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Pichilemu (Mapudungun language: Small forest, Spanish pronunciation: ˈpitʃiˌlemu)[1] is a beach resort city located in central Chile[1][2] and is the capital of Cardenal Caro Province.[3] The city is home to five historic monuments of Chile, and was declared a "Zona Típica" (English language: Traditional Area or Heritage Site) by the National Monuments Council in 2004.[4]

The beaches of Pichilemu are considered some of the world's best for surfing.[5][6] The city was conceived as a beach resort for upper-class Chileans by Agustín Ross Edwards, a Chilean politician and member of the powerful Ross Edwards family.[7] Surfing competitions are frequently held at Punta de Lobos.[6][8] There was once a dock in the city, but it burnt down during the Chilean Civil War of 1891.[9]

The city is part of District N° 35 and belongs to the 9th Senatorial constituency of the O'Higgins Region electoral division.[10] Pichilemu is the main beach in the O'Higgins Region, and receives a floating population in summer season.[11] It combines rural and urban appeareance, and is possible to practice surf, windsurf and funboard.


The name Pichilemu comes from the Mapudungún words pichi (little) and lemu (forest).[1]

From the time of the Inca Empire to the Spanish conquest, Pichilemu was inhabited by Promaucaes.[12] Promoucaes were hunter-gatherers and fishermen who lived primarily along the Cachapoal and Maule rivers.[12] During the colonial period, remaining Promaucaes were assimilated into Chilean society by a process of hispanicization and mestization.[13]

José Toribio Medina spent the most of his life in Colchagua, and he had properties in Chomedahue (Santa Cruz) and La Cartuja (San Francisco de Mostazal). He did his first archeological investigations in Pichilemu. He published in 1908 Los Restos Indígenas de Pichilemu (Template:Lang-en),[14] where he said that Pedro de Valdivia gave land in what is now central Chile to Mr. Juan Gómez de Almagro on February 24, 1544. Pichilemu was between the areas of the Palloquierbico, Topocalma, and Gulaquien.[15]

During the Colony of Chile and the Republican period, agriculture was promoted by the government. Many Chilean haciendas were outstanding during this time, including the Pichileminian San Antonio de Petrel.[14] José María Caro was born there.[14]

It has been stated that the area of Pichilemu, specially in Cáhuil, whose salines already were exploited by natives, was very populated. Since the 17th century, Pichilemu started to be censused. In 1778, a church was constructed in Ciruelos, named viceparroquia. Later, in 1864, it became officially a parroquia (parish).[11]

Ortúzar family

The terrains that later were going to originate Pichilemu, were part of Estancias San Francisco de Pichilemu y San Antonio de Petrel, established since the 17th century. They started to be named as Pichilemu since 1873, and was described as village.[11]

Some of the first land owners in the area were the Ortúzar family.[16] Daniel Ortúzar is credited as one of the founders of the original village of Pichilemu.[12]

In 1872, the President of Chile, Aníbal Pinto, commissioned the corvette captain, Francisco Vidal Gormaz, to perform a recognition of the coast, between the Tumán creek and Boca del Mataquito. In his research, he said that Matanzas, Sirenas, Pupuya, Los Piures and Cáhuil were too open for a ferry. He named Tumán, Topocalma and Pichilemu as the places with better hydrographic conditions. Finally, he concluded that Pichilemu was the best place to construct a ferry. In 1887, President José Manuel Balmaceda decreed Pichilemu as a minor dock.[17] The family of Ortúzar Cuevas, from the San Antonio de Petrel Hacienda, had constructed the dock in 1875, which served as a fishing port for some years.[9][11] They also built homes along the dock on what is now Ortúzar Avenue. Later, large land owners included Pedro Pavez Polanco and Hacienda of San Antonio de Petrel. These large land-holding families constructed historic homes and buildings over the years.

During the 1891 Chilean Civil War, Daniel Ortúzar and the priest of Alcones transferred prisoners to and from Pichilemu via the dock.[18] The dock was later burned during the 1891 Chilean Civil War. It was later reconstructed, but it worked until 1912, without reaching the port status.[9][11]


In late 1891, Lauriano Gaete and Ninfa Vargas founded Pichilemu, after drawing the design of the city with the engineer Emilio Nichon, including the Ortuzar avenue. After the civil war, Pichilemu obtained its formal name and status. By decree of President Jorge Montt and his Interior Minister, Manuel José Irarrázabal, the city was officially established on December 22, 1891.[19] The first mayor of the city was José María Caro Martínez.[19] He regularized the city plan in 1894. Subsequently, Pichilemu became the historic capital of the province called Cardenal Caro which is named after the first Chilean Catholic Church Cardinal.

