The church of Tarapaca was built in honour of
San Lorenzo, whose main holiday is celebrated
every August the 10th. He's the Saint of the poor
and the outcasts, and his church was one of the
most damaged with the recent earthquake. The same
happened to the building of the Intendencia Regional,
a national monument, and a convent built originally
in 1872. There's also some damage in several buildings
that were important during the Pacific War, such
as the Campaña Hospital. The church of
Matilla, located nearby the Pica oasis, is also
in serious risk. We do not have much information
about Mamiña, nor about the churches of
Colchane, Cariquima, Quebe, Mauque, Isluga, Enquelga
or others around the area.
According to historical data, one concludes that
the area's first earthquake was the one of January
22nd, 1582. In February the 12th, 1600, there
was a new one, followed by new earthquakes in
1604, 1687, 1715, 1725 and 1868. The best known
is that of August the 13th 1868, which literally
devastated the city of Iquique. During the 20th
Century, the North could pretty much live in peace,
only interrupted by the 1987's earthquake which
affected the are of Chiapa.
Such a background calls for a specific emergency
program for patrimonial sites, which should be
treated differently than regular houses or buildings.
There's a need for a Historic and Architectural
perspective, based on the intent for recovering
as much as possible. We should avoid the ball
and chain at all costs, specially when coming
from that attitude which calls to "complete
demolition". Because after it's done, we
will regret not having thought with a longer term
It's urgent for the expert's voices to be heard.
But those of both professionals and the community,
since it's the latter who interacts with heritage
on a daily basis. For the aymaras, for instance,
all religious symbols have a direct relation with
health and the abundance of their crops and livestock.
The use of the cadastre
On the year 2002, the Cultural and Company Heritage
Corporation Doña Inés de Collahuasi
commissioned a group of Iquique professionals
the making of a cultural heritage cadastre of
Iquique's province. It was coordinated by Lautaro
Núñez and Cecilia García
Huidobro, and the work was focused on registering
and assessing both the material wealth and the
After the recent earthquake, such a cadastre gains
even more relevance. The work of architect Mario
Cayasaya Dodero gives a thorough account of the
zone's churches and other patrimonial sites. It
offers an invaluable tool for any restoration
work. I insist in the word: restoration. What's
needed now is a rescue effort that includes the
public and private sectors, as well as the community.
The June 13th's catastrophe should give us the
chance to prepare, and not too long from now,
a whole policy about patrimony. With concrete
measures and fresh resources.
Because the Chile that we find beyond our North
knows of ancient cultures and towns. Names such
as San Lorenzo, Matilla, Mamiña, Huara,
Sibaya, Limcsiña are part of a History
and geography of more than 10,000 years of age.
And they have survived.