Many nitrate plants of the pampa salitrera (literally "saltpeter plains"), as well as the company towns that housed their workers, still survive. A mysterious dot on the desert landscape, the ghost town of Chacabuco is a decidedly eerie place. More than 7,000 employees and their families lived here when the Oficina Chacabuco (a company mining town that was made a national monument in 1971) was in operation between 1922 and 1944. Today you'll find tiny houses, their tin roofs flapping in the wind and their walls collapsing. You can wander through many of the abandoned and restored buildings and take a look inside the theater, which has been restored to the way it looked when this was a boomtown.
During the first years of Augusto Pinochet's military regime, Chacabuco was used as a prison camp for political dissidents. The artwork of prisoners still adorns many of the walls. Do not walk around the town's exterior, as land mines from this era are still buried here.
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