Pichilemu belonged to the Department of Santa Cruz, part of the Colchagua Province until, approximately 1952.[20] Pichilemu has become the historic capital of the province called Cardenal Caro which is named after José María Caro, the first Chilean Catholic Cardinal.

Agustín Ross

Agustín Ross Edwards, a Chilean writer, Member of Parliament, minister and politician, was part of the powerful Ross Edwards family, the same family which founded El Mercurio years earlier.[7] Ross was the administrator of the great Juana Ross de Edwards fortune, the Nancagua Hacienda, which was located near the city of same name. Based on his European experiences, he bought a 300-hectare tract of land and named it "La Posada" (Template:Lang-en), or Petren Fund, in 1885. At that time, it was merely a set of thick-walled barracks.[4]

Agustín Ross turned Pichilemu into a summer resort town for affluent people from Santiago. He designed an urban setting of high environmental landscape value, transforming "La Posada" into a hotel (Great Hotel Pichilemu, later Hotel Ross, or Ross Hotel). He also built a casino, several chalets, terraces, embankments, stone walls, a balcony facing the beach; and several large homes with building materials and furniture imported from France and England. Additionally, he built a park and a forest of more than 10 hectares.[4][21] Ross, however, was not able to build a dock for the city, as he had planned.[22]

Agustín Ross died in 1926, in Viña del Mar, soon after the railway station was inaugurated in Pichilemu. In 1935, Ross's successors ceded to the Illustrious Municipality of Pichilemu, all the Ross constructions (streets, avenues, squares, seven hectares of forests, the park in front of the hotel, the perrons and the terraces); with the condition that the municipality hold them for recreation and public access.[4] The old Casino (1905) and its gardens (1885) have since become an important part of the city itself, and have been declared Monumento Histórico, by the National Monuments Council.[4]




Pichilemu is located 126km west of San Fernando, Chile, just east of the Pacific Ocean.[23] It is within a three-hour drive of the Andes Mountains.[24] It is also near the coastal mountain range, which rises to 1,000 meters in altitude.

Although the majority of the forest areas around Pichilemu are covered in pine and eucalyptus plantations, a native forest (now Municipal Forest) still remains. It contains species such as Litres, Quillayes, Boldos, Espinos and Peumos.[25]

Pichilemu borders with Litueche at the north, Paredones at the south, Marchigüe and Pumanque at the east, and with the Pacific Ocean at the west .[26]

Litueche Pumanque
Pacific Ocean Marchigüe
Paredones Lolol

The hidrography is based on: the Nilahue Estuary, that flows to the Cáhuil Lagoon; the Petrel Estuary, that flows to the Petrel Lagoon; and the El Barro, El Bajel and El Ancho lagoons, this latter boasts drinking water to the city.[11]


Template:Infobox Weather

Pichilemu experiences Mediterranean climate, with winter rains that can reach 700|mm|link=on}}.[11][27] The rest of the year is dry, often windy, and occasionally sees coastal fog. Occasionally, the city receives winds as high as 150 km/h.[28]


By the 17th century, Pichilemu had 1,468 inhabitants.[29] In 1787, Pichilemu had 1,688 inhabitants,[29] which grew to 7,787 inhabitants by 1907.[20] However, the city's population progressively decreased: 7,424 in 1920; 6,929 in 1930; and 6,570 in 1940.[20] In 1952, the city's population increased to 7,150 inhabitants; and in 1992, that figure had increased to 10,510.[20] As of the 2002 census, 12,392 people reside in the city. The census classified 9,459 people (76.3%) as urban and 2,933 people (23.7%) as rural; with 6,440 men (52.0%) and 5,952 women (48.0%).[30] The area of Pichilemu is 9.70|km2|link=on}} .[30] According to the CASEN 2002 census, 544 inhabitants (4.4%) of the population live in extreme poverty compared to the average in the greater O'Higgins Region of 4.5%; and 1,946 inhabitants (15.7%) live in mild poverty, compared to the regional average of 16.1%.[31]

Government and politics

Pichilemu, along with the communes of Placilla, Nancagua, Chépica, Santa Cruz, Pumanque, Palmilla, Peralillo, Navidad, Lolol, Litueche, La Estrella, Chile, Marchihue and Paredones, is part of the Electoral District N° 35 and belongs to the 9th Senatorial Constituency (O'Higgins) of the electoral division of Chile.[10]

The city comprises an urban center: Pichilemu, and 23 rural villages: Alto Ramírez, Barrancas, Cáhuil, Cardonal de Panilonco, Ciruelos, Cóguil, Espinillo, La Aguada, la Palmilla, La Villa, La Plaza, Las Comillas, Pueblo de Viudas, Quebrada Nuevo Reino, Pañul, Rodeillo y Tanumé.[11]

