Iquique was a Peruvian city under Chilean Naval blockade May 1879 during the War of the Pacific for control of valuable nitrate deposits in the Atacama desert. It was also called the “Saltpeter War.” Photographs from Valparaiso are featured here, starting with an overview of Plaza Sotomayor from the bridge of the ship Regatta docked in the harbor. Centered in the square is a memorial to the heroes of Iquique.
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On the morning of May 21, 1879, two older wooden Chilean ships were at station blockading the Iquique harbor, the corvette Esmeralda, Captained by Arturo Prat Chacón and the schooner Covadonga.
Out of the thick morning fog two Peruvian ironclad ships emerged.
Outgunned by the ironclads the Covadonga withdrew. Captain Prat stood his ground and the Esmeralda was destroyed with great loss of life.
Peru won that battle and opened the port. News of the heroism of Captain Prat and crew aroused the Chilean population. The outcome of the War of the Pacific was a huge gain of territory for Chile, including the nitrate mines of the Atacama desert.