In 1906, an earthquake leveled much of Valparaíso, bringing Chile’s principal port both a crisis and an opportunity to rearrange urban space. As it turned out, the earthquake also destroyed much of the municipal government’s political power and increased that of the national government. After the disaster, the national government circumvented the municipal government and took the lead not only in emergency relief and large-scale public works but also in the mundane details of local regulations and zoning, matters that the national government had previously ignored. A new national law created a special reconstruction commission, dominated by presidential appointees and subject to direct presidential approval. It was this commission that shaped the new Valparaíso that rose from the rubble of the old. Through it, the national government took over certain powers previously developed by the local government, as well as nearly all of...

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