Arequipa, Chilean Occupation of Peru (1881 – 1885)

ALBUM – view my Arequipa, Chilean occupation of Peru album

Fast Facts

Region: South America
Group: Chilean Occupation of Peru
Classification: Military Occupations
Prior Regime: Republic of Peru
Key Dates:
  1879, Apr 5 – Chile declares war on Bolivia and Peru.
  1881, Jan 17 – Chilean troops enter Lima
  1883, Jul 10 – Peruvian resistance fighter were defeated at the Battle of Humachurco
  1883, Oct 20 – Chile and Peru signed the Treaty of Ancón
  1884, Aug – Chile removes the last occupying forces from Peru.
  1885, Dec 12 – Civil war ends with the defeat of Miguel Iglesias
Following Regime: Republic of Peru
Scott Catalogue: (Peru, Occupation Stamps, Arequipa) #3N1-3N26
Pick Catalogue: (Peru) 1A-7A for Arequipa
Currency: Sol = 100 Centavos 1863-1901, Inca = 10 Soles = 1.000 Reales, 1880-1882


Plaza de Armas de Arequipa, 1880
Plaza de Armas de Arequipa, 1880
Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru, served as a defacto capital of Peru after Lima was occupied by the Chilean army.

Peru was involved in the War of the Pacific, also called the Saltpeter war, which was fought in western South America, between Chile and a Bolivia / Peru alliance, from 1879 through 1883. The war was essentially a battle for the rich nitrate deposits, (the basic ingredient of saltpeter, required to make gunpowder) located in Bolivian territory around the Atacama Desert. Chilean enterprises, which largely exploited the area, saw their interests at stake when Peru nationalized all nitrate mines in Tarapaca, and Bolivia imposed a backdated 1874 tax increase on Chilean companies. When the Chilean/British owned Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company refused to pay the tax, Bolivia threatened to confiscate the company’s property. In response, Chilean armed forces attacked and occupied the port city of Antofagasta on 14 Feb, 1879. Peru offered to mediate the situation, but Bolivia called on Peru to activate their mutual defense pact, while Chile demanded that Peru immediately declare its neutrality. Peru resisted the demand, and on 5 April, 1879, Chile declared war on both Bolivia and Peru.

SAM - Arequipa, Chilean Occupation MapThe first battles of the war were fought on the sea. At the Battle of Iquique (then in Peru, now in Chile), on 21 May, 1879, the Peruvians suffered the loss of one of their best warships, the Independencia; the Huáscar was then sunk on 8 October, and this eventual surrender of control of the sea permitted a Chilean army to land on the Peruvian coast.

On land, the Chilean army defeated the badly equipped Bolivian and Peruvian armies, leading to Bolivia’s complete defeat and withdrawal in the Battle of Tacna on 26 May, 1880, and the defeat of the Peruvian army after the Battle of Arica on 7 June, 1880. Chilean forces continued to advance, and on 17 Jan, 1881, Chilean forces captured Lima, the capital city of Peru.

Lizardo Montero arrived in Arequipa on 31 August 1882 and declared it the capital of Peru. Also, Montero convened a National Congress on 28 April 1883 which he formed an army of Guardsman and increased taxes. However, Peru’s Arequipa forces revolted against the authority of Lizardo Montero. On 25 October 1883, a popular uprising overthrew the government and military of Lizardo Montero Flores who fled to La Paz. Shortly thereafter, Chilean troops occupied the city beginning on 29 October, 1883.

With Chilean Occupational forces in control, the national government in Peru was in turmoil. The President of Peru, Nicolás de Pierola escaped Lima, and eventually fled to Europe. While a provisional president was appointed in Lima, Garcia Calderon, he was eventually removed and imprisoned in Santiago and Chile continued the campaign to subjugate Peru. Peruvian resistance arose across the country, encouraged by the U.S., under the leadership of General Andrés Cáceres (the Warlock of the Andes). Initially, the Peruvians were able to inflict damage on Chilean forces, however on 10 July, 1883 at the Battle of Humachurco, Peruvian resistance forces were substantially defeated.

