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Copiapo is the capital of the Atacama Region and Copiapo Province, in Chile. It was founded on December 8, 1744, by the governor Jose Antonio Manso de Velasco.

Copiapo is located at , about 40 miles east of the resort town of Caldera, Chile. The population of Copiapo was 9,128 in 1903, 11,617 in 1907 and, as of 2002, there are 129,091 inhabitants. Copiapo lies about 800 km north of Santiago by the Copiapo River, in the valley of the same name. In recent years, the river has dried up due to mining and agricultural activity in the region. The town is surrounded by the Atacama Desert and receives little rain .

Copiapo is in a rich silver and copper mining district. It possesses a bronze statue of Juan Godoy, discoverer of the Chanarcillo silver mines in the 19th century.

The Copiapo-Caldera railway line, built in 1850, was the second one in South America. The original wooden railway station is now a National Monument.


The town was christened San Francisco de la Selva de Copiapo or Saint Francis of the Jungle of Copiapo, due to its lush vegetation. Prior to Spanish occupation, the area was inhabited by the Diaguita people under the rule of the Inca Empire. The earliest archaeological remains of human activity in the Copiapo valley have been dated at ten thousand years BP.


Copiapo has a diversified and potential economy, but mining is the largest economic activity.

The Copiapo Basin has a great deal of copper ore, mined by companies such as Minera Candelaria, which extracts copper near Tierra Amarilla, a neighboring commune. This generates a need for transportation, light industry, and services. "Small mining" represents over 30% of the production. The copper obtained by pirquineros (miners) goes to the copper smelter at Paipote.

Agriculture is the second largest source of income in this area. It consists largely of grape production, with olives, tomatoes, avocados and some citrus fruits also playing a part.

Industry: Copiapo has mainly light industry, and some medium industry such as the INACESA plant and Paipote copper refinery.

Commerce is growing in Copiapo, largely old and new small and medium enterprises. Downtown Copiapo activity mirrors Copiapo's progress Some native enterprises have grown rapidly in the last decade such as the Albasini and Don Alvaro chain-stores. Free-market policies along with a higher demand and better economic expectations have encouraged the arrival of big, national enterprises such as the supermarkets Deca (1999), Jumbo (2005), and Lider (2006).

Tourism in Copiapo has not been developed due to a large bureaucracy, a lack of private investment, and poor information for investors. Significant attractions of Copiapo are the Mineralogic Museum, Plaza de Armas, Regional Museum of the Matta Family, and the Wooden Railway Station.


Copiapo provides education from kindergarten to high school.

Liceo Catolico Atacama, Scuola Italiana d'Copiapo, San Lorenzo School and Escuela Tecnico-Professional have of the highest PSU scores of the city.

Other important schools are Liceo Mercedes Fritis McKenney, A-4 High School, Liceo de Musica de Copiapo, Colegio El Chanar, Colegio Almenar, Colegio Cervantino, Liceo El Palomar, and Liceo Comercial.

Copiapo also provides college education. The Universidad de Atacama was founded in 1857, and specializes in Mining Engineering but also provides training in Law, Education, and Geology. It is a member of the "Council of Rectors" and is considered a traditional University.

During the last five years, two new private colleges have come to Copiapo, the Universidad del Mar (2004) and the Universidad Santo Tomas (2007), and INACAP, a nationwide technical institute.


After the return to democracy in 1990, there have been four mayoral elections held in Copiapo.

In 1992, Monica Calcutta (PPD) won the election against 24 candidates. Her ruling was characterized by public expenditure on green areas, parks, and street paving, and public infrastructure such as the new building of the City Hall (1994), the Estadio Techado (1996), and the Technological School (1996). During her term, Calcutta encouraged people to participate. One of these activities was the "Train of History" carried out in 1994 (for the 250 years of Copiapo) and 1995.

Despite all these expenditures, the City Hall ended up with no debt for 1996.

In 1996, Calcutta ran for the re-election, but was defeated by the socialist candidate Marcos Lopez by a narrow margin of 146 votes. Lopez's term differed substantially from Calcutta's; his first three years as mayor did not see any important public expenditures in visible things. They came out the year before the following election.

The 2000 election was a very confrontational one. Lopez and Calcutta ran for re-election together with 10 other candidates. In spite of surveys that showed a virtual tie between them, Lopez won the election with an overwhelming 50.07% of the votes to his rival's 31.52%.

Lopez's second term in office was characterized by high public expenditures, part of it from the Central Government to improve Chilean infrastructure toward the bicentennial of Independence. These expenditures went towards redesigning the Central Square, Matta Avenue and the City Chamber.

In 2004, Marcos Lopez was elected to another term, defeating the rightist candidate Rene Aedo (RN) with 50.01% to 40.82% of the votes.

Copiapo UFO sighting

Copiapo was said to be the site of an unidentified flying object sighting in 1864. According to researcher Chris Aubeck, the story first appeared in print in the March 18, 1868 issue of the newspaper El Constituyente, which was itself cited in the journal The Zoologist then in Lo!, a 1931 book by American investigator Charles Fort. Fort's account was the basis of a later account in Anatomy of a Phenomenon (1965) by ufologist Jacques Vallee.

Aubeck reports that the original newspaper article described the object as "an enormous bird."

External links

Copiapo official website (Spanish)

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