Chile, 1553: Araucanian Victory

It’s Christmas Day and Pedro de Valdivia wants presents of concubines and slaves to replace the encomienda Indians decimated by forced labor, mistreatment, and smallpox.  Lautaro, chief of the Araucanians, used to be Valdivia’s page.  While attending to Valdivia’s needs, he has also served the needs of his people by learning Spanish military tactics and their weaknesses.  Ingeniously, the Araucanians have tipped their lances with Spanish swords; they wear helmets and vests made of sealskin and whalebone.  They try to fight in the rain to make it difficult for the Spaniards to light the fuses of their arquebuses.

Lautaro lures Valdivia and his fifty men into a trap.  No Spaniard survives.  Some say Valdivia died in battle, his severed head on the tip of an Araucanian lance made of metal forged in Seville.  Other say the Araucanians poured molten gold down his throat because that’s what he thirsted for so badly.  Still others say it was Araucanian soil that filled his stomach until he burst.  No matter.  Whichever is true, he received in death exactly what he lusted for in life, some say what he deserved.


-Brian Loveman, Chile, 53; Eduardo Galeano, Memories of Fire: Genesis, 119-120

Spanish Atrocities

Spanish abuses against the indigenous population became so numerous and ghastly that even the Spanish king became shocked.  The priests profited from enforced labor, and the conquistadors killed and maimed far beyond what was needed for military reasons.

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