Valdivia is often promoted for its unique characteristics, that make it different from other cities in Chile: Valdivia has an early Spanish colonial past, plus a later history of German colonization. Both eras left visible landmarks such as the forts of Corral Bay and the German-style wood houses. The governments of Spain and Germany currently maintain honorary consulates in Valdivia. The city is commonly seen as a tourist magnet in Chile, and sometimes described as La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South) and as La ciudad mas linda de Chile (Chile's most beautiful city). Every year during the summer months of January and February the municipality organizes many free cultural events along the river site, such as concerts, sporting events, and other entertainment. To mark and celebrate the end of the touristic summer months, halfway through February all entertainment reaches its climax with the celebration of noche Valdiviana (Valdivian night). During this night many local groups and communities present themselves on boats during a night parade over the river. Every boat has its own theme related with one theme of that year. At the end a jury picks the winners in different categories. The parade is by tradition started by a boat which presents la reina de los ríos. In recent years Valdivians have showed an increasing interest in nature and ecotourism. An example of this was the formation of Acción por los Cisnes an ecologist group formed to protect black-necked swans and the natural environment that surrounds the city, particularly wetlands created or expanded by the Great Chilean earthquake. With the founding of Universidad Austral in 1954 and the arrival of the CECS research center, Valdivia is now considered a major research center in Chile, particularly in areas related to nature such a glaciology and ecology. The Great Chilean earthquake and the national government's creation of the Los Lagos Region were difficult for Valdivian society. Valdivians resented to be punished first by a major earthquake and then by being placed under the administration of what they perceived to be a less-deserving city, Puerto Montt. The recent creation of a new, smaller, but more independent region (Los Ríos), with Valdivia as its capital, reduced the previous stigma.
The city and commune of Valdivia rely heavily on silviculture, the pulp and paper industry and other forestry-related activities (the harvesting and processing of wood from nearby plantations of eucalyptus and Douglas firs). Large businesses such as CELCO, Bomasil and Louisiana-Pacific have established wood processing factories near Valdivia. Metallurgy, naval construction and repairs are also important industries, with the companies of Asenav and Alwoplast based in the area. Agroforestry/agriculture, livestock, aquaculture and food processing are lesser but also important industries that contribute to the region's economy. The chocolate company (Entrelagos) contributes to the image of the region, as does the brewing industry, a symbol of the area and another important part of the local economy, with Kunstmann the most famous brewery in Valdivia. Beer, along with cold cut meat and sausages, is part of the city's German heritage and is preserved as part of the local heritage. Trade, restaurants and hotels link to the tourism industry which represent an important part in Valdivia's growing economy.
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