agriculture including the important wine industry: the Wine Route is one of the main tourist attractions of the Colchagua valley. Breweries can be found as well, the legacy of German and Swiss immigration. Livestock herding was especially influenced by British, Greek and Yugoslavian settlers.

In the late 19th century, a small number of Cherokee and Oklahoman settlers of American Indian descent from the USA was brought to the Libertador General Bernardo OHiggins Region by the Chilean government, displaced by white settlement in Oklahoma. They founded in the 1880s a cooperative farm named Ovasso (an Osage word for "the end" or "edge"), which was later abandoned.

There is a small colony of Aartis or "Artas", East Indians descended from hired railway workers from British India in the early 20th century.

The relatively small distance from Santiago has led to a growing urban influence in the local culture. The largest city, Rancagua, is fast becoming a suburb of Santiagos upper-class professional workforce.


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