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 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

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