Floren Sanabria writes in El Diario:
The invasion of Antofagasta
A week earlier, the Chilean troops were already in Calama and waiting for the order to fire. In the assault, they occupied the unguarded commercial port of Antofagasta. Through quick action showed that they had completed their careful preparations to invade and take over the Litoral, 1842. Chile before the treacherous occupation was in difficult economic situation, from poverty went into opulence. Antofagasta brought it out of misery.
President Aníbal Pinto ordered the Chilean troops of the three ships disembarking in Antofagasta on February 14, 1879, then take Mejillones, Caracoles, Cobija, Tocopilla and Calama.
Bolivia in 1879 and years before also undergo through a bad economic period, drought, famine, pestilence, death and disease.
The date of usurpation was marked in advance, as the special envoy of Chile in La Paz, Pedro Nolasco Videla, had reported the rupture of relations on February 12. Bolivia had no telegraph, there was only the line La Quiaca, Argentina and Tupiza, Potosi. The news of the Antofagasta invasion was received at the Bolivian consulate in Arica by Manuel Granier, Feb. 20, who immediately sent emergency communication to La Paz.
The news of the occupation of Antofagasta had been received by the questioned President General Hilarion Daza, the night of February 25, 1879, on Tuesday of carnival, when he and his cabinet gave free rein to the fun between streamers and mix in the house of the mayor of police Colonel Jose Maria Valdivia. Suddenly the band stopped playing, there was silence, Daza and his companions walked out to go to the Palace. The sad news brought by emissary “chasqui” [quechua name for the runner who carried news during the Inca Empire] Colque Gregorio (Goyo), indigenous courier who had left Tacna, Peru, on Thursday 20 and arrived in La Paz on February 25, after many sacrifices.
In Antofagasta, at six o’clock in the morning, a lot of people were going to their jobs and saw the armored Admiral Lord Cochrane and the O’Higgins corvette with two companies on board, anchored in the bay next to the armored Blanco Encalada, already it was anchored at the port from January 8. Immediately the artillery of those ships commanded by Colonel Emilio Sotomayor, began opening fire with guns, alarming Bolivians not to Chilean residents, because many of the 15,000 inhabitants were of that country and supported the invasion.
Around 3,000 outlaws of poncho and coat went to the Prefecture and occupied it, intimating surrender the prefect Colonel Severino Zapata and his secretary Soria Galvarro. In the Plaza de Antofagasta they placed cannons, machine guns to protect the assault. They had English military equipment. Meanwhile, Bolivian armed force did not even had a warship, just a small garrison of 60 gendarmes with stick rifles, remains of the insignificant garrison that had left the General Daza, after giving a coup d’é·tat to Dr. Tomas Frias.
The bloodthirsty Chilean troops and “roto” [nickname for chilean people] beggars outraged defenseless women, atrocities were committed, theft, looting of stores and, setting fires, breaking down doors with rifle butts, shooting citizens who crossed their path. Whole families fled to other latitudes, even Peru.
Chile’s expansionist policy was encouraged by our undefended border, disinterest and neglect of the Litoral de Atacama. Then they “pretended” that Bolivia had violated the treaty of August 6, 1874, having arranged the tax of 10 cents on the nitrate operated by the Compania Anonima Nitrate and Ferrocarril de Antofagasta, a Chilean-British consortium.
Chilean industrial, English, German and from other nations, from the years of independence raided, operating at their leisure in our extensive coastlines. Thus began the looting and painful history of the Coast. Chile preyed Bolivia a vast territory of rich deposits.
And Chileans of course like to bury this into oblivion… the world knows and remembers!