Worker Homes

The token system

Ten on the map is listed as “casas obreros”, translated to English as “workers homes.”

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

Abandoned since at least the 1960s, the homes are completely empty of furnishings and show the wear of sixty years.

We walked the dusty streets, grateful for the calm atmospheric conditions, imagining what life was like for the workers of Humberstone.

They had each other amidst the vast emptiness of the desert.

References

Websites

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/

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

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 first post of this series.

References

Websites

Wikipedia “Pulperia,” “Santa María 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

Humberstone Human Earthscrapers

White Gold Collection

Fog over the Atacama desert was mentioned in a previous post, a connection with water in this the driest desert on earth, were no rain falls year to year, is difficult to fathom. Three million years have passed this land in these conditions. Warm air from the land interacts with the cold Humbolt flowing north off the Chilean coast to condense atmospheric water into micro droplets too light to fall as precipitation, these waft over the desert. Over eons, the ocean minerals dissolved in the micro droplets accumulate

Caliche ore is the result. Different that the hard sedimentary rock in that it is light enough in color to be called “white gold”, the appearance is the same was the following photograph from our visit that same day to ancient geoglphs at Pintados. Look closely to see the geoglphs on the hills (you will have most posts about these later).

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

Ore collection step of the mining operation was to gather the caliche ores off the desert surface, sometimes literally bending down to pick up chunks such as in the photograph. Other times breaking the surface apart with a pick and shovel or a jack hammer, or explosions. In the following photograph is a 1.5 ton ore cart. The cart rim is a little below my shoulder.

The workers, who were from Bolivia (average height 5’3″), Chile (average height 5’7″), and Peru (average height 5’4″), would lift each chunk to chest height then up and over the cart rim……

….to fill the cart. Three mules pull the full carts up a ramp where the gate, at rear of cart is opened, and the ore tumbles down to a railroad wagon (photograph, below). The full wagons are pushed to another ramp where a large rail car is filled and/or the processing site.

We did not visit the processing equipment over at Santa Laura. I recall the guide telling up the enormous machine that ground the caliche ran day and night with a tremendous noise and dust (there are photographs on the World Heritage pages).

Here is a wonderful painting of the entire process from mining to shipping from Iquique.

Saltpeter Production from Mining, Processing to Shipping

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Websites

Wikipedia “Humbolt Current”

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

Historical Humberstone

History through primitive art.

American west states have sites former towns, now deserted, that popped up and abandoned when conditions changed. Called “Ghosttowns”, Humberstone, named in honor of the 1872 founder, James Thomas Humberstone, is the Chilean version. It is easy to feel old when you were, as I was, five years old when this place became a ghost in 1958.

Forty seven (47) years later, July 17, 2005, the name Humberstone was inscribed in the book of World Heritage sites, the site degraded by years of scavenging by humans and attack by the elements.

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

We experienced the work of years that day,February 2016. Here is an overview of saltpeter mining and refining processes, in a detailed painting…..

….the physical layout…

…..and historical timeline.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Websites

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/

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Humberstone Entrance

Into the Pampa

Humberstone is one of two locations, 1 kilometre apart, of this World Heritage Site.

Santa Laura conserves industrial installations used for saltpeter processing such as a saltpeter grinder that remain intact today,

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

Humberstone demonstrates the settlements, such as the living quarters, public spaces and the regular grid pattern of the Camp, with a main square around which communal buildings are clustered. There was such a dense congregation of people it formed an urban environment.

We traveled the 34 miles from the Port of Iquique to explore Humberstone then continue on 32 miles on the Pan American highway, the world’s longest “motorable road”, to view ancient geoglphs at Pintados within Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve. Tamarugal is the least populated Chilean province with 2 people per square kilometer, the bulk of the population in scattered settlements and the capital city, Pozo Altamonte, 15,711 souls compared to 22,531 for the province.

A human touch, handwritten signs are part of Humberstone’s charm.

“Of. Salitrera S. Humberstone” means Santiago Humberstone Saltpeter Village

“Of. Salitrera S. Humberstone” means Santiago Humberstone Saltpeter Village named for James Thomas Humberstone, the founder of the mine. Santiago means Saint James int the Spanish language. “Iago” is Spanish for James “Sant” is saint..

Wait a second, $2000 for seniors (“Tercera Edad”)?? It caught our eye and as is obvious from the opening photographs, everyone in the party was in this category.

Oh, They omitted a decimal. What’s with three decimal places? This and the hand drawn border are wonderful. “To err is human, to forgive divine.” –Alexander Pope.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Websites

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/

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Into the Atacama Desert

where the Mars Rover was tested

NASA uses the rugged terrain of the Atacama as an analog for Mars. There the Mars Rover was tested.

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

These photographs, taken from our tour bus….

….enroute to Humberstone World Heritage Site….

Northeast corner of Manuel Bulnes and Oscar Bonilla

Speak for themselves.

Marble memorial to traffic accident victim.

Click me for the next post of this series.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Website: mars.nasa.gov/resources/8351/atacama-landscape/

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Above Iquique: Alto Hospicio

appearance of reality

Along Dragon Hill the road turns 90 degrees toward the east, becoming the “Rutas del Desierrto,” shortly, the Alto Hospicio comes into view, a municipality and commune separate from and above Iquique on the desert plain, “the pampa.” The miners who lived and worked at Humberstone, the World Heritage Site we will visit, were called “pampino salitrero.”

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

COLEGIO MACAYA is an Urban school located in ALTO HOSPICIO, province of IQUIQUE.. Av. la Pampa 3755, Alto Hospicio, Tarapacá, Chile

Alto Hospicio in 2012 was home to 94,254 souls, as a rapidly growing area there were more this February, 2016. The Colegio Macaya of the photograph, rising above ramshackle dwellings of improvised materials, is an elementary school, near as I can tell with my rudimentary knowledge of the Spanish language.

Proximity to Iquique and its port, its road connectivity to inland roads to large mining centers in Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá and Atacama regions, was well as cheap land, make this district a strategic link for industry and mining service-rendering companies. Iquique Duty Free Zone has 316 acres in behind this sign where better and seventy (70) percent of revenues are derived.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Wikipedia – “Alto Hospicio“.

Web site: https://www.zofri.cl/en-us/Inversiones/ParqueEmpresarial-AltoHospicio/Pages/Home.aspx

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Summer Day, Empty Beach

from the escarpment.

February for northern Chile corresponds to August for the USA, yet this shot of the main stretch of Iquique beach shows it empty on this Wednesday. I asked the tour guide and his response was “it is pack on the weekend.” hmmm

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

Click me for the first post of this series.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

The Dragon

a stable sand dune.

Cerro Dragón is a geographical and urban landmark made up of a large dune that is located in the coastal area of Norte Grande, Chile, within the city of Iquique.

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

Dragon Hill from the Atacama desert escarpment above Iquique

April 18, 2005 it was declared a National Monument Nature Sanctuary. Approximately 4 kilometers long, 834.06 acres. Its location between the urban settlement of Iquique in the lower marine terrace and the growing urbanization of Alto Hospicio in the pampa, as well as its characteristics of open, imposing and original landscape, give the city of Iquique a unique identity.

By virtue of its peculiar characteristics, Cerro Dragón became a symbol for the Iquique community, which has internalized it in its collective imagination as a fundamental part of its territorial identity.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

I copied the Spanish text from a web site about this Iquique feature. My text is a translation from Google Translate.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Saltpeter and Massacre

Father-son connection

Puerto Montt, port for the Lakes Region, and Iquique of the northern Atacama desert were linked when the Chilean Army massacred striking Saltpeter workers, their wive and children where they gathered in protest of poor working conditions, December 21, 1907. Over 15,000 were gathered when the Army opened fire. Death certificates for the victims were suppressed by the government, over 3,000 were buried in a common grave without ceremony in the city cemetery.

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

Puerto Montt

The connection is father-son. Puerto Montt, founded by German immigrants and named for the president at the time, Manuel Montt, who invited German farmers suffering from a famine with the goal of populating the region. Montt was successful in this goal. In 1907 his son, Pedro’s first official act as newly elected president was, with Saltpeter production at a halt, to send the army to Iquique to suppress striking workers.

A steam locomotive stands apart from the monument,

Now, there is a monument to these workers, “Monumento al pampino salitrero,” above the city plain. Set apart and poorly maintained, trash strewn, is a nod to the importance of railroads for the transportation of the mined product. A few hundred feet away….

Northwest view of monument

….on a round-about is the monument.

Southeast view of monument

Fresh tribute wreaths are on the south side.

Click me for the first post of this series.

References

Wikipedia – Saltpeter Workers of Chile, “Puerto Montt”, “Pedro Montt”, “Santa María School massacre”.

Copyright 2020 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved