Mapuche uprising of 1655

Last updated

Mapuche uprising of 1655
Part of the Arauco War
DateFebruary 14, 1655 – 1656
Araucanía and lands north up to Maule River
Mapuche rebels Flag of New Spain.svg Spanish Empire
Commanders and leaders

The Mapuche uprising of 1655 (Spanish : alzamiento mapuche de 1655 or levantamiento mapuche de 1655) was series of coordinated Mapuche attacks against Spanish settlements and forts in colonial Chile. It was the worst military crisis in Chile in decades, and contemporaries even considered the possibility of a civil war among the Spanish. [1] The uprising marks the beginning of a ten-year period of warfare between the Spanish and the Mapuche. [2]



Parliament of Boroa

Mapuches would have been unhappy with the terms of the Parliament of Boroa signed on January 24, 1651. [3] Almost everything agreed then was in favour of the Spanish, including prohibition for the Mapuche to wear weapons unless the Spanish ask them to do so. [3] Peace was first compromised only two months later by a new episode in the Spanish–Cunco conflict. Jesuit fathers Diego de Rosales and Juan de Moscoso wrote to Governor of Chile Antonio de Acuña Cabrera that renewing warfare on the Cuncos would evaporate gains obtained at Boroa. [4] [5] While the Spanish sent initially some minor punitive expeditions against the Cunco through this conflict the Spanish found that tribes that had pledged to come to their aid in war declined to join Spanish forces. [5]

Spanish–Cunco conflict

Cuncos, a peripheral southern Mapuche group, had a long history of conflict with the Spanish. [6] Cuncos had previously forced the Spanish to abandon the city of Osorno on October 1602. [6] The Cuncos were not present at the Parliament of Boroa. In March 1651, a Spanish ship was about to arrive to the newly re-established Spanish exclave of Valdivia when storms pushed the ship south into Cunco lands where it wrecked. The ship carried important supplies and salaries from the Real Situado which the Concos seized. [7] Two punitive expeditions were assembled to advance on Cunco lands, one from Valdivia in the north and one from Carelmapu in the south. Governor of Valdivia Diego González Montero advanced south with his forces but soon encountered natives who were indifferent and even misled him. His troops ran out of supplies and had to return to Valdivia. [5] Captain Ignacio Carrera Yturgoyen who advanced north from Carelmapu reached the site of the old city of Osorno. There he was approached by Huilliches who handed over three suspects who were killed. After this, the expedition of Carrera Iturgoyen returned south. [5] The loot was never recovered despite the Spanish searching for the wreck. Overall the Spanish military was dissatisfied with the results. [8]

Spanish slave hunting

Albeit there was a general ban of slavery of indigenous people by Spanish Crown the 1598–1604 Mapuche uprising that ended with the Destruction of the Seven Cities made the Spanish in 1608 declare slavery legal for those Mapuches caught in war. [9] Mapuches "rebels" were considered Christian apostates and could, therefore, be enslaved according to the church teachings of the day. [10] In reality, these legal changes only formalized Mapuche slavery that was already occurring at the time, with captured Mapuches being treated as property in the way that they were bought and sold among the Spanish. Legalisation made Spanish slave raiding increasingly common in the Arauco War. [9]

The uprising took place in a context of increasing Spanish hostilities on behalf of maestre de campo Juan de Salazar who used the Army of Arauco to capture Mapuches and sell them into slavery. [11] In 1654 a large slave-hunting expedition ended in a complete disaster at the Battle of Río Bueno. [12] [13] This setback did not stop the Spanish who under the leadership of Salazar organized a new expedition the summer of 1655. [14] Salazar himself is said to have profited greatly from Mapuche slave trade and being brother-in-law of governor Antonio de Acuña Cabrera allowed him to exert influence in favour of his military campaigns. [11] [12]

As the slave raiding expedition of 1655 was being prepared indios amigos begun to express unease. [14] Governor Acuña Cabrera was told by his wife Juana de Salazar this was all about rumours spread by some soldiers envious of her brother. [14] [15] Juan Ignacio Molina mentions toqui Clentaru as the main leader of the Mapuches forces. [2]


Chile location map.svg
The location of Spanish settlements and forts within the modern boundaries of Chile and Argentina. In red those that were destroyed or abandoned during the uprising.


Salazar began his campaign on February 6 starting from the frontier fortress of Nacimiento. [15] In all the expeditionary army was made up of 400–700 Spanish soldiers and larger number of indian auxiliaries, numbering in total 2000 men. [15] Other estimates put the total at 2400 men. [16] As in the year before the expedition was not aimed at the Mapuche next to the frontier but towards the so-called Cuncos who lived in Fütawillimapu south of Bueno River. [15] On the morning of February 14, Mapuches all over southern Chile —from Osorno to Maule River— launched attacks against Spanish estancias, forts and individuals. [15] Mapuche slaves rose against their masters, men were killed while women and children were held hostages. [15] Livestock was stolen and houses set afire. [15] Spanish forts were besieged. [15] Overall the Spanish reported over 400 estancias between Bío Bío and Maule rivers being destroyed. [15] Amidst the chaos some Mapuche insurgents ran into the city of Concepción penetrating as deep as two city blocks from the Plaza de Armas. [17] Mapuches succeeded in isolating the city from the rest of the Spanish possessions but did not besiege it. [16]

Arauco and Chillán were besieged. [18] This last city was eventually evacuated by the Spanish. [18] The audiencia in Santiago criticized the evacuation as an act of cowardice and prohibited Chillán's refugees to flee north beyond Maule River. [19] That was meant so the Chillán refugees would return to repopulate the lands they fled. [19] [20] The fact that a smallpox epidemic broke out among the refugees was also a reason to limit their movement. [19]

Evacuation of Buena Esperanza and Nacimiento

Acuña Cabrera ordered the evacuation of Buena Esperanza, this move was later criticized as Buena Esperanza was in a good condition to be defended. [21] José de Salazar, brother of Juan, was in charge of the garrison of Nacimiento decided to evacuate the fortress in order to avoid a lengthy siege. [16] The evacuation was made by boats and rafts drifting downstream Bío Bío River with the goal of reaching Buena Esperanza. [16] Soon however they learned that Buena Esperanza had been evacuated. [16] Plans were made instead to fortify themselves at San Rosendo, an abandoned fort. [16] The Spanish rafts and boats were followed by about 4,000 hostile Mapuches on both sides of the river and ran aground near Santa Juana. [16] All the 240 Spanish were subsequently killed. [16]

The expedition return to Concepción

Juan de Salazar, whose forces made up the bulk of the Army of Arauco, learned about this when arriving near Mariquina, [upper-alpha 1] far south from the main events of the uprising. [15] Instead of returning north by land he proceeded south to Valdivia where he embarked with 360 and set sail for Concepción. [23] This was possible as there were two ships in the harbour that had arrived with payments of Real Situado to the garrison that was constructing the Valdivian Fort System there. [23] [upper-alpha 2] Remaining forces, 340 Spanish and 1700 Indian auxiliaries, were left reinforcing Spanish positions around Valdivia. [23] Soon however the Indian auxiliaries deserted and returned to their homes. [16] The reinforcements of Valdivia were however enough to repel attacks by the "cuncos". [25]

The arrival by sea of Juan de Salazar's army remnants to Concepción allowed Fernández de Rebolledo to send 200 men by sea to evacuate Arauco. [16] This done, De Rebolledo went on to defeat Mapuches near Concepción. [16]

Reinforcements from Peru

Learning about the situation of Chile the newly appointed Viceroy of Peru Luis Enríquez de Guzmán sent a ship with provisions, armament and munitions to Chile. [26]


More ships from Peru arrived around new year, bringing more provisions, armament and munitions as well as 376 soldiers. [27] Ahead of this reinforcement was the new governor Pedro Porter Casanate who assumed office on January 1, 1656. [16]

Porter managed to have the Spanish from Santiago send troops to guard the area around Itata River. [25] This allowed him to use the army at Concepción to defeat local Mapuches at Battle of Conuco on January 20, 1656. [25] On February 1656 Porter sent an army of 700 foot soldiers and some cavalry to Boroa where a Spanish garrison had been besieged for ten months. [25] The expedition easily repelled Mapuche attacks and rescued the Spanish at Boroa. [25]

In 1656 the Mapuches of Santa María Island captured a ship and five Spanish crew that had anchored there. [28]

Alejo's raids

As peace was returning to the devastated lands between Bío Bío and Maule rivers Alejo begun his raids the winter of 1656. [25] Alejo had previously served the Spanish as a soldier but resented not being allowed to advance through the ranks because of him being a mestizo. [25]

At the head of about 1000 warriors Alejo wiped out a Spanish column of 200 men aimed to reinforce the fort of Conuco. [25] [28] A few men were spared for prisoner exchange and human sacrifice to the pillan. [28] Alejo's military successes were limited by his tendency to make rowdy celebrations after each victory, wasting valuable time. [29]

The Pehuenches, a peripheral indigenous group, crossed the Andes at the headwaters of Maule River taking prisoners and stealing livestock. [28] It is thought that this attack may have been coordinated by Alejo. [28] Over-all the campaigns of Alejo took a toll of 400 Spanish killed or made prisoners. [28]

Conflict among the Spanish leadership

On February 20 a cabildo in Concepción declared Acuña Cabrera deposed as governor. [17] However Acuña Cabrera went into hiding. [17] Jesuits who hid him then persuaded Acuña Cabrera to issue a written resignation. [30] Other leading Spanish figures who were the subject of discontent went also into hiding, a brother of Salazar who was a priest and the physician and oidor [18] Juan de la Huerta Gutiérrez. [17] [30]

The choice of a new governor in Concepción fell between two military men; Juan Fernández de Rebolledo and Francisco de la Fuente Villalobos. [30] De la Fuente Villalobos ended up being elected, but days later the Audiencia in Santiago rejected the removal of Acuña y Cabrera as unlawful. [18] [31] Local elites were not meant to depose governors named by the King of Spain. [18] Meanwhile, De la Fuente Villalobos' appeasement policy towards the Mapuche rebels and his intent to negotiate was meeting severe opposition from other military commanders. [18] [32]

Given the support he had received from the Audiencia in mid-March, Acuña Cabrera appeared in public acting as governor again. He designated Fernández de Rebolledo to take charge of the army. [33] De la Fuente Villalobos did not recognise the authority of Fernández de Rebolledo, nevertheless there were no clashes between the military under their commands. [33]

The Viceroy of Peru learned about the conflicts and decided to remove Acuña Cabrera. [26] The later refused to acknowledge his dismissal, as he thought only the King of Spain could dismiss him. [26] The viceroy appointed [upper-alpha 3] Pedro Porter Casanate as governor of Chile and dispatched him ahead of 376 soldiers that would both reinforce the troops combating the uprising as well as quell any opposition to Porter's governorship. [34] Porter was accompanied by Álvaro de Ibarra who was tasked with a fact-finding mission to establish responsibilities for the political turmoil. [27]


  1. At the time Juan Manqueante was the cacique of Mariquina, he had been a Spanish ally since the repopulation of Valdivia and remained so until 1655. [22]
  2. The city of Valdivia had been reestablished by the Spanish in 1645 following a 1643 Dutch attempt to establish a settlement in the location. [24]
  3. This was an unexpected appointment as admiral Pedro Porter Casanate was by chance in Lima. [34]

Related Research Articles

Chillán City and Commune in Ñuble, Chile

Chillán is the capital city of the Ñuble Region in the Diguillín Province of Chile located about 400 km (249 mi) south of the country's capital, Santiago, near the geographical center of the country. It is the capital of the new Ñuble Region since 6 September 2015. Within the city are a railway station, an inter-city bus terminal, an agricultural extension of the University of Concepción, and a regimental military base. The city includes a modern-style enclosed shopping mall in addition to the multi-block open-air street market where fruits, vegetables, crafts and clothing are sold. The nearby mountains are a popular destination for skiing and hot spring bathing.

Arauco War Conflict between Spanish settlers of Chile and indigenous peoples

The Arauco War was a long-running conflict between colonial Spaniards and the Mapuche people, mostly fought in the Araucanía. The conflict begun at first as a reaction to the Spanish conquerors attempting to establish cities and force Mapuches into servitude. It subsequently evolved over time into phases comprising drawn-out sieges, slave-hunting expeditions, pillaging raids, punitive expeditions, and renewed Spanish attempts to secure lost territories. Abduction of women and war rape was common on both sides.

