|City and Commune|
|• Type||Municipal council|
|• Mayor||Luis Moyano Cruz|
|• Total||4,038.8 km2 (1,559.4 sq mi)|
|Elevation||154 m (505 ft)|
|Population (2002 Census)|
|• Density||5.9/km2 (15/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CLT (UTC−4)|
|• Summer (DST)||CLST (UTC−3)|
|Area code(s)||56 + 55|
|Website||Official website (Spanish)|
Tocopilla celebrates its anniversary on September 29 every year with a big show the day before, which includes a parade down the main street of the city, food and a fireworks display at midnight.
The city is divided into two main parts consisting of the central city and smaller portion known as La Villa Sur. The two parts are divided by the thermoelectric power plant and a large saltpeter processing and shipping plant, but the coastal highway connects the two portions. In La Villa Sur larger, more luxurious homes are to be found.
The larger northern portion of Tocopilla is home to the municipal buildings, the central plaza, and a large number of locally owned stores and shops. The steep grade of the city from beach to vertical hillside is covered in houses and apartments crammed together to save space. A large artificial beach is the main attraction during summer months and serves as a focus away from the heat of the Atacama. On the north side of the city, there is a black sand beach.
Tocopilla means "the devil's corner". Despite this it is believed that the city's previous names included Caleta Duendes ("Goblin's Cove") or Quebrada Honda ("Deep Ravine").
On 14 November 2007, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake occurred 40 km (25 mi) east-southeast of Tocopilla, followed by aftershocks of magnitude up to 6.8. As a consequence, 1,200 homes were destroyed in Tocopilla, leaving 4,000 of its 27,000 inhabitants homeless. There were two fatalities, and at least 115 were injured. Despite the government's efforts to provide immediate help, there were some problems with the delivery of food in the first two days. Those were later resolved and a larger plan of cleaning and reconstruction started.
According to the 2002 census of the National Statistics Institute, Tocopilla had 23,986 inhabitants (12,050 men and 11,936 women). Of these, 23,352 (97.4%) lived in urban areas and 634 (2.6%) in rural areas. The population fell by 4.0% (999 persons) between the 1992 and 2002 censuses.
As a commune, Tocopilla is a third-level administrative division of Chile administered by a municipal council, headed by an alcalde who is directly elected every four years. The 2008-2012 alcalde is Luis Moyano Cruz.
Within the electoral divisions of Chile, Tocopilla is represented in the Chamber of Deputies by Mr. Marcos Espinosa (PRSD) and Mr. Felipe Ward (UDI) as part of the 3rd electoral district, (together with María Elena, Calama, Ollagüe and San Pedro de Atacama). The commune is represented in the Senate by Carlos Cantero Ojeda (Ind.) and José Antonio Gómez Urrutia (PRSD) as part of the 2nd senatorial constituency (Antofagasta Region).
This city generates electricity for the entire region and is therefore known as "the city of energy". When saltpeter exportation in Chile was at its highest point, this port was especially significant as an export point. Nowadays, even when the saltpeter is not so profitable, Tocopilla is still home to companies focused on its extraction.
Its position along the coast allows it to have an active fishing activity, that along with the mining activity are the main resources. It is a fishing port, with fishmeal and canned fish factories. Through its port the copper from Chuquicamata and saltpeter from El Toco are exported. Tocopilla has metallurgic, chemical and nitrate treatment industries, along with the power plant. Due to these activities, Tocopilla is a dormitory city, since many people work outside the city.
Tocopilla is located in the middle of three big development poles: Iquique, Antofagasta and Calama. For long time there was a project to transform Barriles into an industrial area, trying to concentrate all factories and industries that are adjacent to the city; especially those located further away in María Elena and Pedro de Valdivia Offices, but so far there is a lack of interest to move to a place so far from urban areas.
New Year's Eve Traditions
As part of the New Year celebrations, people in the city celebrate the rite of purification by burning the bad mementos from the old year in order to have a better year. It has become a tradition, supported by the alcaldía (city hall), to have pieces of art burnt at midnight.
- (Spanish) "National Statistics Institute". Retrieved 1 November 2010.
- Chile rattled by big aftershocks, BBC News
- Terremoto en Tocopilla earthquake photos