Located in the Atacama Desert, 45 kilometres from the city of Iquique, Humberstone and Santa Laura bear witness to the birth, growth and decline of the nitrate industry that marked Chile’s economy between the 19th and 20th centuries. From the 1870s through to the 1950s, these sites played a fundamental role in the “saltpetre fever”, stimulated by the increasing demand for sodium nitrate, a fertilizer used on agricultural lands in America and Europe. For more than eight decades, these mining towns were home to thousands of people, who worked extracting and processing nitrate, and forged a distinctive pampino culture. This land, characterised by a hostile environment and one of the driest deserts in the world, became a source of great prosperity to the country. It echoed the struggle of miners and their families for better living conditions, which gave birth to the Chilean labour movement.