Realising that the new found mineral wealth on the pacific coast lay entirely in Bolivian and Peruvian hands, and sparked by Bolivia’s plan to tax Chilean companies extracting it, Chile launched an invasion against the two nations. After their successful land grab in the south, Chilean troops continued up the coast, burning down towns and massacring thousands. When they reached Lima, all resistance was put down and troops began ransacking Peruvian national treasures – Lima having been the centre of the Spanish empire in the new world.
Some of the many things taken were tens of thousands of books. Now, 126 years later, Chile has decided to return those books most obviously of Peruvian origin. The announcement was made some months ago, and yesterday the 3,788 books arrived in Peru’s National Library. The books, some even from the 1500s and 1600s, bare the emblems of Spanish Peru and the Library of Lima. Books from after the formation of the republic bare Peruvian emblems. Chile’s director of the National Office of Libraries, Archives and Museums said that these were the books that were obviously not Chilean property and should be returned. The antique texts are written in Spanish, Latin, Greek and French.
At the same time, Chilean businesses have been asked to create a fund to be used to return more stolen Peruvian books to their home. Of the thousands of books stolen from Peru many are now in private hands and these are the ones that Peru now hopes to have returned. Miguel Altahus of the Universidad Católica states his opinion that “the private sector should help by creating a fund under Chilean law to offer to buy books that private individuals might have and want to return”.