La Serena is in what the Chileans call the “near north,” an area notable for its rich history and its architecture. Close by is the town of Vicuña where Secular Franciscan and Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriela Mistral was born and is memorialized. She is also recognized in the Iglesia de San Francisco as can be seen in our website video. La Serena is known as the city of churches, and the construction material used is unusual: Instead of adobe, it is predominately stone masonry. The Iglesia de San Franciso, built in 1563 when the Franciscan Order was established in La Serena, is considered a colonial marvel. The building is located in a highly seismic area and has suffered extensive damage from earthquakes beginning in 1796. It has just been restored from the most recent earthquakes. The church includes a small museum with paintings and sculptures of St. Francis, religious art, and sacred objects.