Tocopilla is a port city and commune located in the Antofagasta Region of northern Chile, It is situated along the Pacific Ocean coast and is known for its importance as a transportation hub for the mining industry in the region.
Established in 1843, Tocopilla initially served as a crucial shipping hub for copper extracted from the interior regions. Over time, it has transformed into a significant port and a vital rail terminus, facilitating the transport of nitrate and iodine sourced from nearby María Elena and Pedro de Valdivia, as well as copper from Chuquicamata, located 93 miles to the east.
Tocopilla plays a pivotal role in generating hydroelectric power for Chuquicamata and houses a copper-concentrate plant. The city is also renowned for its deep-sea fishing industry.
The city is geographically divided into two primary areas: the central city and a smaller enclave known as La Villa Sur, where you’ll find more upscale residences. These two regions are separated by a thermoelectric power plant and a sizable facility dedicated to the processing and shipment of saltpetre.
This city, often referred to as “the city of energy,” plays a crucial role in providing electricity to the entire region. During the peak of saltpetre exportation in Chile, Tocopilla held particular importance as an export hub. Today, despite the diminished profitability of saltpetre, Tocopilla remains the base for companies dedicated to its extraction.
Tocopilla translates to “the corner of the devil” in the Quechua language. Tocopilla’s Quechua origin yields a fascinating etymology. “Toco” in the Andean Quechua language refers to a “double sacred square,” while “Pilla” translates to “devil.”
However, in this context, the devil isn’t a symbol of evil; rather, it signifies a being from a subterranean realm that observes the world and imparts its knowledge through a window formed by both spirit and matter, embodied in the human form. Among the Mapuche people, “Pillán” represents “the soul” or “the human spirit reaching its ultimate destination.”