The War of the Pacific: Chile vs Peru and Bolivia

When you study Spanish in Chile, you may find it useful to know something about the country's history. Every historic event plays some role in shaping a country's present reality. The War of the Pacific was definitely one of those reality-changing events. As a result of the war, which took place between 1879 and 1883, Chile gained access to significant mineral resources which greatly aided the fledgling country's economic development. If you attend Spanish school in Santiago, you may see the lasting impact of this important historical event.

Chile, Bolivia and Peru banded together when they were all seeking independence from Spain. However, shortly thereafter, Chile attemped to take control of areas in Peru and Bolivia that contained valuable minerals. In 1879, armed forces in Chile occupied Antofagasta, Bolivia, which was an important port city. Bolivia responded by declaring war on Chile and asking Peru to activate their "mutual defense pact." Chile requested that Peru remain neutral. Though Peru initially resisted both demands, Chile declared war on both Bolivia and Peru.

The biggest part of the war was called the Saltpeter War and dealt with rights to the Atacama Desert. Due to the fact that the desert had deposits of copper and valuable minerals, Chile and Bolivia fought about the border and to whom the territory belonged.

It is interesting to note that if you decide to visit the Atacama Desert when you study Spanish in Chile, you will find that today there are hundreds of abandoned mining towns. While the Atacama was once the world's chief source of sodium nitrate, the region's mining boom turned to a bust once Germany invented synthetic nitrate.

The Saltpeter War took place in the Atacama Desert as well as in Peru's deserts and mountains. First, the war started off with a strong naval campaign. Next, the conflict took to the land, where Chile's army easily defeated the under-equipped forces of Peru and Bolivia. Bolivia withdrew at the Battle of Tacna in 1880. Just a few months later, Peru was defeated at the Battle of Arica.

At that point, Peru's army engaged in guerilla warfare. Although this resistance movement made some strides, Peru was ultimately still defeated. Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Ancon in 1883. Bolivia and Chile signed a truce in 1884. It wasn't until 1904 that the two countries signed the "Treaty of Peace and Friendship" which recognized their boundaries. Under the new boundaries, Bolivia lost access to the Pacific coast. This was a serious blow to the country's economy. Even today, people feel that many of the country's problems are a result of the fact that it is landlocked.

When you study Spanish in Chile, you will find that the legacy of the War of the Pacific continues even to this day. For example, in 2007 the government of Chile returned about 4,000 books to the national library in Peru. Chilean soldiers had taken the books over 100 years ago.

If you want to learn more about history when you attend Spanish school in Santiago, be sure to visit the National History Museum, which is located in the Plaza de Armas. In summary, Chile benefited tremendously from the War of the Pacific, as the country gained not only territories, but also natural resources like minerals.

ECELA Santiago is a Spanish school in Chile, offering language classes, cultural activities, and family homestays year-round. For more information on studying Spanish in Chile =>

EasyPublish this article: