A Look into Humberstone

The token system

A spanish language map offers some insights into Officio Santiago Humberstone, what it was like to live there.

Number 14, “Pulperia” is translated by Google Translate into the English language as “Grocer’s Shop,” a term that does not catch the flavor of such establishments that are a combination convenience store and barroom.

In the world of the remote saltpeter mining of the Atacama desert, these were company stores and communal dining facilities serving the population of isolated settlements.

Click any photograph for a larger view and use Ctrl-x to zoom in closer.

Currency was not accepted by the pulperia, only tokens. Generally of wood, issued by the company as sole payment to workers, the token system. Each oficinas salitreras (Saltpeter Village) had it own token. More than 2,000 tokens from these systems are known and collected today.

The token system intended to provide goods and services to workers at a rate to avoid inflation as well as to tie laborers to a site. During the 1907 shutdown and massacre of workers and family tokens were one of the demands: *While the tokens are being abolished and pay is starting to be given in legal tender, each oficina, its Manager representing it and pledging compliance, shall agree to accept tokens from every other oficina on a par with its own, paying a fine of 50,000 pesos for every refusal to do so.”

We will visit the communal kitchen, the swimming pool (piscina) and other offerings of Humberstone village in later postings.

Here are shots of some of the ore processing and refining equipment.

This mysterious device has a personality all its own.

Click me for the next post of this series, “Worker Homes.”

Click me for the first post of this series, “Iquique By Sea I.”.



Wikipedia “Pulperia,” “Santa MarĂ­a School massacre.”

Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works World Heritage page

The Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works site (Chile), removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger/

Caliche mining: https://www.sqm.com/sqmeninfografias/eng/caliche.html

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved