The Port of Arica is on the Pacific coast of northern Chile only 18 kilometers south of the country’s border with Peru. Lying at the base of the cliffs of El Morro, the sand dunes of the Atacama Desert fringe the south part of the city. Arica receives produce from the nearby irrigated farms of the Azapa and Rio Lluta valleys, and it exports the citrus fruit and olives they raise. The Port of Arica is an important transportation hub for the region. Located on the Pan-American Highway, it has an international airport and rail connections to La Paz, Bolivia, and Tacna, Peru. In 2002, over 175 thousand people called Arica home.
Archaeological evidence suggests that humans have inhabited the site of the Port of Arica for more than ten thousand years before Europeans arrived. Captain Lucas Martinez de Begazo from Spain founded a city there in 1541, and from 1545, it was used as a port for exporting silver from Potosi. In 1570, it received the name of the “Very Illustrious and Royal City of San Marcos of Arica” (La Muy Ilustre y Real Ciudad San Marcos de Arica).
Until 1879 when the Chileans captured the city during the War of the Pacific, the Port of Arica belonged to Peru. The Battle of Arica is one of the most famous of the war, with hundreds of Peruvian and Chilean casualties in a matter of hours. The Port of Arica’s status remained at issue until 1929 when it was formally incorporated into Chile. The Port of Arica was destroyed by a tsunami following a large earthquake in 1868 off the coast in the Peru-Chile Trench.
Until the middle of the 1900s, the Port of Arica was a free port handling much trade for Bolivia. While it is still a free port for the country of Bolivia, it is a commercial center for northern Chile and Peru. It is the end point for an oil pipeline from Oruro, Bolivia, and the home of several industries, including fish meal processors. In 1962, Arica was one of the host cities for the soccer World Cup, and it was the site of the Rip Curl Pro Search surfing competition in 2007.