Concepción originally known as Concepción de la Madre Santísima de la Luz, meaning “Conception of the Blessed Mother of Light,” is a city and commune located in south-central Chile.
Concepción serves as the geographical and demographic core of the Greater Concepción metropolitan area, one of the three major urban agglomerations in the country. Renowned for its significant role in domestic trade, Concepción is situated in the most heavily industrialized region of Chile, making a substantial impact on the nation’s economic landscape.
The city is the seat of the Concepción Province and serves as the capital of the Bío Bío Region, positioned approximately 500 km south of Santiago, the capital of Chile.
Brief History of Concepción
Concepción was founded by Don Pedro de Valdivia in 1550 north of the Bío Bío River, originally bore the name Concepción de María Purísima del Nuevo Extremo. Positioned just north of La Frontera, the boundary between Spanish territory and the independent Mapuche land, the settlement gained formal recognition as a town by royal decree two years later, accompanied by a coat-of-arms still in use today.
Despite being a vital military outpost for the Captaincy General of Chile, Concepción faced challenges. Mapuche armies overran and destroyed it in 1554, and again after its refounding in 1555. A restoration occurred under García Hurtado de Mendoza’s governorship in 1557, marked by the construction of a fort on Alto de Pinto. Captain Jerónimo de Villegas refounded the town on January 6, 1558.
Concepción served as the military headquarters against the Mapuche in La Araucanía for the next two centuries, enduring a siege in 1564 and other Mapuche attacks.
The city continued to evolve in the 20th century, becoming an important industrial and commercial hub. Concepción’s growth was fueled by industries such as forestry, agriculture, and manufacturing.
Situated in a region prone to seismic activity, Concepción has experienced the substantial impact of various noteworthy earthquakes throughout its history.
One of the earliest recorded earthquakes in Concepción occurred in 1751. This earthquake caused substantial damage to the city and surrounding areas.
In 1835, Concepción experienced a powerful earthquake that caused widespread destruction. The event had a significant impact on the region and contributed to the ongoing challenges of rebuilding and recovery.
1939 Chillán Earthquake
The city of Chillán, located near Concepción, was the epicentre of a devastating earthquake on January 24, 1939. This earthquake, known as the Chillán Earthquake, had a magnitude of approximately 8.3 and caused extensive damage in Concepción and other nearby cities. It resulted in a significant loss of life and prompted efforts to improve earthquake-resistant construction.
2010 Maule Earthquake
One of the most recent and significant earthquakes in the region occurred on February 27, 2010. The Maule Earthquake, with a magnitude of 8.8, affected a large part of central Chile, including Concepción. The quake caused widespread destruction, leading to numerous casualties, displacements, and significant economic losses. In Concepción, buildings, infrastructure, and roads were heavily damaged. The earthquake also triggered a tsunami that affected coastal areas.
These seismic events highlight the susceptibility of the Concepción region to earthquakes, prompting the adaptation of building codes and urban planning strategies to minimize the effects of potential future seismic occurrences.
As of 2020, Concepción boasted a diverse population of approximately 220,746 residents. The demographic composition of the city showcased a blend of various ethnicities and backgrounds
Between 1970 and 1982, the population witnessed a substantial increase, attributed in part to the incorporation of San Pedro, which had been separated from the municipality of Coronel.
In 1996, the population of the Concepción commune experienced a sharp decline due to territorial division, leading to the establishment of Chiguayante and San Pedro de la Paz. Since then, these newly formed areas have rapidly grown as residential communities surrounding Concepción. Unlike Concepción, these areas function as bedroom communities, lacking a central commercial hub with numerous shops.
The city also boasts a noteworthy percentage of foreign residents, with Spanish, Italian, and U.S. expatriate communities being the most numerous. Additionally, smaller segments of German, French, British, Dutch, Greek, Portuguese, Croatian, Scandinavian, Arab, and Australian descendants contribute to the city’s diversity, reflecting its history of settlement through waves of immigration.
Concepción is a city in Chile with a diverse and dynamic economy. The region’s economic activities encompass various sectors contributing to its overall vitality and growth.
Concepción hosts a wide range of businesses, including manufacturing, technology, and services. Its strategic location near the Biobío River and the Pacific Ocean has contributed to its status as a vital economic centre for the Biobío Region.
In October 2023, Concepción recorded exports totalling $11.9 million and imports amounting to $36.9 million, leading to an adverse trade balance of $25 million. Comparing the period between October 2022 and October 2023, Concepción’s exports experienced a slight decrease of $72.2 thousand (-0.6%), declining from $12 million to $11.9 million. Meanwhile, imports witnessed a notable increase of $8.57 million (30.3%), rising from $28.3 million to $36.9 million.
In the year 2022, Concepción, Chile, ranked as the 54th largest exporter among the 259 exporters in the country, with total exports reaching $153 million.
In the year 2022, Concepción, Chile, ranked as the 22nd largest importer among the 259 importers in the country, with total imports amounting to $371 million.
Concepción is well-regarded for its significant contributions to education in Chile. The city hosts several prominent educational institutions and has earned a reputation as an academic hub.mConcepción is often referred to as the “University City” because of its high concentration of universities and colleges.
Established in 1919, the University of Concepción is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Chile. It plays a pivotal role in the city’s academic landscape, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs. The university is known for its emphasis on research and innovation.
Concepción is home to other universities and technical institutes, contributing to a diverse educational environment.
- Universidad de Concepción
- Universidad del Bío-Bío
- Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción
- Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María
- Universidad del Desarrollo
- Universidad Andrés Bello
- Universidad San Sebastián
- University of the Pacific
- Universidad de Las Américas
- Universidad Bolivariana
- Universidad Tecnológica de Chile INACAP
Facts and Figures
|Pedro de Valdivia
|5th of October, 1550
|39 ft above sea level