Bolivia History 101: The Chilean invasion to Antofagasta

Floren Sanabria writes in El Diario:

Antofagasta Invasion

2014-02-20 09.18.13 amOn February 14, 1879 is the day of the attack, the infamous date in the calendar of American history by the Chilean assault on the port of Antofagasta to seize its riches metalliferous, guano, saltpeter and copper. That black day of dispossession, the doors of homes were demolished with rifle butts. The “rotos” [nickname for Chilean peasant] and the soldiers trampling over shops and stores, giving account of everything in their path; releasing cries of triumph, of liquor and blood drunk looted and killed many people who crossed their path, without being stopped by women helpless sobs or cries of despair of children. Frightened people fleeing the place.

The prefect of the Department of Litoral, Severino Zapata and his Secretary, Rodolfo Soria Galvarro, perplexed could do nothing with 60 poorly uniformed and fed gendarmes [police guards], without weapons to offer resistance.

It had been almost two hours since the Chilean Navy appears with belligerence. Around 8 o’clock in the morning, were lowered from warships many boats full of soldiers under the command of the Cnel. Emilio Sotomayor, to the shore, in which Chilean civil society groups had committed under the command of the consul Nicanor Zenteno, who was appointed Governor of the District of Antofagasta.

Piled on more than three thousand poncho outlaws, led by frock-coat, and among the most frightening pomp approached the Prefecture surrounding it completely. It was 11 o’clock in the morning and a group lectured by a “Araucano” activist rose in arms to a woman named Irene Morales, to the height of the door, proceeding to tear out the coat of arms of Bolivia, placed on the frontispiece, being torn and trampled in the midst of applause, to put in place the Chilean flag.

The skirmish around the Prefecture continued to grow, inside, in the courtyard was heard the murmur of fearful Bolivian gendarmes who were formed without being able to do something and waiting for orders of the Chilean Commander.

No prior declaration of war, as premeditated and planned, began the Chilean military occupation, usurpation of territory and Bolivian sea, claiming that Bolivia had broken the Treaty of 1874 to arranged the 10 cent tax per quintal of nitrate exported by the Chilean Salitres Company [saltpeter] and the Antofagasta Railways.

The more than 600 Chilean troops were greeted with cheers! and hails! by the “roto” population, Chileans who had residence were more than three thousand traders and workers who had set-in many years before in Antofagasta. The troop began their march by Bolívar Street until they reached plaza Colón, facing against the headquarters of the garrison. There, Colonel Sotomayor inspected their troops which were formed.

The Chilean military boots walked freely by Bolivian territory, without anyone to meet, to halt their passage, and face them until March 23 at the Topater bridge, when Eduardo Abaroa closed their passage momentarily, then send them to scat, rather than accept the imposed surrender. The disputed military Hilarion Daza was President of Bolivia.

Sadly to acknowledge how Chileans worked slowly over time to gain economic power and influence while Bolivians did nothing to prevent it!

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