Peru 1870-1918 Bolivia 1870-1918 Chile 1870-1918

The Pacific War of 1879-1884

also referred to as the Chile-Peruvian War and as the Ten Cents War

A.) The Diplomatic Situation Preceding the War

The nitrate deposits in Bolivia's Atacama province - a sparsely populated desert province - were exploited by Chilean companies. In Feb. 1879 Bolivian President Hilarion Daza rescinded these contracts; Chile responded by occupying the port of Antofagasta. War was declared soon after. Chile requested Peru to declare neutrality; Peru, which had signed an alliance treaty with Bolivia in 1873, refused to do so, and Chile also declared war on Peru on April 2nd 1879.

B.) The Military Cource of Events

By the end of 1879, Chile was in control of Bolivia's Atacama province and the Peruvian province of Tarapaca. The Peruvian navy was victorious in the BATTLE OF IQUIQUE (May 21st 1879). The presidents of Peru and Bolivia being deposed, 12,000 Chilean troops took TACNA and ARICA in 1880. Then Chilean troops invaded central Peru, gained victories at Chorillos and Miraflores (Jan. 1881) and marched into Lima. With the strongest Peruvian ship HUASCAR taken during the BATTLE OF ANGAMOS in 1879, the Chileans dominated the sea as well.
Bolivian control over the Atacama region had been fictitious, as Chileans were the dominating population element; Bolivian troops hardly fought in the war. The Chilean occupying forces, however, had to face guerilla actions throughout the war.

C.) Diplomatic Solution and Legacy

The TREATY OF ANCON (Oct. 1883) restored peace between Peru and Chile; Peru ceded the Tarapaca province, while Chile remained in control of Tacna and Arica, where the population was to decide on the future of their territory in a plebiscite 10 years later.
The TREATY OF VALPARAISO (Apr. 1884) restored peace between Chile and Bolivia; the latter had to cede its Atacama province to Chile.
Chile returned Tacna to Peru in 1929; Arica is still Chilean. In the Pacific war, Bolivia lost its only access to the coast. In 1928-35 Bolivia would fight the CHACO WAR against Paraguay in the vain hope to get access to a stretch on the bank of the navigable Parana River, so that it would get access to Atlantic navigation. The question of access to the sea is still a goal of Bolivian policy.
Peru still requests the return of the Huascar by Chile, held by the Chilean Naval Museum at Talcahuano.

Article : War of the Pacific, 1879-1884, from
The Pacific War and its Cigarettes, from Franco Romanini's Cigarette Pack Page
The War with Chile - the Naval Campaign, The Naval Battle of Iquique, Naval Battle of Angamos, The Ironclad Huascar, 1879 : the first submarine, 1880 - the breaking of the Arica Blockade, 1880 : Naval Offices at the Battle of Arica, 1880 : Last Naval Actions, 1881 : The Epic Charge of the Maritime Brigade, from The Peruvian Navy, the XIX Century Maritime Campaigns, by Juan del Campo
The Peruvian Army during the first years of the republic, by Juan del Campo, subfiles mostly concerning the Pacific War
The War of the Pacific, from Chile : a brief naval history, from Don Mabry's Historical Text Archive, scroll down
The War on the Pacific, 1879-1884, from Boliviaweb, Ch.3 of : The United States and the Bolivian Seacoast, by Jorge Gumucio Granier
DOCUMENTS La Guerra del Pacifico entre Chile, Peru y Bolivia en Fotos, from calquinleon, images on the Pacific War commented in Spanish
Letters of Arica, from The Peruvian Army during the first years of the republic, from the defenders of Arica 1879/1880, posted in English
REFERENCE Bruce W. Farcau, The Ten Cents War, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific, 1879-1884, Westwood, Conn.: Greenwood 2000, 224 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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