This unassuming town of 22,000 inhabitants near Concepción, Chile, is still known locally as La República Independiente de Hualqui, or the Independent Republic of Hualqui. An otherwise typical central Chilean town, the “republic” boasts a 16th-century fortress and a surprising history.
During the Chilean Wars of Independence (from 1810 to 1826), this tiny riverside settlement was right at the frontier of the Chilean territory. The people of Hualqui were caught in the crossfire as Chilean nationalists fought troops loyal to Spain for ultimate control. Eventually, Hualqui was abandoned by both combatants, and left vulnerable to famine and attack by the Mapuche tribe that controlled the land south of the river.
For the war-weary and starving population of Hualqui, enough was enough. They duly declared their small municipality and its tiny fortress to be an independent republic in 1823 in the hope that they would be able to decide their own fate without state interference or invasion, and be left alone for once. Unfortunately for the newly free citizens of Hualqui, they were not left alone for long. A small detachment of troops from the city of Concepción, 20 miles downstream, violently quashed the rebellion two days after the declaration of independence. Thus, the fledgling Republic of Hualqui was reabsorbed into the only slightly less fledgling yet infinitely more sustainable Republic of Chile.
Nevertheless, Hualqui has yet to forget its brief statehood, and still boasts its own flag, a “national” soccer team (Club Deportivo República Independiente de Hualqui), an online TV Channel (La República Independiente TV), an official magazine published by the local council (La República Independiente), and a “national” radio station (Radio República). The fort of 1577 still exists as a small park and viewpoint in the town, and can be visited free of charge.
Know Before You Go
By car, from Concepción, take the O-60 signposted Chiguayante, then follow signs for Hualqui. By public transport, the 18P bus from Concepción runs to Hualqui every 10 minutes and takes around an hour. The map coordinates above are for the 16th-century fort.