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Brief history of Arica

It is known that the first inhabitants of this zone belonged to the Chinchorro culture, the distinguishing feature of which was their mummification technique. Specimens may be seen at the Arqueological Museum San Miguel de Azapa.

In 1545 the silver mine of Potosí, in the Peruvian highlands, was discovered, and this resulted in the founding of Arica twenty-five years later, in 1570. To begin with, its importance derived from being the port from which the mineral extracted from the mine was shipped, and where supplies arrived for those who lived and worked at the mine. The traffic between Potosí and Arica was carried by enormous mule trains, which brought down the silver and carried back all kinds of supplies.

When the Virreinato de la Plata (Vice-royalty of Silver) was created, some 200 years later, Arica lost its importance, because the new Vice-royalty included the territory where the mine was located, and so all the traffic was diverted to the city of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

With the establishment of the Republic of Peru in this area, in the middle of the 19th Century, the city recovered some of its splendor, lost so many years before, and traces of this can be observed in the important buildings which were erected in the town. Peruvian control lasted until the beginning of the 1880s, when the Chilean army took the city as part of its military campaign during the War of the Pacific. Later, under the 1929 treaty between Chile and Peru, the territory was legally ceded to Chile.

Since 1953 Arica has been a free port, and this has contributed to its economic development as a port and a commercial and fishing center.

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