Alonso García de Ramón

Alonso García de Ramón was a Spanish soldier and twice Royal Governor of Chile: first temporarily from July 1600 to February 1601, and then from March 1605 to August 1610. He was born in Cuenca, Spain in 1552.

Alonso de Ribera Spanish royal Governor of Chile

Alonso de Ribera y Zambrano was a Spanish soldier and twice Spanish royal governor of Chile.

Slave raiding

Slave raiding is a military raid for the purpose of capturing people and bringing them from the raid area to serve as slaves. Sometimes seen as a normal part of warfare, it is nowadays widely considered a crime. Slave raiding has occurred since antiquity. Some of the earliest surviving written records of slave raiding come from Sumer.

Valdivian Fort System

The Fort System of Valdivia are a series of Spanish colonial fortifications at Corral Bay, Valdivia and Cruces River established to protect the city of Valdivia, in southern Chile. During the period of Spanish rule (1645–1820), it was one of the biggest systems of fortification in the Americas. It was also a major supply source for Spanish ships that crossed the Strait of Magellan.

Destruction of the Seven Cities Destruction of Spanish settlements by an indigenous uprising

The Destruction of the Seven Cities is a term used in Chilean historiography to refer to the destruction or abandonment of seven major Spanish outposts in southern Chile around 1600 caused by the Mapuche and Huilliche uprising of 1598. The Destruction of the Seven Cities is in traditional historiography the defining event that marks the end of the Conquest period and the beginning of the proper colonial period.

Diego de Rosales was a Spanish chronicler and author of Historia General del Reino de Chile.

Cuncos or Juncos is a poorly known subgroup of Huilliche people native to coastal areas of southern Chile and the nearby inland. Mostly a historic term, Cuncos are chiefly known for their long-running conflict with the Spanish.

Alonso de Figueroa y Cordova was a Spanish soldier who, in the days of the reign of Philip IV of Spain, temporarily carried out the position of Captain General and Royal Governor of Chile, besides president of its Real Audiencia of Chile. His government lasted for 13 months, between April 1649 and May 1650. He was the grandfather of the Chilean historian Pedro de Cordoba y Figueroa.

Francisco Antonio de Acuña Cabrera y Bayona was a Spanish soldier and governor of the Captaincy General of Chile between 1650 and 1656. He was son of Antonio de Cabrera y Acuña y de Agueda de Bayona, who was a knight of the Order of Santiago and a professional military man. After serving in Flanders and France, he went to Peru as Maestre de Campo of El Callao and a general, being designated later Royal Governor of Chile. He was married to Juana de Salazar.

In Chilean historiography, Colonial Chile is the period from 1600 to 1810, beginning with the Destruction of the Seven Cities and ending with the onset of the Chilean War of Independence. During this time the Chilean heartland was ruled by Captaincy General of Chile. The period was characterized by a lengthy conflict between Spaniards and native Mapuches known as the Arauco War. Colonial society was divided in distinct groups including Peninsulars, Criollos, Mestizos, Indians and Black people.

Dutch expedition to Valdivia

The Dutch expedition to Valdivia was a naval expedition, commanded by Hendrik Brouwer, sent by the Dutch Republic in 1643 to establish a base of operations and a trading post on the southern coast of Chile. With Spain and the Dutch Republic at war, the Dutch wished to take over the ruins of the abandoned Spanish city of Valdivia. The expedition sacked the Spanish settlements of Carelmapu and Castro in the Chiloé Archipelago before sailing to Valdivia, having the initial support of the local natives. The Dutch arrived in Valdivia on 24 August 1643 and named the colony Brouwershaven after Brouwer, who had died several weeks earlier. The short-lived colony was abandoned on 28 October 1643. Nevertheless, the occupation caused great alarm among Spanish authorities. The Spanish resettled Valdivia and began the construction of an extensive network of fortifications in 1645 to prevent a similar intrusion. Although contemporaries considered the possibility of a new incursion, the expedition was the last one undertaken by the Dutch on the west coast of the Americas.

