Antofagasta is a port city in northern Chile, about north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. According to the 2012 census, the city has a population of 345,420.
The city of Antofagasta is closely linked to mining activity, being a major mining area of the country. The last decade has been a steady growth in the areas of construction, retail, hotel accommodations, population growth, and remarkable skyline development.
Currently there are several theories to explain the origin of the name Antofagasta. A clear consensus regarding the true origin of the word has not yet been determined.
It is probably a compound word that comes from the southern Cacan "anto" (or "hattun", which means “Grande” –big-), "faya" (or “haya”, which means “salar”–dry lake-) and "gasta" (meaning “pueblo”), being a toponymy meaning "Pueblo del Salar Grande" (“Town of the great salt lake”).
According to other theories, it may be a compound word from the Quechua word "anta" (meaning “cobre” –copper-) and "Pakay" (meaning “esconder” –hidden-), being a toponymy meaning “Escondrijo del Cobre" (“Copper Cache"); could also be related to the Chango language, "Antofagasti" (meaning "Puerta del Sol"- Sun Gate-), how the changos called the current natural monument “La Portada”. However, it says the name Antofagasta is due to a decision by Manuel Mariano Melgarejo, who renamed the city in honor of a stay that had in Antofagasta de la Sierra, in 1870.
In Chile, Antofagasta is known as “'La Perla del Norte'” (The Pearl of the North), for its historical and economic importance.
Bolivia created the “Departamento del Litoral”, during the government of Andrés de Santa Cruz, in 1837, which was divided into two provinces: La Mar (with capital Cobija) and Atacama (with its capital in San Pedro de Atacama) and 1868, Antofagasta would be the capital of the province of Mejillones.
On 18 September 1866, José Santos Ossa and Francisco Puelma achieved the award of the concession of nitrate lands, following a request sent to the Bolivian government. The exploring of the chilean miners found rich deposits of saltpeter (nitratine) in the field of Salar del Carmen, to the east of the present Antofagasta. Agreed to form the “Sociedad Exploradora del Desierto de Atacama” (Explorer Society of Atacama Desert). After the formation of the company, began to fill with what was called “La Chimba”. On 19 March 1868, the “Melbourne Clark Company” was established, after the integration of Chilean and British capital.
After the earthquake in Iquique and Oprah Jiffy of 13 August 1868, it was necessary to give legal recognition to the Chimba as a mining town. On 27 August 1868, Bolivia's President Mariano Melgarejo instructed the Prefect of the Department of Litoral, the official founding of La Chimba, in the area bounded by the commissioners and Jose Santos Hilario Ruiz Prada. On 22 October 1868, the population was officially established and the port under the name La Chimba, as stated in the foundation charter. Later the city was renamed Antofagasta. The first official map of the population and the port of Antofagasta was designed by Jose Santos Prada in 14 September 1869. This document set out the grounds of the Melbourne Clark Company, plus 17 blocks and the Main Square.
On 8 May 1872, Antofagasta was appointed by the Bolivian Government as Puerto Mayor, open trade worldwide. Next year, on 25 January 1872, following a session led by the prefect of the Provincial Department of Mejillones, Manuel Buitrago, founded the Municipality of Antofagasta under Bolivian law of Municipalities, which formed the body of “Municipal Agents”, composed of two Germans, one English and six Chileans.
On 27 November 1873, the "Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarril de Antofagasta" signed a contract with the government of Bolivia, in which taxes were removed from mineral exploitation for 15 years. This contract was not ratified by the Congress of Bolivia, which was then analyzed negotiations with Chile.
War of the Pacific
In 1873 Bolivia signed a secret treaty of defensive alliance with Peru. This would be used as an argument 5 years later in Chile, when it unleashed the War of the Pacific. The secret alliance, forbade Bolivia from signing a border treaty with Chile, without consulting with Perú. However, in 1874 Chile and Bolivia signed a border treaty, which replaced the previous treaty of 1866. One of its points was not to impose new taxes on individuals, industries and Chilean capital for 25 years.
