War of the Pacific

   A conflict waged by Chile against Bolivia and Peru over control of the Atacama Desert, a region rich in deposits of nitrates newly being used by the explosives industry. In 1873, Bolivia and Peru made a secret alliance to protect their access to the Atacama; in 1875 Peru seized control of Chilean nitrate companies on what it deemed to be its territory. When Bolivia followed suit three years later, the Chilean president, Anibal Pinto, declared war on both countries in April 1879. The war’s first engagements were at sea—hence its name—but after the Chilean navy had taken the Peruvian port of Callao and blockaded Bolivia’s Pacific coast, Chilean land forces marched inland and defeated a combined Peruvian-Bolivian force near Iquique. Bolivia was out the war quickly thereafter, but the Chileans were required to campaign against the Peruvian capital, Lima, to prevail. They took Lima in January 1881. The United States mediated treaties in 1883 and 1884, officially ending hostilities. Chile gained territory from both states, but Bolivia was the main loser insofar as the Treaty of Valparaiso blocked its access to the Pacific.
    Farcau, Bruce W. The Ten Cents War. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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