Punta Arenas is the southernmost city in Chile, it rises along the northern coast of the Strait of Magellan, in the southern part of Chilean Patagonia. The Strait of Magellan is the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans discovered by Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1520. Until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the Strait of Magellan was the busiest naval passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific ocean. Punta Arenas has now become an important marina from where numerous boats sail to the Chilean fjords and Antarctica. The city is also served by an international airport that has flights to the most important cities of Chile, with Ushuaia in Argentina and the Falkland islands.
The city was founded in 1848 as a small penal colony. It was from the late nineteenth century and until the opening of the Panama Canal one of the busiest ports in Chile. Ship traffic, sheep breeding and the discovery of gold deposits led the city to considerable economic development. This development culminated between 1890 and 1940. The historical residences are evidence of the prosperity of the early 1900s. Including the Sarah Braun Palace, in French neo-classical style. The Jose Menéndez palace, home to an army club. The Braun Menéndez palace now houses the Museo Regional de Magallanes, which presents a series of rooms in an aristocratic house with furniture and objects from the late nineteenth century – early twentieth century. All these buildings are located in the center of Punta Arenas near the Plaza Muñoz Gamero, known as Plaza de Armas.
A CITY LOCATED ALONG THE STRAIT OF MAGELLANO
The center of the city is the Muñoz Gamero square (Plaza de Armas). In the square there is a large monument dedicated to the Portuguese Ferdinando Magellano. The monument commemorates the first circumnavigation of the globe and the discovery of the strait where Punta Arenas stands. Besides the figure of Magellan, other figures, including that of an Indian, are part of the monument and it is popular belief that anyone who caresses his foot will certainly return to Patagonia. In the square there is also the cathedral, dating back to 1892, and there are interesting stalls of local artisan products.
The most beautiful museum in Punta Arenas is undoubtedly the Maggiorino Borgatello Salesian Museum. A museum set up by the Italian Salesian fathers from the end of the nineteenth century and which presents a rich ethnographic collection of natural history, paleontology, fauna and flora, mission history and mineralogy. About 7 km north-east of the city center, along the coast of the Strait of Magellan, there is the museum dedicated to the expedition of Magellan, the Nao Victoria Museum. Other museums in the city are the Museo del Recuerdo, located in the Instituto de la Patagonia of the Universidad de Magallanes, and the Museo Naval y Marítimo de Punta Arenas.