Pisagua is a town seemingly forgotten by time, partially abandoned, it’s crumbling facades a testimony of stories past. Here and there people appear, living in homes between abandoned buildings. Another chapter of “Oceano” in Chile was filmed here- a glimpse into the history of this town and the stories of its inhabitants.
In 1879 a war raged in the Pacific with Chile fighting Bolivia and Peru. From Pisagua an assault was launched, marking the beginning of the final battle, putting this little village on the map. It’s cemetery remains as a symbol of these times, wooden crosses etched with ancient names and dates standing crooked in the sand.
The village also represents another era in Chilean history- the days when the dictator Augusto Pinochet ruled with an iron fist. It is here that a mass grave marks the place where political dissidents were shot dead. The old prison where they were kept still stands, paint flaking, bars rusted. This town made for an unlikely beautiful place to film and shoot stills.
Today Pisagua attempts to survive, its people living from small scale fishing and gathering shellfish. They do not have an easy and convenient way to sell their goods to the market- a middle man brings a truck to this very remote village, making the bulk of the profit, leaving the fishermen a sliver of income that barely gets them to the next month.
It was here that we went diving in the midst of a beautiful algae forest, accompanied by Raul Choque and Patricio Saez Godoy. Both of them have competed and won international spearfishing competitions. Patricio still competes but has no financial backing and he trains simply because he feeds his family by spearfishing and hookah diving for urchins. When I think of world athletes and their fancy sponsors, impeccable matching clothes, and then I look back at Patricio, his handmade wetsuit falling apart from daily use… I can’t help but have even more respect for his efforts.
Not far from town we went on a dive of another nature. With less than 3 meters visibility and surrounded by hundreds of jellyfish, we looked for, found and brought up an amphora which we now know dates from the 18th century though it could have been earlier. Later another one of our divers went back and brought up a second one. Our imagination now runs wild- where there are amphoras, there is a ship- and what else might that ship might have been carrying. Perhaps this is a calling to prepare another expedition!