For Bolivia, the contract of 1873 between the government and "Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarriles de Antofagasta" was not yet in force, because, according to the Bolivian constitution, all contracts with the Bolivian government had to be approved by Congress.
According to the Bolivian version of events, the contract with the company of saltpeter was incomplete so the congress, to approve the contract, decided to enforce a tax of 10 cents, which did not violate the treaty of 1874, since the contract was not yet in force at that date. Bolivia suspended the tax in deference to the government of Chile, but following a note from the Chilean foreign minister, it reactivated the tax law, then cancelled and closed the “Compañía de Salitres”. Faced with a looming conflict with Chile, Bolivia decided to claim support under the agreement signed with Peru, and the treaty became effective with the Chilean occupation of Antofagasta, on 14 February 1879.
According to the Chilean version of events, the tax of 10 cents violated the treaty of 1874 since according to this, new taxes should not have been imposed on Chilean companies operating in Bolivia. At the breaking of the boundary treaty by Bolivia, and the cancellation of the contract of the “Compañía de Salitres y Ferrocarriles de Antofagasta”, Chile seized Antofagasta, then in Bolivian territory, whose sovereignty had been ratified before 1866. After the war, a pact of truce was signed between Bolivia and Chile in 1884, which stated that the territory between the Loa River and parallel 23 would be under the administration of Chile, while Bolivia would be allowed access to the ports of Arica and Antofagasta. However, both treaties left outstanding issues to be clarified in two subsequent treaties, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Chile and Bolivia in 1904 and the 1929 Treaty of Lima in Peru.
The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Chile and Bolivia, signed on 20 October 1904, and promulgated on 21 March 1905, established in perpetuity border between Chile and Bolivia. The territory of Antofagasta was definitely within Chile's borders but in return Chile agreed to build a railroad that would link the cities of Arica and La Paz, Bolivia was granted free movement of commerce through Chilean territory.
In 1905, the city of Antofagasta began construction of sewers, because of existing outbreaks of bubonic plague and smallpox. The same year was ordered, so unsatisfactory, the closure of public places, in order to prevent the spread of disease.
On 1 February 1906, the railway workers union of the "Ferrocarril Antofagasta a Bolivia" called for a readjustment of working hours, which was rejected. For this reason, on 6 February, from more than 3,000 workers went on strike, marching in protest to the Plaza Colon (main square). The army opened fire on protesters, killing 58 people. The fact is known as the "Massacre of Plaza Colon".
In 1956 was created the Universidad del Norte (now the Catholic University of the North), due to support from the Catholic University of Valparaíso. On 9 October, of the same year began the negotiations for the creation of the "Centro Universitario Zona Norte" (University Center North Zone), part of the University of Chile. In 1968 was inaugurated the Antofagasta center of the University of Chile, after a university reform agreement which meant the autonomy of the University Center North Zone. Finally in 1981, merging the offices of the University of Chile and Technical State University, giving rise to the University of Antofagasta.
The barrage of Antofagasta, registered on 18 June 1991, devastated much of the city, undermining land, damaged 2,464 houses and destroyed 493 buildings, all this resulting in material damage on the occasion were estimated at approximately $ 70,000,000. The disaster left a toll of 92 dead, 16 missing and about 20,000 homeless. On 30 July 1995, the city was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale, with an intensity VII to VIII on the Mercalli Scale. Although the fatal balance accounted three people dead and hundred injured, structural damage was minor for the magnitude of the event.
Decade of growth
The construction industry has had remarkable growth as seen in the many recently constructed tall buildings, the extension of the urban area to the north of the city, and different urban projects as the renovation of the entire Costanera Avenue, and walkways of the city center. In economic development, settled many retail chains and supermarkets as well as various high-quality hotel chains, which promoted business tourism to attract capital and trading partners in mining and port activity. Similarly, the city was awarded the installation of the Casino Enjoy Antofagasta.
In the municipal elections of 2008, the first woman mayor of the city was elected, Dra. Marcela Hernando, who retired from her political party to run as an Independent. This allowed her to have diverse support from all sectors of the population of Antofagasta.
Experts have estimated that in the next 10 years the city will reach 500 thousand inhabitants.