“Leaders of Tocopilla” Recognized

“Leaders of Tocopilla” Recognized


This is the third version of the awards, organized by La Estrella newspaper, Empresa Periodística El Norte S.A. and SQM

Eight new “Leaders of Tocopilla” were recognized at a symbolic ceremony for the 2023 version of this initiative organized jointly by the newspaper La Estrella, Empresa Periodística El Norte S.A. (Emelnor) and SQM.

In its third year, five women and three men from the municipalities of Tocopilla and María Elena were distinguished as leaders in the areas of sports, culture, entrepreneurship, education, community and neighborhood work.

The event took place at El Puerto Cowork and was attended by Emelnor’s legal representative, Carlos Rodríguez; the director of journalism for La Estrella de Tocopilla, Pablo Mamani; SQM’s head of Antofagasta Community Relations, Manuel Ossandón; SQM’s head of Pampa Community Relations, Leonor González; councilman Luis Klaus, and other special guests.

At the ceremony, authorities and representatives from the organizers highlighted the importance of an initiative like this that recognizes people from the Province of Tocopilla for their outstanding contributions in some particular area and urged them to continue their efforts for the benefit of their own communities.



One of those recognized was Maritza Pino Casanova, president of the Tocopilla Union Comunal Neighborhood Council, who has been a community leader in the port city for more than twenty years.

Through her work, she promotes relationship building between neighbors, authorities, institutions and companies. All of her efforts have focused on the city’s progress, whether creating jobs, starting projects in underprivileged areas or other activities.

This recognition is complemented by the “Order of Citizen Merit” that she received in 2022 from the municipality as part of Tocopilla’s 179th  anniversary celebrations.



Bernardo Barahona Alfaro, former professional soccer player and current trainer of the future champions of Tocopilla, was also named a “2023 Leader of Tocopilla.”

Barahona relies on his diverse sports experiences playing for Cobreloa and Deportes Ovalle to teach children and youth at the FC Soccer Tocopilla Academy. Originally from Pedro de Valdivia but a Tocopilla native at heart, he teaches children essential values not only for the playing field but also for life itself, encouraging their athletic talents while also forming better people.



At 14 years of age, Isidora Cornejo Vecchiola has become one of Tocopilla’s promising basketball players.

At almost 6.2 feet tall, the new leader has excelled locally and regionally in this discipline, including being considered for the Chilean national basketball team in 2022. Out of 80 girls, she ranked among the top 15 nationally, but did not make the final team of 12 because of her age.

“Isi” began with the Rincón del Diablo club in Tocopilla and now demonstrates her talent for Rencort in Antofagasta as a rising star whose career has no end in sight, hoping to further develop the sport in her homeland.



Carlos Cruz Rojas has sports and soccer in his blood. Following his greatest passion, he has been in charge of several teams in Tocopilla throughout his career.

One of his most important achievements occurred in February 2020. Against all odds, Carlos Cruz and the Tocopilla team were crowned the “national amateur soccer champions” at a tournament in the far southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas. This win brought joy back to the entire community of Tocopilla, whose desires to be national champs fell short in 1957 at a tournament held in María Elena, where they placed second in the country.

Carlos Cruz is currently in charge of training future soccer stars at the Deportes Tocopilla Soccer Academy, sharing his experiences with the kids to make them excellent athletes as well as better people all around.



Although Javiera Ceballos Jofré hails from Talagante, she is Tocopillan at heart. She has always set her mind on fighting the environmental problem of used clothing dumps in the middle of the desert.

To this end, she created the sustainable workshop “Puerto Colores,” an enterprise dedicated to designing and manufacturing personalized clothing from recycled jeans and anime products. The business was born out of her lifelong commitment to the environment cultivated during her time as a girl scout when she was a child.

As a result of this passion, she reuses what others throw away to make clothes, bags or other objects, helping to promote sustainability and environmental awareness throughout the community.



Innovation is one of the foundations underlying the work of Yerko Echeverría Arranzáez, principal of the Diego Portales Bicentennial High School in Tocopilla. In fact, his innovative proposals for education were one of the reasons he was chosen to be the school’s new leader.

With 21 years of experience as a math teacher, Echeverría arrived in 2022 to lead the city’s traditional technical-professional school, known locally as the “Politécnico”. Since then, he has implemented new educational processes on campus, such as using neuroscience to understand how students learn and teach them more effectively. On the practical side, he has expanded project-based learning, the use of technology and competency-based training.

Another achievement under his administration was the school’s distinction as a “Bicentennial High School” starting in 2023. This recognition from the Ministry of Education will translate into additional resources and improved teaching at the school.



This year’s version of the awards also includes an outstanding leader from Maria Elena, Mayra Tapia Hidalgo, a bastion of “Pampa” culture and heritage.

As Head of Culture for the Municipality of María Elena, Mayra seeks to preserve the traditions and restore the rich heritage of the world’s last standing saltpeter town.

She is also a singer and organizer of cultural initiatives, promoting various events and other activities for the benefit of the community and, above all, to preserve the rich customs of the saltpeter pampas.



The final “Leader of Tocopilla” is Carolina Elgueta Delgado, recognized for her vast experience in community development by promoting and contributing to environmental education, effective recycling in the region and tourism.

She is currently the president of the Mr. Barber Foundation, which works with companies and educational institutions to promote environmental awareness and develop community projects, among other activities.

In 2020, she was recognized as one of the 100 Women Leaders in Chile and, under her leadership, the Mr. Barber Foundation won the Recyclapolis National Environmental Award in the Earth category for its program “Recycling from the Classroom and Home in the World’s Driest Place: María Elena, Sustainable Community.”