Rodolfo Becerra writes in El Diario:
Canchas Blancas battle
Each year the Bolivian reminisced the sublime sacrifice of Eduardo Abaroa, in that heroic deed of March 23, 1879, when the brave Bolivian civilians next to soldiers folded Antofagasta and other places occupied by the Chilean rapacity, they faced a regular army, on unequal terms, but fiercely that produced the first hero of the war caused by the Chilean invasion.
But we have forgotten a glorious epic battle followed in Canchas Blancas, a fraction of the famous Fifth Division, broke a calamitous defeat on the invading army that was heading to Potosi.
On November 12, 1879 was a memorable day, which was unjustifiably been forgotten in our military annals. Justified that Chile has sought to erase this date, because they defiled their pride, based on the falsehood that their army was never beaten, contrary to episodes such as Paucarpata, Canchas Blancas, Tambillos and Tarapaca. What is reprehensible in Bolivia, is that it has sought to hide to leave in limbo betrayals of prominent characters that muddied the cover that victory, where tarijeños and chicheños be noted that on many occasions since the exploits of Independence and the Confederation have shown their bravery. Otherwise the diary of Col. Ezequiel Apodaca appeared and the mem0-part of Lino Morales, Canchas Blancas and Tambillos, legendary battles, would not be known and would have no memory of that infamous epic invasion of 1879, which caused the unjust imprisonment of Bolivia.
After a long inactivity in Cotagaita, which exasperated the troop commanders and finally the army of the V Division moved to San Cristóbal, towards Canchas Blancas and Calama, amid hesitations and contradictions, dividing the troops, some to the north, to Oruro with conspiracy and other purposes and the other to the front against Chile, but in conditions of scarcity of all kinds. In all that time the soldiers were trained, the Indians who served as messengers deftly and were given training in handling slings and even pigeons for communications.
They tried their best to meet the enemy with courage, determination and patriotism, as it exits the valuable memory of Apodaca, which makes us infer the ambivalent performance of Gral. Campero, which was confirmed in the facts, because he preferred to change the course of their march to Calama, addressing Oruro to meet their political affairs, forgetting the fight against the Chilean invasion.
During the last half of December 1879 and early January, there was a series of contradictory and unnecessary actions and speculates about the revolution against General Daza, in collusion with Aniceto Arce and other Heads in Tacna. It refers to the confusion and anarchy that reigned in the troop, who worried that the V Division, made with such care and sacrifice, all that would was to lower the government. On December 28 the coup prepared well in advance and even the issue of Camarones, who served for dissolving the Government; the worst is that the Arenas Blancas triumph was hidden, keeping the parties, with the idea that “you have to scrub the dacistas”. On the other hand, is the part of Colonel Lino Morales of November 13, 1879.
On November 12, from five in the afternoon, and some patrols chasquis brought advanced information on the Chilean movement. “At seven o’clock our lookouts saw the huge dust cloud raised by the enemy, coming frankly to Khocha [lagoon] towards the water, which was the only one in the region and at the base of the throat of our positions. We calculate the arrival on horseback and hand out drinks to our soldiers, who took their lunch an hour ago and when we delivered the last yambui in the right wingtip, Chilean troops -probably their horses felt the moisture watered and thirsty as they were- rushed in confusion towards the water, launched in dusty mess on the water, and the edge of the Khocha, trodden on one another, to be the first to drink water”.
“Then came the order, quietly slipped Bolivians and attacked frontally, while the Indians win the rear of the enemy to fall on its provisions and ravage them with stones, using the advantage fence of the night.
Chileans get the surprise disassembled, and see first fall in mass upon their horsemen, horses are immediately dispersed or taken for ours and taken to a safe place, while still rushing along the Chilean columns, and totally surprised and confusing, since the first plan was divided enemies with a maneuver of the left wing that fit between them, while those on the right attacked their rear and Indians and part of the Ayacucho to their Chiefs of Staff.
“The sanlorenceños of Méndez, with knifes and machete is hand attacked the enemy and took away the deepest rear”. “From the bottom of battle, painful woes felt when the troops of San Lorenzo sank their edges in the womb enemy or throat and even pictures of struggle was under the horse, melee and listen tremendous chapacas interjections. More than three quarters of an hour were sent and gun shots went away and as we progressed over the enemy. From time to time even whistling Indian stones deep chasing some fugitive were heard. In this endeavor, arrived midnight and Chileans were rejected, destroyed”. “Colonel Juan Bautista Ayoroa and his troops continued to pursue the enemy with the cavalry that by now we have abundant”.
“At three o’clock, Ayoroa and Villarpando are back. The latter wanted to talk to his soldiers, and only manages to say: Soldiers … dear children (a deep cry do not let him speak) and continues: soldiers, indiecitos ones you have saved Potosí and Fatherland … I cry with emotion, I said because we won, we defended the homeland, from here, abandoned by the Kuchi [pig] Campero”.
My salute to those heroes!!! And profound sympathy and thankfulness to my dear friend Rodolfo Becerra de la Roca, thank you for not letting us forget our history!