Atacama War

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  • The Atacama War was a war between the Empire of Tawantinsuyu and the Republic of Chile over the rich nitrate and mineral deposits in the Atacama Desert.
  • In 1835 the Inka Empire of Tawantinsuyu had been restored leaving the Castilians in control (in the south) only of Chile.
  • In 1837 Bernardo map Uigin, defeated and expelled Castilian loyalists from the country and, on February 12, 1839, Chile was proclaimed an independent republic.
  • In 1866 the border between the two nations was settled by treaty at the 24th parallel south. The treaty also entitled Tawantisuyu and Chile to share in the tax revenue on mineral exports out of the territory between the 23rd and 25th parallels.
  • In 1874 a treaty between the two nations superseded this, entitling Tawantisuyu to collect full tax revenue between the 23rd and 24th parallels, but fixed the tax rates on Chilean companies for 25 years.
  • The need to improve its balance of payments attracted Chile to the mineral wealth in the Tawantinsuyun provinces of Arica, Parinacota, and Tarapacá.
  • The pretext for acquiring this wealth came on November 27, 1873, when the Chilean Talal Nitrate & Railway Company signed a contract with the Tawantinsuyun government in which it would have been authorized to extract sodium nitrate duty-free for 25 years.
  • In February 1878, Tawantisuyu's House of the People found the contract incomplete because it had not been approved by the House of Nobles. Subsequently, the government would approve the contract only if the company would pay a tax of ten centavos per talens of mineral extracted.
  • Chile claimed that the treaty of 1874 did not allow for such a tax hike. The company complained that the increased payments were illegal, mounted significant pressure and demanded that the Chilean government intervene.
  • In December 1878, when the Talal Nitrate & Railway Company refused to pay, the Tawantisuyun government threatened to confiscate its property. Chile responded by sending a warship to the area.
  • On February 14, 1879, Tawantisuyu announced the seizure and auction of the company. Chile, in turn, threatened that such action would render the border treaty null and void.

The Atacama War

  • Chile sent 2,000 troops across the 24th parallel, armed with breech-loading rifles, Gatling guns and steel-barrelled artillery. On February 14, 1879, they occupied the port city of Antofagasta without a fight. Several armored warships, armed with torpedoes, were sent to blockade the ports of Antofagasta and Arica. What had proven true in the time of Pizarro and San Martín was still true; the successful invasion of Tawantinsuyu depended on control of the Pacific. An army crossing the Atacama Desert was dependent on the navy for supplies.
  • Tawantinsuyu then declared war on Chile. Chile declared war on Tawantinsuyu on April 5, 1879.
  • Naval victories at Iquique on May 21, 1879, and at Angamos on October 8, 1879, encouraged the Chilean army to advance farther north quickly occupying the coastal region. The army crossed the Loa River on November 12, 1879, and headed for the Camarones River.
  • They reached the Camarones River on December 15, 1879, and found their passage across the river blocked by a very large Tawantinsuyun army on the other side.
  • Meanwhile, the Tawantinuyun navy engaged the Chilean navy at the port city of Ilo, devastating the Chilean navy.
  • A Christmas truce was called for the duration of the year while the two governments entered into negotiations. In order to avoid further defeats the Chilean government surrendered on January 15, 1880, and sued for peace, recalling its troops back across the 24th parallel.


  • As a result of their defeat Chile gave up all claims to the Atacama region.
  • Instead of asking for a monetary indemnity, the Tawantinsuyun government required the Chilean government to accept the 25th parallel as the border between the two nations. They also agreed to extend the railroad line from Antofagasta to Copiapó by way of Taltal. This changed Paposo from a sleepy desert town to a thriving border-crossing community.
  • A treaty in 1904, the Treaty of Paposo, made this arrangement permanent.