Sometimes a bad reputation is a good thing, perhaps because of that Arica population has remained stable at around 180,000 inhabitants in the last 20 years, which can be seen as a tragedy for those who believe in economies of scale as key to prosperity, but is very close to what Schumacher, in his book "Small is Beautiful", considered the perfect size for a city at human scale.
Arica is undoubtedly one of the weirdest cities of Chile, in just over an hour away and paying $ 4 -the same cost as a local taxi into the city- there are buses to Tacna in Peru, because the border is just 30 kilometers away. You can go to Peru, where nearly everything is cheaper, lunch, buy liquor and cigarettes without tax and return, all in a few hours.
But not all is wine and roses. Many people hate any kind of work and effort, they are not too interested in doing things right but to make it easy. It is rare to find workaholics willing to make money here. Everyone seems to be more or less satisfied with their current situation. Money is not a strong incentive here so things seldom change. Arica may be quite boring and frozen in time.
As the population has remained stable for many years, most people knows who is who. Social differences are few because there schools and neighborhoods are not clearly segregated: for the same generation, whealty and poor people has been often mate in the school or university. The most ambitious or social climbers usually migrate to Santiago or other larger cities.
Arica is very particular, as a border town is both a Chilean and a little bit Peruvian. It is not a city for all kinds of people: those who are ambitious, who like speed or make things happen, will live in despair in Arica, where everything moves at geological speed. But those seeking a relaxed lifestyle in a boring place with perfect weather, Arica may be a perfect place to live.