Archaeological research has indicated the site of Arica was inhabited by different native groups for at least ten thousand years. The city was founded by Spanish captain Lucas Martinez de Begazo in 1541, and in 1570 was entitled as "La Muy Ilustre y Real Ciudad San Marcos de Arica" (the very illustrious and royal city of San Marcos of Arica). This city was since 1545 the port for exporting the silver of Potosí. The city is the capital of the recently created Arica-Parinacota Region (October 2007). It has a population of approximately 200,000 and is known as the "city of the eternal spring". The city was part of Peru until June 7, 1880, when it was taken by Chilean forces during the War of the Pacific and militarily occupied after the battle of Arica for the Morro de Arica ("Arica's Cape"), which was one of the war's most famous actions, with hundreds of casualties on the Peruvian and Chilean sides, in a matter of only a few hours of fighting. The city's status was not clear until August 29th, 1929, when it was definitely incorporated to the Chilean sovereignty.
The Potosi silver mine was the largest such mine in world history. Because of it, Arica became a crucial port for the Spanish Empire. This port was visited (and looted) by such famous pirates and bucaneers as Francis Drake, Thomas Cavendish, Richard Hawkins, Joris van Spilbergen, Watling, Simón de Cordes, Leandro de Valencia, Sharp, Dampier, and Clipperton.
In 1855 the Peruvian government inaugurated the train Arica-Tacna (53 km long), one of the first in Latin America. The rail line still functions.
The Morro de Arica is a steep and tall hill located in the city. Its height is 139 meters above sea level. It was the last bulwark of defence for the Peruvian troops who garrisoned the city. It was assaulted and captured on June 7, 1880 by Chilean troops in the last part of their Campaña del Desierto (Desert Campaign) during the War of the Pacific.
Near the city is the Azapa Valley, an oasis where vegetables and Azapa olives are grown. Economically, it is an important port for Chilean ore, and its tropical latitude, dry climate, and the city's beach, have made Arica a popular tourist destination. It is also a center of rail communication with Bolivia and has its own international airport. Arica has strong ties with the city of Tacna, Peru; many people cross the border daily to travel between the cities, partly because many services (for example, dentists) are cheaper on the Peruvian side. Arica is connected to Tacna and to La Paz, Bolivia by separate railroad lines.
Arica is also known as one of the driest inhabited places on Earth, at least as measured by rainfall: average annual precipitation is 0.76 mm (0.03 inches), as measured at the airport meteorological station. Oxford geographer Nick Middleton's book on people who live in extreme climates, Going to Extremes (ISBN 0-330-49384-1), discusses his visit to this city.
LA JUNTA DE ADELANTO DE ARICA Y JOHN V. MURRA. DOS LECTURAS SOBRE EL DESARROLLO ANDINO EN EL NORTE DE CHILE/ THE JUNTA DE ADELANTO DE ARICA AND JOHN V. MURRA. TWO READINGS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANDEAN POPULATION OF NORTHERN CHILE
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LOS SENDEROS DE LA IDOLATRÍA: EL VIAJE DE VÁZQUEZ DE ESPINOSA POR LOS ALTOS DE ARICA, 1618/ PATHWAYS OF IDOLATRY: THE JOURNEY OF VÁZQUEZ DE ESPINOSA AROUND THE ALTOS DE ARICA, 1618
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DEFORMACIÓN INTENCIONAL DEL CRÁNEO EN POBLACIONES ARQUEOLÓGICAS DE ARICA, CHILE: ANÁLISIS PRELIMINAR DE MORFOMETRÍA GEOMÉTRICA CON USO DE RADIOGRAFÍAS CRANEOFACIALES
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