The battle of Río Bueno was fought in 1654 between the Spanish Army of Arauco and indigenous Cuncos and Huilliches of Fütawillimapu in southern Chile. The battle took place against a background of a long-running enmity between the Cuncos and Spanish, dating back to the destruction of Osorno in 1603. More immediate causes were the killing of Spanish shipwreck survivors and looting of the cargo by Cuncos, which led to Spanish desires for a punishment, combined with the prospects of lucrative slave raiding.

The Salazar brothers were Spanish criollos who played important roles in mid-17th century affairs in the Captaincy General of Chile. They became infamous for their slave hunting expeditions, corruption and role in unleashing the Mapuche uprising of 1655.

The Parliament of Boroa was a diplomatic meeting held on January 24, 1651, between various Mapuche groups and Spanish authorities held in the fields of Boroa. The parliament was attended by the Governor of Chile Antonio Acuña Cabrera who travelled to Boroa incognito from the fortress of Nacimiento in the north accompanied only by six men. This riskful crossing of Mapuche territory was considered valiant but reckless stunt by Spanish subordinates.

Juan Moscoso was a Chilean criollo Jesuit. He was fluent in Spanish and Mapudungun. Together with fellow Jesuit Diego de Rosales Moscoso dissuaded governor Governor of Chile Antonio de Acuña Cabrera to launch new punitive expeditions against the Cunco in 1653. They argued that the murders were committed by a few Indians and warned the governor that renewing warfare would evaporate gains obtained at Boroa.

Slavery of Mapuches was commonplace in 17th-century Chile and a direct consequence of the Arauco War. When Spanish conquistadors initially subdued indigenous inhabitants of Chile there was no slavery but a form servitude called encomienda. However, this form of forced labour was harsh and many Mapuche would end up dying in the Spanish gold mines in the 16th century.

The Huilliche uprising of 1792 was an indigenous uprising against the Spanish penetration into Futahuillimapu, territory in southern Chile that had been de facto free of Spanish rule since 1602. The first part of the conflict was a series of Huilliche attacks on Spanish settlers and the mission in the frontier next to Bueno River. Following this a militia in charge of Tomás de Figueroa departed from Valdivia ravaging Huilliche territory in a quest to punish those involved in the attacks.

The 1651 wreckage of San José and the subsequent killings and looting carried out by indigenous Cuncos was a defining event in Colonial Chile contributing to usher the Battle of Río Bueno and the Mapuche uprising of 1655.


  1. Barros Arana 2000, p. 365.
  2. 1 2 Molina 1809, p. 294.
  3. 1 2 Pinochet et al., 1997, p. 83.
  4. Barros Arana 2000, p. 341.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Barros Arana 2000, p. 342.
  6. 1 2 Alcamán 1997, p. 30.
  7. Barros Arana 2000, p. 340.
  8. Barros Arana 2000, p. 343.
  9. 1 2 Valenzuela Márquez 2009, p. 231–233
  10. Foerster 1993, p. 21.
  11. 1 2 Barros Arana 2000, p. 346.
  12. 1 2 Barros Arana 2000, p. 347.
  13. Pinochet et al., 1997, p. 79.
  14. 1 2 3 Barros Arana 2000, p. 348.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Barros Arana 2000, p. 349.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pinochet et al., 1997, p. 80.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Barros Arana 2000, p. 353.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Barros Arana 2000, p. 356.
  19. 1 2 3 Barros Arana 2000, p. 360.
  20. Barros Arana 2000, p. 361.
  21. Barros Arana 2000, p. 350.
  22. Alonqueo 1996, p. 232.
  23. 1 2 3 Barros Arana 2000, p. 359.
  24. Montt 1972, p. 23.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pinochet et al., 1997, p. 81.
  26. 1 2 3 Barros Arana 2000, p. 362.
  27. 1 2 Barros Arana 2000, p. 364.
  28. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pinochet et al. 1997, p. 82.
  29. Pinochet et al., 1997, p. 84.
  30. 1 2 3 Barros Arana 2000, p. 354.
  31. Barros Arana 2000, p. 355.
  32. Barros Arana 2000, p. 357.
  33. 1 2 Barros Arana 2000, p. 358.
  34. Barros Arana 2000, p. 363.