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Chile’s Naval Day: Revisiting the Battle of Iquique

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Chile’s Naval Day: May 21

Naval Day is a public holiday in Chile.

Every year, on the 21st of May, Chile celebrates the Naval Day to commemorate the May 21, 1879 Battle of Iquique against the Peruvian and Bolivian military alliance during the War of the Pacific which took place between 1879 and 1884.

It is locally known as Día de las Glorias Navales. The holiday is also called the Battle of Iquique Day.

History of Chile’s Naval Day

The Battle of Iquique is only part of the War of the Pacific’s naval stage confrontation between Chile against the allied military forces of Peru and Bolivia. The port in Iquique, a city in northern Chile, is where the battle took place.

During the War of the Pacific, the leadership of Bolivia threatened Chile to sell a mining company with investors both from Chile and Britain called Antofagasta Nitrate & Railway Company. This apparent act of Bolivia further fueled the tension that had already built up between the two which effectively motivated Chile to send a small military contingent to Antofagasta to put the plan to a stop. This military overtake resulted to Bolivia declaring war on Chile. Peru, on the other hand, fought side-by-side with Bolivia to honor the secret alliance it made with the latter.

Although terrain fighting has began, the three countries have been increasing their forces in the sea for they know that the military supremacy in the sea gets one country to a greater advantage in winning the war, thus the Battle of Iquique.

Arturo Prat, the commander of Chile’s naval ship Esmeralda, has become one of the most important figures of the war. He is considered as Chile’s greatest hero.

Despite a huge loss in Peru’s naval infantry, Peru emerged as the initial winner of the naval battle. But Peru’s lost of its naval flagship Independencia weakened the naval section of Peru.

Chile Naval Day: Traditions, Customs and Activities

During the war, the president of Chile delivers his annual State of the Nation Address during this day. The Navy conducts parades and other ceremonial activities in Chilean Navy Headquarters such as Santiago de Chila, Valparaíso, including Iquique.

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