José María Caro Martínez was the father of José María Caro Rodríguez. Caro Martínez was elected as the first Mayor of Pichilemu in 1894.[19] He held the office until 1905. His son, Caro Rodríguez said to remember Pichilemu with just two humble residences at these times.[32]

Jorge Vargas was the Mayor of Pichilemu for more than 10 years, from 1997[33][34][35] to 2007,[36] until he was accused of theft.[36][37] He was succeeded by Victor Rojas, who was later accused of the same crime as Vargas.[38]

The last popularly-elected mayor was Marcelo Cabrera, elected in 2008 with 42.08% of the vote.[39] He served from May 2009[40] to August 2009[41] due to legal action. The municipal council selected Roberto Córdova as the new mayor on September 9, 2009,[42] almost a year after the municipal elections. The current councilors are Aldo Polanco Contreras, Andrea Aranda Escudero, Viviana Parraguez Ulloa, Juan Cornejo Vargas and Marta Urzúa Púa.[42]

From 2007 until 2009, Pichilemu had seven mayors,[43][36] four of whom were temporary.[44]

Culture and economy

The main economic activity of the town is the tourism, intensified in the urban center and rural areas like Cáhuil and Ciruelos. However, forestal exploitation is performed, mainly in pine and eucalyptus forests. Also, crafts are also outstanding in the area.[11] Fishing activity is not very important in the O'Higgins Region, due to the abrupt slopes here. However, it is practiced very well in Pichilemu, as well as in another places like Bucalemu and Navidad.[14] Pichilemu also has a clay deposit, in the Pañul area.[14] In the 2000s, many craftsmanship fairs have been established in the city, with kiosks and tents.

According to investigations realized in the area, the potter practices started circa 300 a.C. and have been preserved until now. Ciruelos and El Copao are well-known because of the pottery they develop.[45]

Dr. Aureliano Oyarzún investigated the pre-Ceramic middens from Pichilemu and Cahuil. He published the book "Crónicas de Pichilemu-Cahuil" in 1957.[46] Tomás Guevara published in two tomes of Historia de Chile, Chile Prehispánico in 1929, where he refers inter alia, the late indigenous center of Apalta, the Pichilemu's middens, the Malloa's petroglyphs, a tacit stone from Nancagua, and ceramios finds in Peralillo.[14]

In the Cáhuil Lagoon was used until mid-20th century, an embarkation type known as caballito de mar, made with totora that was recollected nearby the Laguna del Perro. In addition to the caballito de mar was used another embarkation also made with totora, similar to the wolf's leather balsa.[47]

National Monuments

Pichilemu city itself was declared a Typical Zone by the National Monuments Council of Chile, by decree № 1097 on December 22, 2004.[4]

The city has another five National Monuments: Ross Park, the Ross Casino, El Árbol Tunnel, the old railway station, and the Water Horse.[48]

Ross Casino

For more information, see: Ross Casino.

The old Ross Casino is located on Agustín Ross Avenue, in front of Ross Park. The three-floor casino was constructed with imported materials in early 1900s by Agustín Ross. Upon its completion, it housed the first mail and telegraph service and a large store.

The first casino in Chile was opened in this building on January 20, 1906.[22][32][49] It operated until 1932, when the Viña del Mar Casino was opened. After its closure, it became a hotel, which was in business until the 1980s.

The old casino was renovated and reopened in 2009 as a cultural arts center. It currently houses several gallery spaces and the public library. During its restoration, renovators found many historical artifacts, including a copy of Las Últimas Noticias from February 1941 when the Ross Casino served as a hotel; an American telephone battery dating from 1909 to 1915; and a tile from the casino's ceiling with signatures and drawings by the workers during its construction in 1914.[50]

Ross Park and Hotel

Ross Park was created by Agustín Ross in 1885, and remodeled in December 1987.


The park is located on Agustín Ross Avenue, in front of the old Ross Casino. The hotel was originally named Great Hotel Pichilemu (Template:Lang-es).[28] The once grand Ross Hotel was constructed at the same time. Although the hotel, one of the oldest in Chile, is still partially open to guests, it is in a high state of disrepair.[4]

The original park boasts 100-year-old native Chilean palms (Phoenix canariensis) and many green spaces, and its recent restoration has made it into an attractive walking destination.[51][52] The majority of the grand houses in the park are in use as private homes.

