Punta Arenas (English: "Sandy Point") is a commune and the capital city of Chile's southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. The city was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 it was changed back to Punta Arenas. It is the largest city south of the 46th parallel south. As of 1977 Punta Arenas has been one of only two free ports in Chile.
Located on the north shore of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas was originally established in 1848 as a tiny penal colony. During the remainder of the 1800s Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade destined to the west coast of both South and North America. This period of growth also coincided with the a gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s. Chile used Punta Arenas to firm up its sovereignty in this southernmost part of South America, which led to the Strait of Magellan being recognized subsequently as Chilean territory in the Boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina. The geopolitical importance of Punta Arenas has remained high in the 20th and 21st centuries because of its logistic importance in accessing the Antarctic Peninsula.