[ahn-toh-fuh-gah-stuh; Sp. ahn-taw-fah-gahs-tah]
Antofagasta, city (1992 pop. 226,749), capital of Antofagasta region, N Chile, a port on the Pacific Ocean. Antofagasta was founded by Chileans in 1870 to exploit nitrates in the Atacama Desert, then under Bolivian administration. Its occupation by Chilean troops in 1879 sparked the War of the Pacific (see Pacific, War of the), and after the war the city and province were ceded to Chile. Antofagasta has depended primarily on nitrates and copper and sulfur exports, and its economy has often been affected by sharp fluctuations in world demands. Borax and iodine are also mined. The city is an international commercial center and a major industrial hub with large foundries and ore refineries. Backed by desert hills, Antofagasta enjoys a fine climate but has little rainfall. Water is piped in from the San Pedro River, 280 mi (451 km) away. The Univ. of the North was established in Antofagasta in 1956. The city is located on the Pan-American Highway, which facilitates communication with the rest of Chile.
For the copper-mining company named after the region, see Antofagasta plc.
(/antofa'γasta/) is a port city and episcopal see in northern Chile, about north of Santiago. It is the capital of both Antofagasta Province and Antofagasta Region. According to the 2002 census, the city has an urban population of 281,155 and a municipal population of 296,905. The city's name comes from either a Quechua or Aymara word for "town of the great saltpeter bed."


Antofagasta is a long and narrow city located south of the Mejillones Peninsula and north of the Cerro Coloso, north of Santiago. The city is bordered on the east by steep hills that are part of Chile's Cordillera de la Costa, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.

Antofagasta lies in the Atacama Desert, which is among the Earth's driest regions. According to The Chilean Geological Magazine, annual rainfall in the city averages less than 4 mm, and there was a period of 40 years when no rain fell.

Mejillones is a small port 65 km to the north, on the northern part of Península de Mejillones. About 90 km north of Antofagasta is Hornitos, a beach that attracts both tourists and locals. Tocopilla is a coastal city 188 km north of Antofagasta. Calama, the second-largest city in the Antofagasta Region, is 213 km northeast of the regional capital. La Negra is a medium-sized industrial complex approximately 10 km south-east of Antofagasta, on the Pan-American Highway.


The first native inhabitants were the Changos, who fished, gathered shellfish, and hunted sea lions. The region was also part of the Incan Empire.

Antofagasta was founded on October 22, 1868 by Bolivian President Mariano Melgarejo to create a port that would provide an outlet for salpeter (nitrate) exports and establish control over an area where Chileans had settled and were smuggling this material. Antofagasta's original name was "la Chimba," though the area was previously known as Peñas Blancas (Spanish for "White Boulders"). It was part of the Litoral Province of Bolivia until February 14, 1879, when it was occupied by Chilean troops. This event marked the beginning of the War of the Pacific. Antofagasta is sometimes referred to as the Captive Province in Bolivia. The Bolivian government has made efforts to regain control of the city.


The commune of Antofagasta belongs to 2ª circunscripción (II Region of Antofagasta), which is represented in Senado by the senators Carlos Cantero (RN Renovation) and José Antonio Gómez (PRSD). Of equal way, the commune is part of distrito number 4, which is represented in Cámara de Diputados of Congreso Nacional by the deputies Manuel Rojas (UDI) and Pedro Araya (PDC)


Antofagasta's economic development has been based on extraction of raw materials. Primary extraction has shifted from guano to potassium nitrate (saltpeter) to copper. Antofagasta was formerly known as the main copper port of Chile, however, in recent years Mejillones have taken the leadership in copper transportation mainly due major infrastructure investment in that area (including a new port called "Megapuerto de Mejillones"). The city's economic mainstay is based on providing housing and services to the mining operations surrounding the city.

Antofagasta's industrial complex is north of the city. The city has a small agricultural zone in Quebrada La Chimba.


According to the 2002 census, Antofagasta has a municipal population 296,905, and a greater conurbation contaning 318,779, making it the fourth-largest city in Chile. Its inhabitants are primarilly Chilean, with significant Croatian and Greek minorities. Because there are several large mines near Antofagasta, temporary migrant workers in the mines form a significant portion of residents.


Antofagasta has an airport, Aeropuerto Cerro Moreno, with civilian and military operations. The city also has two seaports: one is a government-owned port near downtown Antofagasta; the other is part of La Escondida copper mine and is located south of the city, near Cerro Coloso.

North of the city, along the seacoast, is a natural monument that features a large rock with a wave-created opening, called La Portada de Antofagasta ("The Doorway to Antofagasta").

An important railway, Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia runs east to Bolivia, used to haul minerals over the high Andes. The history of the railway dates back to 1872 with the grant of a concession by the government of Bolivia to Melbourne Clarke & Co, the territory around Antofagasta being part of Bolivia at this date. The railway was organised as the Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company. Construction started in 1873, with the first section opening late in that year, motive power provided by mules. Steam locomotives were introduced in 1876, and by 1879 the railway had extended about 150km into the interior. War broke out in 1879 between Chile on one side, and Peru and Bolivia on the other. One of the causes of the war was an attempt by the Bolivian government to levy back taxes on the railway.

The line east was 2 foot 6 inch gauge, while the lines in Chile Littoral were meter gauge.


The city has several public and private educational facilities. Two major public universities (Universidad Católica del Norte and Universidad de Antofagasta) operate in the city. Several private universities (Universidad del Mar, Universidad Mayor, and others) have been open since 2002. Previously, the now-defunct Universidad José Santos Ossa was the only private university in Antofagasta.

Although the public schools are distributed almost uniformly throughout the city, private schools operate mainly in the central and southern part of the city, where the wealthiest inhabitants reside.



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