THE BEGINNINGS OF THE NITRATE INDUSTRY IN TARAPACÁ
LOS ALBORES DE LA INDUSTRIA SALITRERA EN TARAPACÁ
Carlos Donoso Rojas
Our research seeks to complement existing information on the mechanisms of production and commercialization of saltpeter in the period preceding the year 1830. Starting in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, this activity faced the increasing demand (as a consequence of the diversification of the use of nitrate) with a low level of technical development, a model that remained unchanged for decades. During the period under study, since there was no technological or scientific investment aimed at an efficient exploitation of nitrate, the industry replaced innovation with an expansion of labor supply, which had an impact on
the quality and final value of the product.
The precariousness of an initiative that favored manual labor over technological innovation should be understood in the context of its time, where the net profitability margin of the business was low, to which must be added an uncertain future, the early consolidation of oligopolies and the political instability of Peru in the years after its independence.