[uh-ree-kuh; Sp. ah-ree-kah]
Arica, city (1992 pop. 170,064), N Chile, on the Pacific Ocean, just south of the Peruvian border and at the northern limit of the Atacama Desert. Peru ceded Arica to Chile after the War of the Pacific (see Pacific, War of the). With the settlement of the Tacna-Arica Controversy in 1929, Chile retained sovereignty over the city but was required to furnish complete port facilities to Peru. The district of Arica is now a free zone where both Chile and Peru maintain customshouses. The city is a resort and a port through which the mineral exports (chiefly copper, tin, and sulfur) of both countries are shipped.

Arica is a port city in northern Chile, located only 18 km (11 miles) south of the border with Peru.


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.

Important events

  • On August 16 1868, the Peruvian port of Arica was devastated by a tsunami which followed a magnitude 8.5 earthquake in the now called Peru-Chile Trench off the coast. Some historians clam that the earthquake and tsunami killed an estimated 25,000 people in Arica and perhaps 70,000 people in all. Others estimate that the population of Arica was less than 3000 people and the death toll was around 300.
  • Arica was one of the four host cities of the 1962 football (soccer) World Cup.
  • Arica was the venue for a Rip Curl Pro Search surfing event that took place from June 20 to July 1 2007.


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