Even though Cáceres tried to regroup, a Peruvian government headed by Miguel Iglesias signed the Treaty of Ancón (October 10, 1883), recognizing defeat and bringing an end to the war. In the treaty, the Peruvian province of Tarapacá would be ceded to the Chile, the provinces of Tacna and Arica would be administered by Chile for 10 years, after which a plebiscite would be held to determine its future sovereignty.

After the war, Cáceres refused to recognize Iglesias as president so a civil war broke out between these two factions. Eventually, Cáceres attacked Lima on 28 Nov, 1885, forcing Iglesias to resign on December 12th. The country was ruled by a Council of Ministers headed by Antonio Arenas while new elections took place. Running for the Constitutional Party, Cáceres won the elections as sole candidate and assumed as president on 3 Jun, 1886.


SAM -Arequipa, Chilean Occupation StampALBUM
During the war, Chilean forces primarily occupied the two largest cities in Peru, Lima & Callao, and overprinted stamps were issued by the occupational government. As these cities were the source of supply of postage stamps, Peruvians in Arequipa, along with other major cities (Ancachs, Apurimac, Ayachucho, Chachapoyas, Chala, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Huacho, Moquegua, Paita, Pasco, Pisco, Piura, Puno an Yca ) were forced to make provisional issues from whatever material was at hand. Many of these were former canceling devices re-purposed for this.

Arequipa was one of the few cities which printed it’s own provisional stamps. In Jan, 1881, then the Chileans captured Lima, Ariquipa issued two crude stamps (10c and 25c) with the Peruvian Coat of Arms, overprinted “PROVISIONAL // 1881-1882”. The following month in February, they reissued the 10c overprinted with a with a circle, containing the word “AREQUIPA”. In 1883, an additional Coat of Arms design stamp was released. Three different variations were issued, the orginal design issued with and without the circle overprint from 1881 and a redrawn version of the stamp.

In 1884, during the Peruvian civil war which followed the war with Chile, Ariquepa overprinted seven denominations of Peruvian stamps of 1874-1880 with the circle overprint. Finally, in 1885, Arequipa again issued its own stamps featuring two different coat of arms designs, one depicting Rear Admiral M.L. Grau and another with Col. Francisco Bolonesi, both military heroes who were killed in the war with Chile. All of these stamps were overprinted with the circle containing the word “AREQUIPA”.


During the War of the Pacific, 1, 2, 5, and 20 sole notes were overprinted “Arequipa”


War in the Pacific by Andrew Clem
War of the Pacific
Chilean Occupation of Peru Overprints

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2 Responses to Arequipa, Chilean Occupation of Peru (1881 – 1885)

  1. Jim Jackson says:


    Just a note to tell you how much I am enjoying your series of articles ( and your stamp collection) about the War of the Pacific.

    Interestingly, the real loser was Bolivia. We have had conversations over the years with some good friends from Bolivia, and they still rue their loss of an outlet to the sea.

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Jim

      I didn’t know very much about this history until I started organizing my stamps. You are right that Bolivia got the short end of the stick, but they suffered under some pretty dismal leadership. The president of Bolivia at the time was Hilarión Daza Groselle, who seized power militarily, and was known to be “brutal and incompetent”. He was facing widespread opposition within the country when he basically forced Chile’s hand. At the start of the war, Bolivia’s troops were easily defeated by Chile’s more professional army in the Coastal regions (really what Chile wanted anyway). Daza was soon driven from office by a popular revolt, and he fled to Europe with a sizable portion of Bolivia’s treasury. Ultimately Bolivia was forced to ceed all of their coastal regions, with a promise from Chile to build a railroad line to the sea.

      From a philatelic standpoint, Boliva issued no new stamps during the war or for several years after. (1887)

      Facinating and tragic at the same time.


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