Tocopilla, Chile - Polarsteps

Tocopilla, Chile: population: about 28,000. The city was founded in 1843 as a cove, I guess that means it was even less than a town or village. In 1870, the cove shipped out its first shipments of saltpeter. In 1890, the railroad was expanded to allow for more shipping of saltpeter. 1915 saw the starting-up of a thermoelectric power plant. This helped to increase the production of copper. Starting in the 1930s the nitrate (saltpeter) mining started to taper off, then after that, the fishing industry started to collapse due to over-fishing, with these there were mass lay-offs and people started to leave town en masse. In fact, Tocopilla lost around 10,000 people who moved to Antofagasta, to the south. In November 2007, there was a 7.7 magnitude earthquake that was reportedly felt as far away as Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. There were 2 deaths and 115 injured people, as well as at least 10,000 others who were affected in some way. There were many buildings heavily damaged or destroyed. Even today, you can find a street where only the remains of houses exist. Being basically trapped between the barren hillside cliffs of the Atacama desert and the Pacific Ocean, Tocopilla has very minimal agriculture. The city still has some exports of saltpeter and copper, and the fishing industry picked up again and is doing well. The city has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get the city's industrial businesses to all move to one particular area. That is still a work in progress. Also, because of its location, the city has a pollution problem, caused by the thermoelectric plant and the saltpeter plant, which has been shown to be causing health problems for residents. There is a decontamination plan in place and has been since 2010. So, what is there to see or do in Tocopilla? Not a lot. There is a clock tower that was built of wood in 1800. There is the Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen which was built in 1860. In the main square is a gazebo that was built in 1930. And a few miles outside of town there is an archeological area of geoglyphs. The town has many houses that are around or more than 100 years old, they're pretty easy to identify by their construction of wood rather than block. Unfortunately, most have not been well maintained, but they are still lived-in homes. So, my impressions: Tocopilla isn't a bad-looking town, it has some interesting old buildings dating back to the 1800s. There are some nice parks and the beach which is protected by rock breakwaters. The town is built up an incline from just above sea level then goes up the front of the hillside. Directly behind the town is a wall of a hill, just like Iquique, if a tsunami, or even a giant wave, hits this town it will be gone, wiped off the face of the earth. The town appears to have nothing to preserve its heritage architecture, and it could definitely use some street sweepers. The few main center of town streets have very wide sidewalks and benches so walking the town is pleasant. As with all the other beach towns, Tocopilla will not be on my top 10 list of potential new hometowns.
  1. ChipW
  2. My South America Journey
  3. Tocopilla