Posted by: Joanna Garcia Valenzuela | April 21, 2008


Pachica is the fourth town in Tarapacá Creek, at 1630 metres above sea level. You can get there on the international road Huara-Colchane; 34 km from Huara you will find the access and then 6 km of a zig-zag downhill road in good conditions. The other possibility is getting to San Lorenzo de Tarapacá town (23 km from Huara and 5 km downhill) and follow the road that crosses the river until getting to Pachica. The first option is shorter and master but with the second choice you also have the chance to see Tarapacá Cemetery and pass by Quillahuasa, of course admiring the amazing rock outcrops that hang from the creek.

Pachica is a small town, with public primary school and a church, and houses with different construction techniques. It seems that the assistance from the Regional Government is present and now the main street has a modern cobbled road. This kind of inevitable “development” makes me think of contradictory ideas. It is evidently good for the locals, I guess they feel closer to the “capital”, but at the same time I feel that some of their identity is lost. The mix of centenary houses with government-allowance houses is not very attractive for the tourist, or the restoration of the church omitting its original harmony. Progress is also observed at road works, that year after year come to pieces as scale models; it is surprising, as it were, that after so many Bolivian or Altiplano winters, and having absolutely clear the path of the river floods, they haven’t made a work that lasts more than one year, but this is another issue.   

In spite of the above, it is still possible to walk around the ancestral crop terraces that during the summer are covered by a beautiful violet colour of alfalfa crops and the intense green of corn plants, molles (pepper trees) and palms. From Pachica you can go to Laonzana, delight for geologists and almost the last town in the creek. From Pachica you can also take a road to Lirima and Cancosa, which I haven’t done so far and according to the observations, it seems to be quite rough.  

In my opinion, the most enchanting things of Pachica are the hills. The geological years mixed in layers of orange, yellow, violet, and green and probably in between of Jurassic time fossil beings, with a nice sunset, undoubtedly the best.

Posted by: Joanna Garcia Valenzuela | April 19, 2008

About Tarapaca

It’s not easy to talk about Tarapacá, there is so much involved; its history is ancestral, since the first native presence in Caserones settlement, through the Spanish colonization, then Peru, the War of the Pacific (also called Saltpeter War) and the painful Battle of Tarapacá, until today, when Tarapacá is Chilean.  

Such was the importance that the Region is currently named after it. How to get to Tarapaca? The road to get to Tarapacá is simple, from Huara take the international road to Colchane. At km 14 on the road to the left you will find the Unita Hill with the amazing Gigante de Atacama geoglyph.

Km 23 turn right and go down a short slope. At the end of the slope you can take the road to the west leading to Huarasiña, small town with mainly old aymara population. Going back on the same road, just at the detour, follow the road going into the creek. There is another detour to the left in memory of the Battle of Tarapacá. It is supposed that this is the location originally known as San Lorenzo and where Chilean Commander Eleuterio Ramírez was killed. Take the road back and go to Tarapaca town, where you will find Tarapacá Church. Every August 10th takes place San Lorenzo de Tarapacá celebration, patron saint of miners and drivers, and the second in importance in the region after La Tirana. In front of the church is the square, surrounded by the public primary school, houses and two small stores, one with a restaurant. I recommend walking on the streets of Tarapacá; the architecture is beautiful, simple and could be described as the typical Peruvian style found in the creeks of the region. To follow up the creek take the road to the river. Generally, the creek is very hot during the year and it is certainly quite tempting to go to the river and refresh in the “Andean waters” but be careful with the “jergeles” and the “polvoritas”, tiny mosquitoes whose bites may be very annoying. Crossing the river you will find the cemetery to the left, in front of the original settlement location of Tarapacá. Follow the road upstream and you will see the rock outcrops at the north wall are more spectacular along the road, long stretches keep the marks of some alluvial or fluvial deposits and you can clearly see sedimentary layers in different colours. Along the road you can see ruins of old settlements such as Quillahuasa, which hardly has a sign identifying it. After 30 km approx. from Tarapacá you get to Pachica (see post on Pachica). From Pachica you can take an internal road to Lirima and Cancosa, which I haven’t done yet and according to information I have received, the road is somehow rough. You can also follow the road upstream the creek to end in Laonzana, delight for geologists due to the amazing fossils found by the road. As you can see, Tarapacá is full of surprises for different interests, archaeology, history, geology and probably many others to be discovered yet. 


