CALLAO, a city, port and coast department of Peru, 8 m. west of Lima, in 12° 04' S., 77° 13' W. Pop. (1905) 31,128, of whom 3349 were foreigners. The department includes the city and its environs, Bellavista and La Punta, and the neighbouring islands, San Lorenzo, Fronton, the Palominos, etc., and covers an area of 14 sq. m. Callao is the principal port of the republic, its harbour being a large bay sheltered by a tongue of land on the south called La Punta, and by the islands of San Lorenzo and Fronton. The anchorage is good and safe, and the harbour is one of the best on the Pacific coast of South America. The city stands on the south side of the bay, and is built on a flat point of land only 8 ft. above sea-level. The houses are for the most part low and cheaply built, and the streets are narrow, badly paved, irregular and dirty. The climate is good and the coast is swept by cool ocean breezes, the average temperatures ranging from 65° to 77° F., but notwithstanding this, Callao has a bad reputation for fevers and contagious diseases, chiefly because of its insanitary condition. Its noteworthy public buildings are the custom-house and its storehouses which occupy the old quadrangular fortress built by the Spanish government between 1770 and 1775, and cover 15 acres, the prefecture, the military and naval offices and barracks, the post-office, three Catholic churches, a hospital, market, three clubs and some modern commercial houses. The present city is half a mile north of the site of the old town, which was destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in 1746. For a short time the commercial interests of the stricken city centred at Bellavista, 1 m. east, where wheat granaries were built and still remain, but later the greater convenience of a waterside site drew the merchants and population back to the vicinity of the submerged town. The importance of Callao in colonial times, when it was the only open port south of Panama, did not continue under the new political order, because of the unsettled state of public affairs and the loss of its monopoly. This decline in its prosperity was checked, and the modern development of the port began, when a railway was built from Callao into the heart of the Andes, and Callao is now an important factor in the development of copper-mining. The port is connected with Lima by two railways and an electric tramway, with Oroya by railway 138 m. long, and with Cerro de Pasco by railway 221 m. A short railway also runs from the port to the Bellavista storehouses. The port is provided with modern harbour improvements, consisting of sea-walls of concrete blocks, two fine docks with berthing spaces for 30 large vessels, and a large floating-dock (300 ft. long on the blocks and capable of receiving vessels up to 21 ft. draught and 5000 tons weight), which was built in Glasgow and was sent out to Callao in 1863. The docks are provided with gas and electric lights, 18 steam cranes for loading and discharging vessels, a triple line of railway and a supply of fresh water. Callao was formerly the headquarters in South America of the Pacific Steam Navigation Co., Ltd. (incorporated 1840), but Valparaiso now occupies that position. There are, owing perhaps to the proximity of Lima, few industrial establishments in the city; among them are a large sugar refinery, some flour-mills, a brewery, a factory for making effervescent drinks, and a number of foundries and repair shops. Being a port of the first class, Callao is an important distributing centre for the coasting trade, in which a large number of small vessels are engaged. The foreign steamship companies making it a regular port of call are the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. (British), the Compañia Sud-America (Chilean), the Kosmos and Roland lines (German), the Merchants line (New York), and a Japanese line from the ports of Japan and China. A subsidized Peruvian line is also contemplated to ply between the Pacific ports of South America with an eventual extension of the service to Europe. The arrivals from and clearances for foreign ports in 1907 were as follows: -
Steamers. Sailing Vessels.
No. Tonnage. No. Tonnage.
Arrivals 518 937,302 924 174,165
Clearances 517 937,706 931 163,365
The exports from Callao are guano, sugar, cotton, wool, hides, silver, copper, gold and forest products, and the imports include timber and other building materials, cotton and other textiles, general merchandise for personal, household and industrial uses, railway material, coal, kerosene, wheat, flour and other food stuffs. The maintenance of peace and order, and the mining development of the interior, have added to the trade and prosperity of the port.
The history of Callao has been exceptionally eventful. It was founded in 1537, two years after Pizarro had founded Lima. As the port of that capital and the only open port below Panama it grew rapidly in importance and wealth. It was raised to the dignity of a city in 1671. The appearance of Sir Francis Drake in the bay in 1578 led to the fortification of the port, which proved strong enough to repel an attack by the Dutch in 1624. The city was completely destroyed and partly submerged by the great earthquake of the 28th of October 1746, in which about 6000 persons perished. The new city was strongly fortified and figured prominently in the struggle for independence, and also in the various revolutions which have convulsed the republic. Its political autonomy dates from 1836, when it was made a coast department. The Callao fortifications were bombarded by a Spanish fleet under Admiral Mendez Nuñez on the 2nd of May 1866, when there were heavy losses both in lives and material. Again, in 1880, the city was bombarded by the Chileans, though it was almost defenceless, and fell into the possession of the invaders after the capture of Lima in the following year. Before the surrender all the Peruvian naval vessels in the harbour were sunk, to prevent their falling into the possession of the enemy.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)