Now that the centenary of the War of the Pacific has arrived, we can expect to be deluged with reprints of various works describing that important conflict. Francisco de Aguirre, for example, has published numerous editions of the old classics as has the Peruvian press Milla Batres. Now Oscar Pinochet de la Barra’s work has joined a long list of works dealing with the war.
Pinochet’s work includes some of the better-known accounts—Benavides Santos, Father Marchant Pereira, and Abraham Quiroz as well as the semi-literate Hipólito Gutiérrez. Indeed, most of the Chilean contributions, with the exception of one newspaper account, had been published earlier, some in multiple editions. The author has tried to be catholic in his work, including materials from Bolivians, Peruvians, and even some observations by the occasional wandering Argentine and a Colombian who resided in Lima in 1881. The various excerpts describe the outbreak of the war, the important battles—Iquique, Angamos, Tarapacá, Chorrillos, and Miraflores—as well as Chile’s frustrating anti-guerrilla struggles in the Peruvian altiplano.
Despite his best efforts, the editor does not provide a good overview of the war, perhaps because the task is too enormous. Indeed, it appears very difficult to edit a collection of personal experiences describing a war which lasted five years. (Pascual Ahumada Moreno, who tended to emphasize mainly the Chilean side of the struggle, for example, published at least eight tomes of documents and primary materials.)
Pinochet’s work may disappoint scholars familiar with the topic because it tends to be simply a rehash of what have now become standard accounts. The author’s efforts might have been more successful had he included previously unpublished reminiscences about the war. Thus, while this volume might please a general audience, specialists will be less gratified with the author’s efforts.