In the second half of the 19th century, Croatians began arriving to Iquique, a city in the Tarapaca region, because of the saltpeter mines in the area. The first mention of them is of Buratović and Palaversić from Brač, which is somewhat atypical, as the Croatian community in Iquique is likely the most diverse in Chile, with people originating from Brač, Hvar, and Komiža. The community was formed in the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when Croatians were known by many names, such as Austrians or Slavs. They preferred the latter however, which is why a large square next to the boardwalk along the coast, which was opened by the Croatian community in 1910 to mark the 100th anniversary of Chile, is called Plaza Slava.
Until recently, we could only assume what Plaza Slava originally looked like based on old postcards, as it was demolished in 1967. The Croatian community decided to reconstruct the square, and it was officially unveiled in 2010, on the 200th anniversary of the independence of Chile. With many people in attendance, the mayor of Iquique, Myrta Dubost, used the opportunity to thank the Croatian community for such a great contribution to the city, as the square was a part of its identity. The renovation lasted 12 yeas, and its total cost was estimated at 2 million dollars.
Hrvoj Ostojić, businessman and president of the Croatian club, as well as one of the people responsible for the renovation, held a speech at the opening. Ostojić insisted on acquiring a stone plate from Pučišća on Brač, and carving a bilingual inscription into it. We worked on this together, and the plate was transported from Zadar to Iquique by boat.
During the square’s reconstruction, efforts were taken to restore everything to its original appearance. A crest and old copper plate were placed on the square, with the following inscribed on the plate: In memory of the Slav colony in Tarapaca, on the 100th anniversary of Chilean independence.
A list of all the Croatian family names in the Tarapaca region.
The fountain in the square used to be frequented by ducks. They are no longer around today, but in their place is a collection of duck sculptures, which aims to recapture that old ambiance that numerous generations in Iquique keep fond memories of since 1967.
Aside from Plaza Slava, Iquique also has a Croatian square, which is known as Plaza Croacia in Spanish. It isn’t located along the main boardwalk next to the coast, and is instead a little further in, toward the center of town.
There is a sculpture located on the Croatian square known as La Madre Patria, a monument made by sculptor Alexie Marinković, originally from Komiža, which was unveiled in 2003. The sculpture was based off of Povijest Hrvata (History of the Croatians) by Ivan Meštrović, but it is larger and has some additional features. La Madre Patria is dedicated to all Croatian men and women who dedicated their own lives to the development of the Tarapaca region.
In the immediate vicinity of the Croatian square lies the headquarters of the oldest Croatian firefighting society in Chile. It was founded together by Italians and Croatians in 1874, however, they couldn’t agree on a flag. The Italians wanted to use the Italian flag, while the Dalmatians wanted to use the Austrian flag. As neither side would back down, the Dalmatians left. That same year, they founded a new firefighting society together with the Peruvians, with Carlos Gallagher, an Irishman, as their president. When war broke out in the Pacific, the Peruvians left to join the fighting. With only the Dalmatians left behind, Gallagher renamed the society to Compania de Bomberos Austro – Hungara Salvadora No 5. This is why all of the members of Salvadora were Dalmatian, and why they, under their new president Juan Vodnizz, later made a request to the firefighting association heads to have their name changed once again, this time to Compania Slava de Bomberos Dalmacia No 5. They were active under that name for 82 years, only to change it once more when the Republic of Croatia was formed, to Compania Croata de Bomberos Dalmacia No 5.
Salvadora No. 5
Compańía Croata de Bomberos Dalmacia No. 5