Photographic History Of The War Of The Pacific Rescued In Book Form‎

By Dialogo
February 19, 2009

A photographic history of the War of the Pacific, a conflict between Chile and the joint ‎forces of Peru and Bolivia in the late 19th century, has been rescued by Peruvian Renzo ‎Babilonia in a book documenting the dramatic conflict.‎ One hundred and twenty images have been compiled in "La Guerra de Nuestra Memoria: ‎Crónica Ilustrada de la Guerra del Pacífico (1879 – 1884)," a book published in Lima, by ‎the Editorial Fund of the University of Sciences and Humanities (UCH).‎ Babilonia, a university professor and member of the Ibero-American Society of History ‎of Photography, told Efe that his book is intended to describe this historical period from a ‎photographic and journalistic point of view.‎ A finalist at the 9th International Photographic Art Exhibition in Beijing in 2001, the ‎researcher has compiled scenes of the war’s progression, the battlegrounds, the ‎occupation of Lima, and portraits of different characters of the time.‎ To obtain these documents he researched archives in Peru and Chile, with support from ‎other countries including Argentina and England.‎ His work has enabled him to describe how the Chilean army was accompanied by ‎photographers during the military campaign in Peru and Bolivia, a country that ‎participated in the first part of the war.‎ ‎"The best known among them was the American Edward Spencer, who accompanied and ‎documented the War of the Pacific from the standpoint of the Chilean army," he said.‎ Peru did not have photographers to officially document the war, "but several ‎photographic studies were able to document it privately," he said.‎ Babilonia recalled that in the late 19th century the works of the Englishman Roger Fenton ‎in the Crimean War and American photographers in the American Civil War were ‎known.‎ In Peru, the Frenchman Eugène Courret had also documented the defenses of the May 2, ‎‎1866 battle, which in Callao faced Lima’s defenders against the Spanish fleet.‎ Although Chile "has no official documentation that says that these photographers ‎accompanied the army during the campaign," they had many advantages, he said.‎ ‎"In these images the photographer is on the scene before and after the battle, not during ‎the event itself; however, it is obvious that there is official support, because among the ‎Chilean celebrations for the conquering of Lima it is known that there is a photo exhibit ‎celebrating Chile’s triumph," he explained.‎ According to the researcher, at that time “the photographer had as much power as a ‎filmmaker or a general,” since he could gather hundreds of men to pose for photographs, ‎which were also published in the newspapers and magazines of that time.‎ Several of these prints were published by the Spanish newspaper “La Ilustración ‎Española y Americana,” since in Spain there was much interest in the situation of its ‎immigrants, in addition to the economic “and emotional” ties to Peru.‎ ‎“Spain's participation in the War of the Pacific is so important, there is a photograph and ‎an engraving of the Spanish Company of the Urban Guard, which was formed by ‎members of the Spanish colony in Lima; while the army defended the city against the ‎invasion, the foreign colony formed detachments to protect the internal order of the city," ‎he said.‎ Babilonia revealed that his grandfather, a lieutenant general in the Peruvian Army, ‎influenced his interest in that historical period, and that in his work he counted on the ‎valuable support of Chilean researchers and the Ibero-American Society for the History ‎of Photography, which is based in Argentina.‎ It was in this country that he found a collection of photographic work on the War of the ‎Triple Alliance, in which the joint forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay fought ‎against Paraguay, in the 19th century.‎ That book, he admitted, was "fascinating" and gave him the foundation for his work on ‎the War of the Pacific, which besides the snapshots also collects one hundred pages of ‎researches, with anecdotes about the uses of photography in this period among both ‎Peruvians and Chileans.‎ While working on a second edition, he stated that his book is "a contribution" to his ‎country and explained that “in no way” contains “criticism or disrespect to Chile.”‎ The book of Babilonia will be presented in Lima on March 4, at the Inca Garcilaso de la ‎Vega Cultural Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru.‎