Tacna-Arica Compromise Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The end of the War of the Pacific, involving Chile, Bolivia, and Peru, left unsettled the final disposition of the provinces of Tacna and Arica. Dispute over these regions led to ongoing feuding that was ultimately resolved after mediation by the United States.

Summary of Event

As the result of a long-lasting border dispute with Peru and Bolivia and competition over nitrate and other natural resources, port access, and tax issues, Chile declared war on the two countries in April, 1879. The War of the Pacific Pacific, War of the (1879-1883) featured many bloody battles, including one in Tacna in 1880 that left five thousand casualties. The Treaty of Ancón Ancón, Treaty of (1883) ended the war on October 23, 1883, and resulted in temporary Chilean control over the regions of Tacna and Arica. The treaty gave Chile ownership over the region of Tarapacá, which included sections of the Pacific coastline known as Tacna and Arica. The treaty held that the ownership was to last ten years, after which a plebiscite would be held to decide which nation would permanently retain the territories. The plebiscite was not held, however. Meanwhile, the territories provided the stimulus for much of Chile’s economic growth: The annexation increased Chilean land by more than a third and significantly benefited the country’s economic status by providing increased port space on the Pacific. More important, however, the territories held significant amounts of sodium nitrate, a resource used to make ammunition and building materials, which were especially valuable commodities during World War I. [kw]Tacna-Arica Compromise (June 3-Aug. 28, 1929)[Tacna Arica Compromise (June 3 Aug. 28, 1929)] [kw]Arica Compromise, Tacna- (June 3-Aug. 28, 1929) [kw]Compromise, Tacna-Arica (June 3-Aug. 28, 1929) Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise] Santiago, Treaty of (1929) Chile, Tacna-Arica compromise[Chile, Tacna Arica compromise] Peru;Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise] Diplomacy;Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise] [g]Bolivia;June 3-Aug. 28, 1929: Tacna-Arica Compromise[07260] [g]Chile;June 3-Aug. 28, 1929: Tacna-Arica Compromise[07260] [g]Latin America;June 3-Aug. 28, 1929: Tacna-Arica Compromise[07260] [g]Peru;June 3-Aug. 28, 1929: Tacna-Arica Compromise[07260] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;June 3-Aug. 28, 1929: Tacna-Arica Compromise[07260] Kellogg, Frank B. Ibáñez del Campo, Carlos Leguía y Salcedo, Augusto Bernardino Hoover, Herbert

The United States made many concerted but unsuccessful efforts to assist in arbitration over the territory’s final ownership. Finally, in 1928, with help from the administration of President Calvin Coolidge, diplomatic relations between Chile and Peru resumed, and in 1929, President Herbert Hoover was able to help broker a compromise. Chile grew substantially during the time in which the Tacna-Arica region was in dispute. More factories were founded in the decade of the 1880’s than had existed in the entire country before the War of the Pacific. Tax revenues from nitrate companies, which ballooned after the beginning of World War I, helped bring industrialization, built the Chilean military, and allowed Chile to take a larger role in global politics and trade. As a result, Chile was reluctant to hold the planned plebiscite, in which residents of the regions would decide whether to remain Chilean or return to Peruvian control. Despite repeated attempts by the United States, especially under the administrations of presidents Coolidge and Hoover (whose efforts were led by Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg), Peru, Bolivia, and Chile remained at odds for more than forty years. Peru and Bolivia faced civil war and unrest during this time, and their leaders and people remained bitter about the war, which had resulted in the annexation of the two regions and had deprived Bolivia of its access to the Pacific Ocean. Resolution was made even more difficult by the reluctance of the United States to become involved in the dispute until commercial relations among the three nations became so difficult that the countries themselves requested increased U.S. involvement.

In 1928, the Sixth Inter-American Conference was held in Havana, Cuba. During this conference, Chile proposed a settlement. Secretary of State Kellogg seized this opportunity to begin talks; he was eager to resolve the issue, which had been a source of great concern during his entire term in office. By early December of 1928, Chile had agreed to major concessions, including the surrender of Tacna and abandonment of its investments there. When Hoover took office as president of the United States in 1929, he asked Kellogg to stay on as secretary of state until the Tacna-Arica dispute was resolved. Kellogg worked even harder to help the countries find a solution. His efforts resulted in negotiations among the Chilean president, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, the Peruvian president, Augusto Bernardino Leguía y Salcedo, and Kellogg, out of which came the text of the Treaty of Santiago (also known as the Treaty of 1929), which featured thirteen articles that delineated concessions. This agreement stipulated that Chile would retain Arica and that the region of Tacna, north of the Arica-La Paz railroad, and all its Chilean-owned real estate would return to Peruvian control, a division that remained into the twenty-first century. The treaty also established that Chile would pay six million dollars to Peru and that Chile would construct a landing pier in Arica (including a customs agency and railway station) where Peru could maintain a free port.

In order to facilitate the acceptance of this agreement, the presidents of Peru and Chile presented the plan as the recommendation for settlement of President Hoover. On May 15 and 16, Peru and Chile accepted the proposals made by Hoover, and the solution was announced. The treaty was signed in Lima on June 3, 1929, by Chilean ambassador Emiliano Figueroa Larraín and Peruvian chancellor Pedro José Rada y Gamio. Final ratifications to the agreement were made in Santiago, Chile, on July 28, and the resolution of the controversy culminated on August 28, 1929, when Peruvian civil administrators assumed the business of the town and province of Tacna.


While the Tacna-Arica region remained in dispute, Chile’s wealth and influence skyrocketed. The area’s nitrate-rich soil largely sustained the Chilean economy and propelled the nation into the age of industrialization. Although the Great Depression and the discovery of synthetic substitutes that could replace nitrate in ammunition brought a downturn to Chile’s economy, nitrate mining remained an important element in Chile’s economy. (Later, copper mining and the export of wine and fruit became major industries.) The dispute’s settlement presented the greatest challenge to Bolivia, whose status as a landlocked country became permanent. For the United States, mediation in the dispute stood out in an era of isolationist policies and foreshadowed the nation’s increasing involvement in Latin American politics and economic affairs. Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise] Santiago, Treaty of (1929) Chile, Tacna-Arica compromise[Chile, Tacna Arica compromise] Peru;Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise] Diplomacy;Tacna-Arica compromise[Tacna Arica compromise]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Coller, Simon, and William F. Sater. A History of Chile, 1808-1994. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Traces politics, economics, social development, and culture, with special attention to its growth into an industrialized nation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Dennis, William Jefferson. Documentary History of the Tacna-Arica Dispute. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1971. A series of documents related to the causes of the War of the Pacific, postwar proposals for peace, and the consequences of the Treaty of Ancón. Includes maps, memoranda, newspaper editorials, reports, and letters.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______. Tacna and Arica: An Account of the Chile-Peru Boundary Dispute and of the Arbitrations by the United States. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1931. Written directly after the settlement of the boundary dispute. Tells the story of the settlement attempts with special attention to the efforts of the United States.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Granier, Jorge Gumicio. United States and the Bolivian Seacoast. La Paz, Bolivia: Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, 1988. Excellent overview of the settlement attempts and final treaty to resolve the Tacna-Arica dispute. Written from a Bolivian perspective; considers Bolivia’s attempts to secure a seacoast.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loveman, Brian. Chile: The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Noted as an excellent primer to Chilean history, the book covers the development of Chile’s economy and of Hispanic capitalism and then focuses on unique aspects of politics and democracy in the country.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wilson, Joe F. The United States, Chile, and Peru in the Tacna and Arica Plebiscite. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979. Chronological development and settlement of the Tacna-Arica question.

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Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace

Categories: History