Chile Early History

Numerous studies assure that the original settlement of Chile occurred around the year 10,500 BC, at the end of the Upper Paleolithic, a period of the Paleolithic that extends approximately from the year 33,000 BC. C. until 9,000 a. C.

According to Bridgat, Chile, in pre-Hispanic times, was populated by various aboriginal cultures, strongly influenced by the Inca Empire that, since the end of the 15th century, dominated much of the current territory of Chile. They say that the ancient Incas of Cuzco called “Chile” to the lands located south of the Atacama Desert. However, the origin of the name is unknown for sure, although multiple hypotheses have proliferated, including that of Abbe Molina, who assured that the word comes from trih or chi, a term of Mapuche origin with which a spotted bird was identified. yellow on the wings.

However, the Chilean historian Ricardo Latcham maintains that the word is due to a group of Mitima Indians, brought to Chile by the Incas, who came from a region of Peru where there was a river baptized with that name. It has also been suggested that it may be the result of the onomatopoeization of the sound of a national bird called trile, or that it originates from the words Aymara ch’iwi, which means ice cream, or chilli, “where the earth ends.”

The main aboriginal ethnic group in the country was known as the Mapuches and they settled south of the Aconcagua River.

In 1520 Fernando de Magallanes, European explorer, crossed the strait that today bears his name Strait of Magellan, the most important natural passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans located in the extreme south of South America, between Patagonia, La Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and several islands to the west of it. He was the first person to recognize the current Chilean territory.

As Peru was colonized by the Spanish, false news of huge gold deposits in Chile spread, so Diego de Almagro, a participant in the conquest of Peru and who is officially considered the discoverer of Chile, organizes an expedition that reaches Copiapó on of March 21 of 1536 after living many hardships on the journey through the Andes. This expedition failed.

Later Pedro de Valdivia, military and Spanish conqueror led the conquest of Chile in 1540 founding the city of Santiago de Nueva Extremadura on February 12, 1541.

The first years of Santiago were complicated, since the city was attacked and burned by 5 thousand Indians led by Michimalonco on September 11, 1541. The difficulties of reconstruction were compounded for a long time by the lack of food and clothing.

In 1547, Valdivia decided to travel to Peru to resupply and collaborate to resolve the social revolt that was taking place in the center of the viceroyalty. He arrived right at the battle of Jaquijahuana, in which Pedro de La Gasca was preparing to deliver the final blow against Gonzalo Pizarro and his followers, who had provoked a great rebellion and beheaded the viceroy. The leaders of the rebellion were assassinated, and as a reward Valdivia was confirmed as governor of Chile.

Upon his return, Valdivia undertook the conquest of the lands located south of Santiago with the aim of extending the government to the Strait of Magellan. As a result of the explorations, the cities of Concepción (1550), La Imperial (1552), Villarrica (1552), Valdivia (1552) and Los Confines (1553) were founded. Returning to the north, Valdivia founded in the heart of Araucanía the forts of Arauco, on the seashore, and Tucapel and Purén on the western and eastern slopes of the Cordillera de Nahuelbuta (1553).

With the founding of each city, lands and Indian parcels were assigned to the neighbors, and a council was created. thus Valdivia trusted in the submission of the Mapuche people south of the Biobío River. However at the end of 1553 a great rebellion broke out led by the indigenous Lautaro, who had served Valdivia and who, therefore, knew perfectly their war strategies.

Lautaro achieved a decisive triumph by defeating, capturing, and assassinating Valdivia at Fort Tucapel on December 25, 1553. After this, the indigenous resistance grew so strong that the city of Concepción was abandoned. Years later, the 1 of April of 1557, Lautaro camp was attacked by surprise by the forces of the governor Francisco de Villagra in Peteroa, on the banks of the river Mataquito and during the battle the Mapuche leader was killed.

The period between 1561 and 1600, with the exception of the government of Alonso de Sotomayor (1583 – 1592), was a succession of calamities: the Arauco war continued; a smallpox epidemic caused many deaths among the Indians who worked in the mines; There were two major earthquakes: the one in Concepción, in 1570, and the one that destroyed the cities south of the Biobío, in 1575. In addition, the English corsairs attacked the Chilean coasts, among them Francis Drake, who sacked and burned Valparaíso.

The governors who succeeded Francisco de Villagra, Pedro de Villagra (1563 – 1565), Rodrigo de Quiroga (1565- 1567 and 1575- 1580), the Royal Audience of Concepción and its president, Melchor Bravo de Saravia (1567-1575), Martin Ruiz de Gamboa (1580-1583), Alonso de Sotomayor (1583-1592) and finally, Martin Garcia Óñez of Loyola (1592- 1598), was avocaron mainly to try to settle the conflict of Arauco.

At the end of the 16th century, indigenous resistance resurfaced, led by the Pelantaro and Anganamón people, in what is known as the Curalaba disaster on December 23, 1598, where Governor Martín García Óñez de Loyola and all his people died. In addition, the seven cities built south of Biobío, “Santa Cruz, Angol, Concepción, La Imperial, Villarrica, Valdivia and Osorno”, were razed, more than a thousand soldiers died and 400 Spanish and mestizo women and children were captured. This disaster and the end of the government of Hurtado de Mendoza marked the end of the Conquest, beginning the colonial period in 1601.

Chile Early History