Welcome to Pisagua
The ghosts of Pisagua's past permeate every aspect of life in this isolated coastal village, 120km north of Iquique. Not much more than a ghost of its former self, when it was one of Chile's largest 19th-century nitrate ports, today it is home to some 260 people who make their living harvesting huiro (algae) and mariscos (shellfish). A penal colony where Pinochet cut his teeth as an army captain, the town would acquire its true notoriety shortly afterward when it became a prison camp for Pinochet's military dictatorship (1973–89). After the return to democracy, the discovery of numerous unmarked mass graves in the local cemetery caused an international scandal.
There is a spooky magic and lyricism to Pisagua, which feels like a forgotten seaside hamlet set beneath a near-vertical rock face.