The city was founded as Santiago del Nuevo Extremo (“Santiago of the New Frontier”) in 1541 by the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. The area was inhabited by the Picunche Indians, who were placed under the rule of the Spanish settlers. The original city site was limited by the two surrounding arms of the Mapocho River and by Huelén (renamed Santa Lucía) Hill to the east, which served as a lookout.
Greater Santiago contains Chile’s greatest concentration of industry. The main products are foodstuffs, textiles, shoes, and clothes; metallurgy and copper mining are also important. The city also has an active financial sector, including a stock exchange, the major banks with hundreds of branches, and many insurance companies.
Santiago is the centre of the nation’s railroads. Highways and roads connect the city with the ports of San Antonio to the west and Valparaíso to the northwest, thus providing an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The city has a subway system, and air services are provided by the international airport at Pudahuel and the airport at Los Cerrillos, which handles domestic flights. There are also two smaller civil airports—Lo Castillo and Tobalaba—as well as El Bosque, a military airport.