In order to understand the importance of Tarapacá, I think it is essential to make a brief comment on its history. The fact of being an ancestral gathering spot, then the colonial Spanish base and further in time the stage for one of the most bloody battles in the War of the Pacific, make this place has a huge historical load, which shouldn’t be unnoticed. Tarapacá is outstanding from the archaeological point of view. It holds one of the most extensive petroglyph collections I have seen in the region, besides geoglyhps and evidence of ceramics, textile and shell mounds. Caserones settlement must be highlighted, at the south hill, over Huarasiña. It is not easy to get there, it must be done during winter season when the river is low (you must cross it), 4×4 vehicle required. During its first stage Caserones could be classified in the same time as Punta Pichalo in Pisagua and Quiani in Arica, that is to say about 4000 A.D. (first pre-agroalfarero period). During the second stage, about 1000 A.D, Caserones is classified in the same time as Conanoxa in Camarones and Ascotán development in Salar de Atacama. In the final stage it was a real “city” for its time, consisting of more than 500 circular rooms, made of “adobe” (poured and towelled mud) with central Algarrobo wood pillars. This was a binding stop place for chasquis and caravans on their road from Titicaca and Arica during the Tiwanaku horizon to Huatacondo, San Pedro de Atacama and other places to the south or the coast. Many centuries after that, Tarapacá would be the colonial capital of the province. History reads that Diego de Almagro arrived in Tarapacá in 1536, coming on the Inca Road from Arequipa and Cuzco. In May 1540, Pedro de Valdivia came from Cuzco with 20 soldiers, and Inés de Suarez waits here for reinforcements from the highlands: Rodrigo de Araya from Chinchas and Francisco de Villagra from Tarija. After that, the lands of Tarapacá are granted as “encomienda” (control over land and Indians granted to an “encomendero”) to Corregimiento de Arica founded in 1565. The chapel dates form 1613 and the parish is established in 1685. It seems that originally Tarapacá was settled at the south hill of the creek, in front of the current cemetery, but a river flood destroyed the town and the population; this would have caused the town to be located in the current position. The “Corregimiento de Tarapacá” was founded in 1768 with departments: Camiña, Sibaya, Tarapacá and Pica up to Loa River. Tarapacá remained as the capital, with a Governor and Town Council until 1855, when the government was moved to Iquique. 

Battle of Tarapacá 

After the Chilean victory in San Francisco, José Francisco Vergara headed to Tarapacá on November 24th 1879 with 412 men from Zapadores, Artilleros and Granaderos a Caballo regiments, and two artillery pieces. After gaining various information on the number of men of the Allied Army in Tarapacá, which according to sources varied from 1,500 to 4,000; he decided to ask for help to the Headquarters leaded by General Escala. In order to avoid risks, Escala decided that 2nd Line Regiment, Artillería de Marina Regiment, Chacabuco Batallion, 30 Cazadores a Caballo, plus one Artillery Battery joined Vergara, accounting for 1,900 men, all of them leaded by General Arteaga. Vergara had left Dibujo (undefined location yet, but should be between Negreiros and Amelia Nitrate Office) and Arteaga left to join Vergara at Pampa Iluga (or Isluga, possibly located near Unita Hill or south from Huarasiña according to some maps). When they both met, the soldiers were more than one day without food and water, and without the strength to go back, there was nothing left but heading to Tarapacá. With the two Divisions there were 2,281 men, less than half of the allied forces. The attack plan was defined incorrectly; the forces would be separated into 3 groups. Commander Santa Cruz had to move over Quillahuasa, Arteaga had to attack Tarapacá and Eleuterio Ramírez had to go in through Huarasiña towards San Lorenzo de Tarapacá. Santa Cruz division is lost in the “camanchaca” (dense and thick fog), but when the fog cleared he realized he is over Tarapacá and decided to take the road back to his original destination, but they had been already discovered. His division was being destroyed, they had to retreat until Arteaga division showed up, which slightly balanced the situation and made Peruvian force to retreat. At the same time, Ramírez was moving forward through Huarasiña, knowing it was a lost battle; two of the Chilean divisions were at the top and most of the Peruvian forces were in the creek. The only solution was a final Cavalry charge, which surprises the Peruvian army and achieve their withdrawal. But victory was temporary. The troops went desperately to drink water and have something to eat, and Arteaga gives the order to prepare food, without vigilance, assuming Peruvian troops would definitely withdraw as well as they did in San Francisco. In the meantime, Peruvian Generals met, they waited for the divisions coming from Pachica and use this Chilean truce to attack. The Peruvian attack was unstoppable, Arteaga ordered withdrawal but the Chilean troops could not withstand. Standard bearer of 2nd Line Regiment, Telésforo Barahona died not releasing the standard, which is protected by his comrade-in-arms who fall one by one, and which is finally taken. Ramírez, after being wounded twice, is taken to a house by his men, and is finally killed by Lieutenant Rodríguez of Zepita Batallion, then, he burned the house full of injured people. Arteaga ordered the withdrawal to the few men alive. Peruvian General Buendía decided to retreat from Tarapacá for fear of Chilean reprisal after the battle, which would set the end of Tarapacá Campaign. Although the Peruvian army, because we can’t say allied anymore, won this battle, it definitely lost Tarapacá Region. Maybe after reading this brief text on Tarapacá history it would be possible to understand the energy existing in the place. Too many emotions and feelings are floating on the creek, also known after the battle as the “accursed creek”. This episode certainly left a mark.  


Posted by: Joanna Garcia Valenzuela | April 18, 2008

Hello world!

This blog is dedicated to all travellers around the world  who want to come and visit Tarapaca Region in Chile.