spying on ghosts



North America has wild wild west and Chile dry dry north.

What is common for them?

Ghost towns. But the one in Chile is not a decoration for a movie in one of the Universal studios but an abandoned miners city. It is placed 45 minute drive from Iquique.


Humberstone, cause it is its name, lays in the middle of the dessert. Bunch of abandoned houses and mine. Broken windows and wind lifting dust and sand up were the only sounds I could hear. I was entering empty houses, touching the walls, listen to my steps trying to hear what melody am I walking here and if there is any accompaniment of the past times.


Who lived here, what was his dream, was he long sleeper or woke up early in the morning to go to the mine? Looking at the rusted hand made pistols boys played with I almost heard their laughs.

Walking the streets my romantic imagination almost created the stories that could be canvas for some movies. I could not see them but they were there. Doctor’s house and hospital. Cry of new borne children or silent pain of the men that got here after accident with the machine? Big fabric hall had some holes in the roof and strong sunlight was playing dot games just below my feet.


I walked on the hill to look at this city that in its best time hosted almost 3700 habitants. My attention draw a building on the left looking like a big wooden cube.

Theater. Little seats were still put in lines. I set down and tried to imagine workers exited to be entertained and actors waiting behind the curtains to start the show. Maybe it was Sunday? Or maybe Wednesday evening when the workers gathered to discuss better salaries listened to director’s speech trying calm them down.


The light outside theatre hurt my eyes. It was almost noon and the sky showed off its most intense blue. On the left set of long houses divided prudently into small rooms for the workers to rest after the work. Not much bigger than some kitchens nowadays. What stuff was inside? bed? wardrobe? did they needed wardrobe? how many clothes they had? It was not a secret that north was attracting workers hoping for good earnings from all over the country. They came alone or with families looking for better life. But first it was a life in Humberstone. In the middle of nowhere.


My imagination was playing games and I almost got touched by my own invented stories till I entered the school. School was a luxury at the end of XIX century as there was no national regulation on it. In one of the classrooms I read printed memories of one of the La Pampa’s childrens. An old men with very simple Spanish narrated me through the time he was a kid here. A son of poor couple he experienced harshness of Humberstone’s life. We were in the dessert , the water was a treasure. They took bath in the water coming out from the fabric. It seemed to be important to him to speak about his mother and sufferings of women in the town. Woman, right. Till now I put them in some romantic stories. Reading his, a true one, I realized one by one how hard it must have been for them. In the city there were more men than woman so those who were in the town took care also for those without wives. Meals, house holding. They met almost on the edge of the city to have a bit of peace and exchange tools or repairs to be done. It was never ending passage of tasks.


My romantic bubble just splashed above my head. A water drop landed at my nose. I looked above but there were no clouds.

Maybe it was a a tear of forgotten ghost still waiting this town to come back to his noisy development times? Maybe my imagined story covered with his not realized dream? of sudden wealth or romance… ?