Both the park and the former casino were named National Monuments on February 25, 1988.[51][53]

Old railway station

The old railway station, also known as Ex Estación de Ferrocarriles, is a wood construction dated circa 1925.[32] It is located in front of the Petrel Lagoon, near Daniel Ortúzar Avenue. It remained in operation until the 1990s, and became a National Monument on September 16, 1994.[53] It has since become an arts and culture center, and tourism information office.[51] It exhibits decorative and practical objects from the 1920s, and features many old suits.

Railway history

357 km of railway were constructed in the O'Higgins Region, but only 161 km still exists.[54] The 119 km San Fernando–Pichilemu section was constructed over a period of 57 years between 1869 and 1926.[32] Passenger services operated on the line until 1986 and freight services were operational until 1995.[54]

In 2006, the Peralillo–Pichilemu section was removed completely.[54][55][56]

Important places

Pichilemu has many attractive places. One is the Municipal Forest (Template:Lang-es), a forest donated by the family of Agustín Ross in 1935. The main access to the forest is located in front of the Ross Casino, near Paseo el Sol (dirt road). The forest has a footpath surrounded by palms, pinos and many other varieties of trees.[57]

Another important place is the Indigenous Midden (Template:Lang-es), an archaeological site from pre-hispanic times. It located in a place where a fisherman group allegedly lived, 1km from Punta de Lobos and 0.3km south from Los Curas Lagoon.[58] Los Curas Lagoon (Template:Lang-es) is a natural environment used for various eco-tourist activities such as fishing, is located 7km south of Pichilemu. The Indigenous Middens live close to the lagoon.[51] Another lagoon, the Laguna del Perro (Template:Lang-en) is located 8.5km south from Pichilemu. This lagoon is used for recreational activities, and is the most well-known lagoon in the area.[51][58]

Villa Los Navegantes (English: Village The Navigators) is a village of Pichilemu, approximately 1.5|km}} in size, which was founded in 1997. After five years of construction, approximately 30 houses were built. It has a small sports court where residents can play football, basketball and tennis.

Laguna El Alto (Template:Lang-en) is a small, rain-fed lagoon located at Chorrillos Beach. Often used for camping and picnics, the lagoon can be accessed from Pichilemu, traveling to the north by Chorrillos beach, approximately an hour and a half drive.[51] Poza del Encanto is another lagoon, located 30km from Pichilemu. It is home to a large variety of unique native fauna.[59] Nilahue Lagoon (Template:Lang-es) is located 15km from Pichilemu. It has beaches, including El Bronce, El Maquí, and Laguna El Vado.

One of the most important places in Pichilemu is St. Andrew Church of Ciruelos, located 13km from Pichilemu, in Ciruelos. It was constructed in 1779, and its altar was built in the 1940s. It has a harmonium, confessional boxes and very old images of saints. Its original image of St. Andrew was made with papier mache. The old parish was created by Archbishop Valdivieso in 1864. The first Chilean Cardinal, Monsignor José María Caro Rodríguez, was baptized there. The church is dedicated to St. Andrew and every November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew is celebrated there.[51][58]

Museo del Niño Rural (Template:Lang-en) was created as an initiative of the teacher Carlos Leighton and his students. It is a modern building, but features traditional architecture. Three rooms contain an interesting collection of stone tools, arrowheads and clay tools made by the indigenous people of the region. Also on display are domestic tools from the first colonists during the post-hispanic era.[60]

El Copao is a hamlet located 14km east of Pichilemu. Its main industry is domestic tool production, using clay as a raw material.[61] Pañul (pronounced Pagnul) is a settlement located 17|km}} from Pichilemu. Its name in Mapudungun means medicinal herb. Pañul produces tools, made with locally obtained clay.[62] Cáhuil is a small settlement located 13|km}}[51] south of Pichilemu. Its name in Mapudungun means "parrot place". The Cahuil lagoon is used for fishing, swimming, and kayaking; kiteboarding lessons are offered on the lagoon. Its bridge is a car crossing, and has a view of the Cahuil zone. The bridge also provides access to Curicó, Lolol, Bucalemu, and other nearby places.[59][63]


Pichilemu has many expansive dark sand beaches. The water is cool year-round, though many tourists choose to swim at the shore break during the summer months. Common activities include bodyboarding, surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing.

