30 April 2023

What is the Pacific War? – Causes and social consequences

By Donald

the pacific war It was a dispute that occurred in South America, that pitted Chile against the nations of Peru and Bolivia. The main causes of the conflict were the dispute over the saltpeter deposits and the issue of Bolivia’s access to the sea.

What was the Pacific War about?

It was a war dispute that originated between 1879 and 1883, and that involved the government of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The main cause was the Bolivian coastal region, which gave access to the sea for Bolivia, but which was dominated by Chile.

The conflict began when Bolivia tried to impose a tax on the Chilean company it controlled saltpeter exploitation in the Antofagasta region. What was interpreted by Chile as a violation of free trade agreements. In addition, a nation that had commercial interests with Chile was the Empire of Japan, so the country could not afford to lose that great commercial ally.

Chile responded by declaring battle on Bolivia and Peru, who had signed an alliance treaty in case of a Chilean attack. The fight It was developed in two main phases: The first, which took place between 1879 and 1880, was characterized by the Chilean victory in the battles of Pisagua, Iquique and Tarapacá, which allowed it to control a large part of the Peruvian and Bolivian territory.

The second phase, between 1880 and 1883, was characterized by the Peruvian and Bolivian resistance, They fought in a series of conflicts, including the Battle of Arica and the Huamachuco, although the winner was the Chilean forces.

This had serious consequences for the countries involved. Bolivia lost its access to the sea, which has been a subject of controversy and conflict in the relations between Bolivia and Chile until today. Peru suffered territorial and financial losses, it took decades to recover. Chile, for its part, became the main economic power in the region and consolidated its position as a military force.

Why did the Pacific War start? – Causes

It was caused by a series of tensions and territorial disputes between Bolivia, Chile and Peru, which worsened at the end of the 19th century. The main causes that gave rise to the conflict are the following:

  • Territorial dispute: Bolivia had lost its access to the sea after the War of Independence, despite diplomatic efforts, he was unable to recover it. In 1878, Bolivia attempted to impose a tax on Chilean companies operating in the Antofagasta area, which had been ceded to Chile in 1874. Chile responded with a military occupation of the region, prompting Bolivia to declare war on Chile. .
  • Economic Interests: The Antofagasta area was rich in nitrate, a key resource in the production of fertilizers such as guano and explosives, which was of great interest to Chile. Bolivia had granted exploitation rights to Chilean companies. But he tried to raise taxes to get more benefits. This generated an economic conflict that worsened with the Chilean occupation of the region.
  • Peru-Bolivia Alliance: In 1873, Peru and Bolivia signed a treaty, which established that in the event that one of the countries was attacked by a foreign power, the other promised to provide military support. Chile interpreted this alliance as a direct threat to its national security, since it had had territorial disputes with Peru in the past.

How was the development of the War of the Pacific?

It evolved in two phases between 1879 and 1883, The main contenders were Chile, Peru and Bolivia. The main events and battles that marked the development of the conflict are detailed below:

First phase (1879-1880):

  • In February 1879, Chile occupied Antofagasta and declared war with Bolivia.
  • In April 1879, the Chilean Navy blocked the port of Iquique and destroyed the Peruvian fleet in the Naval conflict of Iquique.
  • In May 1879, Chile landed in Pisagua and they defeated Peru in the Pisagua dispute.
  • In November 1879, the Chilean forces they defeated the Bolivian armies and Peruvians in the Battle of Tarapacá, consolidating their control over the region.

Second phase (1880-1883):

  • In January 1880, Chile occupied the Peruvian city of Tacna, which marked the beginning of a new phase of the war.
  • In May 1880, the Battle of Arica took place, in which Peru defended the city, but Chile was the winner.
  • In July 1882, the Chilean forces they defeated the Peruvian army in the Battle of Huamachuco, which marked the end of the Peruvian resistance, despite the attempts of Bolivia and Peru to invade Santiago, they could never achieve it.
  • In March 1883, Bolivia signed the Treaty of Ancón with Chile, in which he ceded the coastal territory of Antofagasta in exchange for financial compensation.
  • In October 1883, Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of Lima, which ended the dispute.

What are the consequences of the Pacific War?

It had major repercussions to the countries involved, both at a political, economic and social level. Some of the most relevant consequences of the conflict are detailed below:

  • Loss of territories and access to the sea: Bolivia lost its entrance to the sea and a large part of its land, which generated deep resentment in the country and had important financial and political consequences. Peru also lost territories and its access to the sea, which affected its economic development and its international projection.
  • Strengthening of Chile: Chile’s victory in the War of the Pacific consolidated its position as a regional power, allowed control of important natural resources such as nitrate and copper. In addition, the war contributed to the construction of a Chilean national identity, based on the cult of the hero and the homeland.
  • Economic Impact: The Pacific War it had a hard economic blow in Bolivia and Peru. The destruction of infrastructures, loss of territories and the interruption of international trade. Factors like these generated a deep economic crisis in both countries.
  • Social consequences: The War of the Pacific had important repercussions such as the death of thousands of people, the destruction of homes and the separation of families. In addition, the dispute generated tensions and conflicts between the populations of the countries involved, which still persist today.

In summary, the War of the Pacific had important consequences for the countries involved and for the region in general, which they are still felt today. The conflict left deep scars and tensions that have affected relations between Chile, Peru and Bolivia for decades.