This province, which is more than 600 miles from the confines of Peru, is one of the pleasantest and most fertile in the kingdom. Its name of Mapocho signifies in the Chilese language, the land of many people; and according to the earliest writers respecting Chili, its population was then extremely numerous. This province, which borders on the Andes, is 140 miles in circumference, and is watered by the rivers Maypo, Colina, Lampa, and Mapocho, which last divides it into two nearly equal parts. In one place this river sinks into the earth, and after a subterraneous course of five miles, emerges again with an increase of its waters, and finally joins the river Maypo. The mountains of Caren, which terminate this province on the north, abound in gold, and in that part of the Andes which forms the eastern boundary, there are several rich mines of silver. Valdivia had penetrated thus far into the country on purpose to render it difficult for his soldiers to return into Peru, and he now determined to form a settlement in this province, which from its remote situation and natural advantages, seemed excellently calculated to become the centre of his intended conquests. Having selected with this view a convenient situation on the left shore of the Mapocho, he laid the foundation of the intended capital of the kingdom of Chili, on the 24th of February 1541, naming this new city St Jago, in honour of the tutelary saint of Spain. In laying out the ground plan of the intended city, he divided the whole into plots or squares of 4095 toises each, and allotted a quarter of each square as the scite of a house for each citizen, which plan has been followed in laying out all the other cities in Chili. One of these areas situated on one side of the great square was destined for the cathedral and bishops palace, and another for the house of the governor and the public offices. He then appointed a cabildo or magistracy, according to the usual forms in Spanish cities, from those persons in his small army that were best qualified for the purpose; and, for the protection of the new settlement, in case of attack from the Chilese, he built a fort on a hill in the centre of the city, which has since received the name of St Lucia.
[Footnote 64: Though not distinctly so expressed, this must be considered as square toises, making each side of the square 64 toises, or 384 feet. In a former account of the city of St Jago, the public square is described as being 450 feet on each side.—E.]
Though many have applauded the sagacity of Valdivia in the choice of a situation for the capital of the new colony, it would in my opinion have been much better placed on the banks of the river Maypo, about fifteen miles farther south; as that river is much larger than the Mapocho, has a direct communication with the sea, and might easily be made navigable for ships of considerable burden. In the year 1787, this city contained more than 40,000 inhabitants, and was rapidly increasing in population, owing to its being the seat of government, and the residence of many wealthy and luxurious families, by which it attracts considerable commerce.