Guano war on Peru's Chincha Islands

In the Chincha Islands War, Spain attempted to regain some of its lost influence on the South American continent. A central cause of the war was a conflict over resources: the political and economic significance of the Chincha Islands in the nineteenth century was its guano deposits, which were, in some places, thirty meters thick. Guano, which consists mainly of excrement from birds, was used in the production of fertilizers and explosives, and was highly prized in Europe.

Spanish troops occupied the Peruvian Islands in April 1864 in order to profit from the guano trade. However, Peruvian and Chilean forces, and later forces from Ecuador and Bolivia, successfully defended the islands, causing the Spanish to withdraw. The Chincha Islands War was one of several regional conflicts over resources in the lead up to the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), during which hostilities between Chile, Bolivia and Peru were played out. Thereafter, the use of guano was largely superseded in the twentieth century by the production of artificial fertilizer–until the growth in organic agriculture triggered renewed interest in the resource.

Further Readings: 
  • Chasteen, John Charles. Americanos: Latin America’s Struggle for Independence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Miller, Shawn William. An Environmental History of Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Romero, Simon. "Peru Guards its Guano as Demand Soars Again." New York Times, May 30, 2008. View article