I q u i q u e

     July 12, (1835)
"We anchored in the port of Iquique. The village that had about a thousand inhabitants is situated in a level of sand at the foot of a large wall of rocks, with an altitude of 2000 feet and that constitutes the coast. We are in a real desert. Once every seven or eight years it rains for a few minutes. Nothing so sad as the appearance of this city; the small port with its insignificant vessels and its group of miserable houses is in complete disproportion with the rest of the landscape and seems squashed by it.

"The inhabitants live here as if they were on board of a ship; everything has to be brought from very far; the water is brought in ships from Pisagua, situated 40 miles north, and the 18-gallon cask is sold at 9 reales; a bottle of water I bought, cost me 30 cents. They also have to import wood for heating and in any event all the food.

"The day after I arrived, with great difficulty and at the price of one hundred francs, I obtained two mules and a guide to take me to the place where nitrate of soda is exploited. This exploitation constitutes the fortune of Iquique. Exports of this salt commenced in 1830, sending it to France and England in one year for the value of 10,000 pounds sterling. It is mainly used as fertilizer, but is also adequate for the fabrication of nitric acid."

Travel Diary of Charles Darwin.                

Iquique towards 1889. The first seawater Condensing machine was inaugurated in 1845. At the beginning this machine only produced 180 gallons of water per day (1 English gallon = 227.3 liters), increasing later to 400 gallons.
Photograph of the Album Salitreras de Tarapacá. L. Boudat.

"In 1885 the first census of the Republic was taken, that was going to take into account the incorporation of the provinces of Tarapacá and Antofagasta, that had brought a deep change within the conditions in which the economic development of the country occurred.
The census of 1885 gave a very satisfactory figure for Iquique. The population reached 16,414 inhabitants.

  In 1820 .....................  50 inhabitants
  In 1862 .................. 2,485       "
  In 1872 .................. 5,088       "
  In 1876 .................. 9,222       "

Roberto Hernández: El Salitre.


George Santayana            

  Iquique, December 23, 1907

My dear Grandma,

Do you remember that I told you that my father was worried about the problems in the Nitrate Plants, that there were strikes day after day in Iquique and on the pampa and therefore we could not go out?
As a far humming sound, the men came down from the pampa. There were many: men, women and children, grandmothers and grandfathers. They also had their dogs that ran in between their legs as if knowing that they participated in an important event. The women came with baskets, pans and spoons, the babies against their breast, and the men with their younger children on their shoulders. It was very hot those days. The camanchaca (fog) did not bring its usual relief. The heat hovered over the city like a heavy mantle. The days passed and in spite of the quantity of people, there was an air of hope. According to Juan, the people from the pampa said they would wait until their petitions were accepted. They wanted to change many things, Grandma, such as for example, eliminate the fichas (coins used in the nitrate plants to buy goods in the pulperías replacing currency), and have schools in the afternoon and better medical attention. But they were defeated. The troops came; the authorities got scared, there were fights followed by shouts and shots.
Grandma, finally the people did not return to the pampa. They were killed with their guns and the shots that crushed the city were replaced by a deep and desperate crying such as that of a caged dog. So many dead, only because they wanted to live better.
The air still smells of gunpowder and fear.
Don't worry about us we are all right. My father wants us to go to Tiliviche for a few days to rest and there we will wait for the New Year.

Goodbye, dear Grandma. Write to me soon.
Your granddaughter Isabelle.

Georgina Gubbins: Cartas del Desierto

  Anonymous. Santa María School of Iquique
  Place of the massacre of the workers on December 21, 1907.

Cemetery No. 1. Here is the tomb of Mr. Pedro Gamboni Vera (18251895), remarkable Chilean engineer who boosted important advances in the elaboration of nitrate and iodine.

Anonymous. Arturo Prat Plaza, Iquique. C. 1922.

Eco Pampino

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