The northernmost of the beaches is San Antonio Beach or Main Beach (Template:Lang-es), which is located in front of Ross Park. It is popular for surfing. Near the beach and at Ross Park itself are balustrades and long stairs, dating from the early 1900s. There is a balcony over the rocks, located at the southern portion of the beach.[51][64]

Las Terrazas Beach (Template:Lang-es) is busiest during the summer months. Several surf schools, La Ola Perfecta and Lobos del Pacífico, are located nearby, as is the Fishermen Creek, where fishermen sell their fish.[31] Located south of the town and around the other side of the Puntilla, Little Hell Beach (Template:Lang-es) is rocky and beautiful. It is ideal for tide-pool lovers and is also widely used for fishing.[31] South of Infiernillo is the Beautiful Beach (Template:Lang-es), which is popular for walking and fishing.[64]

Further south, 6km from Pichilemu, Punta de Lobos features a beach sheltered from the southern winds. It is an increasingly popular destination for tourists and surfers.[57][65] Several surf contests are held there, including an international big-wave contest during the Chilean fall. The size of waves varies throughout the year, but large swells in fall and winter can reach heights of up to 50 feet (15 metres). It is widely considered one of the best beaches for surfing worldwide.[66][67]


Surfing is one of the tourist attractions, particularly at Punta de Lobos.[68][69][70] According to travel guide Fodor's,[71]

[Pichilemu] is Chile's prime surf spot, and people come from around the world to test their skills. ... [Punta de Lobos] is widely considered the best surfing in South America year-round.

—Fodor's Chile: Including Argentine Patagonia

Every October and December, the International Championship of Surf is held at La Puntilla Beach.[57] Punta de Lobos hosts the Campeonato Nacional de Surf (Template:Lang-en) each summer.[21]

In 2005, the American singer and surfer Jack Johnson recorded the music video for his song "Breakdown" in Pichilemu.


Pichilemu has many schools, but the most important are: Charly's School, a primary and secondary school located in El Llano; Escuela Digna Camilo Aguilar (Template:Lang-en), a primary school located near Charly's school; Colegio Libertadores (Template:Lang-en), a primary school in Infiernillo; Colegio Preciosa Sangre (Template:Lang-en), a primary and secondary school located near El Llano; Colegio Divino Maestro (Template:Lang-en), a primary school located near Pueblo de Viudas; and Escuela Pueblo de Viudas (Template:Lang-en), another primary school located in Pueblo de Viudas.

Other schools of note include Liceo Agustín Ross Edwards (Template:Lang-en) is a secondary school located in El Llano, near Escuela Digna Camilo Aguilar and Charly's School; and Jardín Amanecer (Template:Lang-en), a kindergarten located also in El Llano.

In 2009, a cheerleaders team from Colegio Preciosa Sangre participated in a championship in the United States, eventually receiving awards for their efforts.[72]

Important dates

Date Festivity Place
December 31-January 1 Año Nuevo Junto al Mar (New Year with the Sea) Agustín Ross Park, in front of the Agustín Ross Cultural Centre
February 6-February 19 Semana Pichilemina (Pichileminian Week) Pichilemu
February 16-February 21 Fiesta Costumbrista Folclore Junto al Mar (Folklore and Local Customs Festival with the Sea) Arturo Prat Square, Pichilemu
February 25-February 26 Trilla a Yegua Suelta (Threshing with Horses) La Puntilla, Pichilemu
Between March and April (mobile date) Semana Santa en Pichilemu (Passion Week in Pichilemu) Inmaculada Concepción Parish, Pichilemu
April 9 Muestra Nacional de Cueca (National Cueca Demonstration) Municipal Gymnasium of Pichilemu
September 17-September 19 Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day of Chile or National Holiday) Pichilemu
September 18-September 21 Campeonato Estudiantil de Surf (Student Surf Championship) La Puntilla Beach and Punta de Lobos
November 30 Saint Andrew Religious Festival Ciruelos
December 8 Fiesta de la Purísima (Inmaculate Conception Festival) Inmaculada Concepción Parish, Pichilemu



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Further reading

  • Mariana Donoso Fernández (2000). 10 Concursos Nacionales Iglesis Prat Arquitectos; Editorial FAU U. de Chile (in Spanish). 
  • José Arraño Acevedo (1999). Pichilemu y Sus Alrededores Turísticos (in Spanish). Editora El Promoucae. 
  • José Arraño Acevedo (June 2003). Hombres y Cosas de Pichilemu (in Spanish). 
  • Cristián Boza Díaz (1986). Balnearios tradicionales de Chile: su arquitectura (in Spanish). Editorial Montt Palumbo. 
  • Antonio Saldías González (1990). Pichilemu, mis fuentes de información (in Spanish). Editora El Promaucae. 
  • Carmen del Río Pereira and Fernando Gutierrez Marín (May 2002). Patrimonio Arquitectónico de la Sexta Región, 4º Parte (in Spanish). 
  • Juan Mella Polanco (February 1996). Historia Urbana de Pichilemu: Origen y crecimiento (in Spanish). Editorial Bogavantes. 

External links