views updated


Tacna, southernmost department in Peru. Forming part of the country's Pacific littoral, Tacna is bordered by the Peruvian departments of Moquegua and Puno on the north, Bolivia on the east, and Chile on the south. It is divided into two provinces, Tacna and Tarata; the capital city of the department, also called Tacna, had a population of approximately 174,336 according to the 1993 census. Copper mining, cattle raising, and irrigated agriculture, including cotton and alfalfa, are the major economic activities.

Tacna, along with the former Peruvian province of Arica, has a significant position in the history of Latin American international relations. Chile occupied the two provinces during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), and then, under the provisions of the Treaty of Ancón, was to retain possession of them for ten years, after which a plebiscite would determine whether the inhabitants wished to be citizens of Chile or Peru. The plebiscite was not held, however, and from 1893 to 1929 the Tacna—Arica controversy strained relations between the two countries as Chile continued to occupy the disputed territory. As a last resort, Chile and Peru asked the United States to mediate the dispute. The two nations could never settle on a protocol for the plebiscite, however, and by treaty in 1929 the countries agreed to divide the provinces; Peru reincorporated Tacna, and Chile annexed Arica.

The controversy surrounding the Chilean occupation of Tacna and Arica, and the surrender of Arica to Chile, continues to affect relations between the countries. The city of Tacna has become a powerful national symbol for Peru and is called "the heroic city" to honor the patriotism exhibited by its citizens during the war and throughout the Chilean occupation.

See alsoArica; Peru: Peru Since Independence; Tacna-Arica Dispute.


Dennis, William Jefferson. Tacna and Arica (1931), is dated but useful. In the Colleción Documental de la Independencia del Perú, see vol. 23 (1971) for Tacna.

Morris Ayca, María, and Oscar Pantty Neyra. Espacio y conciencia Geográfica en Tacna. Peru: Ediciones Tercer Milenio, 1999.

Pinto Huaracha, Miguel. Geografía del Perú, siglo XIX: Moquegua y Tacna. Lima,: Seminario de Historia Rural Andina, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 2002.

Yepes, Ernesto. Un plebiscito imposible: Tacna y Arica, 1925–1926. Lima: Ediciones Análisis, 1996.

                                          William E. Skuban