Today we made our last South American stop before we turn west into the South Pacific.
Arica is one of Chile’s largest ports and was the major port for shipping silver and gold mined in Bolivia to Spain when it was part of the Spanish empire.
We started our tour by visiting the local cathedral. It probably doesn’t match your imagined image of a cathedral. In the 1870s, the workshop of George Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) was commissioned to build this church in Arica at the site of the previous building that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868. If you look closely at the interior picture you’ll see some of the fretted iron structure from the Eiffel workshop. While very simple in looks, it has a quiet beauty.
Our next stop was at the San Miguel Anthropological museum in Azapa. This is a very well designed museum housing an extensive display of artifacts from the Chinchorro people and their successors. Of particular importance is its display of Chilean mummies. These are said to be the oldest mummies found anywhere.
When you arrive at Arica, the first thing you notice is a huge mountain of stone. This is called “Morro de Arica”. Our last stop today was at the top of this mountain which contains three main points of interest: the large statue of Christ (Cristo de la Paz), an old gun battery fortification, and a gigantic Chilean flag.
The old gun battery fortification is the site of the last stand of Peruvian troops in the “War of The Pacific” where they were handed a crushing defeat by Chilean forces in 1880.
Long after the War of the Pacific ended in 1883, the lingering territorial disputes between Peru and Chile were finally settled by the Treaty of Lima in 1929. In this Tacna-Arica compromise, the city of Arica officially became the northernmost point of Chile. As part of this sign of peace, the Cristo de la Paz statue was designed by Raul Valdivieso in 1987 and then erected in 1999 on Morro de Arica.
The Chilean flag is a reminder of Chile’s defeat of its rivals in the War of the Pacific. If you look closely at the picture, you can see me standing at the base of the flag and realize just how big it is!
As we were getting ready to sail away from port, a large group of young musicians and dancers showed up to send us off with an energetic and impressive show based on traditional dances of Chile. The costumes and enthusiasm of these students made this a fun send off.
When we leave port tonight, we’ll head west into the South Pacific towards Easter Island. It will take us 5 days to get there. We’ll do one big post on the 5th travel day.