Although Heinrich von Kleist's story is set, as the title indicates, in Chile, there is little that is specifically South American in the detail. Santiago is depicted as a medium-sized European town rather than as a great capital city. The birth of Donna Josephe's child is described as scandalizing the town in a way that makes Santiago sound provincial and unsophisticated. The sadistic intolerance of its "matrons and virgins" is shown by their zeal in wishing there were a more stringent punishment for the girl than being burned alive.
The physical city is almost entirely destroyed by the earthquake which occurs near the beginning of the story, in which, the author says, most of it sank "with a crash, as if the firmament had collapsed, and everything that breathed life was buried under its rubble." However, even without the buildings, the spirit of the city persists, and it is a mean, censorious one, obsessed with the wrongdoing of others even in the midst of a great natural disaster. The people of Santiago only have a single church left standing after the earthquake, but by the end of the story, they are bent on desecrating and destroying even that in their anger at Josephe and Jeronimo's sin.
The city, therefore, is depicted from first to last as a hotbed of bigotry and ignorance in which the citizens are easily stirred up into a mob.