Pedro de Valdivia


Pedro de Valdivia : biography

00 1500 – December 25, 1553

Destruction of Santiago

After an apparent peaceful period the Indians began to resist the invaders. Valdivia marched against the tribes and defeated them at Cachapoal. While away, on September 11, 1541, local Indians led by Michimalonco attacked Santiago. The defense of the city was led by his mistress Inés de Suárez. The Spaniards, desperate and willing to fight until death, were able to eventually push the Indians back; Valdivia and his troops made it back just in time to relieve the capital.

By the time the battle ended the entire town had been destroyed and burned to the ground, animals were killed and the fields and stores were decimated. Only a small amount of property was not destroyed, including a handful of seeds, two sows, one pig and a pair of chickens. Valdivia organized his men into groups to keep watch over the crops and protect the city against attack. For the next two years, there were men always saddled and armed, ready to fight in case the Indians posed a threat to Spanish authority.

This event meant a real setback for the conquest of the Chilean territory. The resistance of the Indians became daily stronger, and as the ship that he had constructed in Aconcagua was also destroyed by the natives, Valdivia sent in 1542 overland to Peru his lieutenant Alonso de Monroy with five followers to seek reinforcements, but, on account of the disturbance in that country in consequence of the defeat of El Mozo Almagro by Cristóbal Vaca de Castro, Monroy could not obtain much aid, and returned in September 1543, with only seventy horsemen, also sending by sea a vessel with provisions and ammunition to the port of Aconcagua.

Expansion of the great

Villagra and Alderete.]]

In September 1543 new arms, clothes and other equipment arrived from Peru on the ship Santiaguillo; thanks to these new supplies, Valdivia was in the position to start the rebuilding of Santiago and to send an expedition, led by Juan Bohon, to explore and populate the northern region of Chile. This expedition founded La Serena halfway between Santiago and the northern Atacama Desert, in the valley of Coquimbo. Valparaíso, though used as a port by the Spaniards from the start, had no considerable population until much later.

In 1544 Valdivia sent a naval expedition consisting of the barks San Pedro and Santiaguillo, under the command of Juan Bautista Pastene, to reconnoiter the southwestern coast of South America, ordering him to reach the Strait of Magellan. The expedition set sail from Valparaíso and although Pastene did not reach this goal, he explored much of the coast. He entered the bay of San Pedro, and made landings at what are now known as Concepción and at Valdivia, which was later named in honor of the commander. Encountering severe storms further south, he then returned to Valparaiso.

In February 1546 Valdivia himself set out, with sixty horsemen plus native guides and porters, and crossed the Itata River. He got to the Bío-Bío River where he planned to found another town. However, the party was attacked by Mapuche warriors at the Battle of Quilacura. Realizing that it would be impossible to proceed in such hostile territory with so limited a force, Valdivia wisely elected to return to Santiago shortly thereafter, after finding a site for a new city at what is now Penco and would become the first site of Concepción. Still, Valdivia managed to subdue the country between Santiago and the Maule River.

Return to Peru

To secure additional aid and confirm his claims to the conquered territory, Valdivia returned in 1547 to Peru, leaving Francisco de Villagra as governor in his stead. There he tried to gather more resources and men to continue the conquest. When the Gonzalo Pizarro rebellion began in Peru, the insurgents attempted unsuccessfully to win Valdivia to their side. Nonetheless, early in 1548 Valdivia joined the royal army of Viceroy Pedro de la Gasca, and his military experience counted heavily in the victory of Xaquixahuana on April 9 of that year.

Nonetheless, a discontented faction from Chile managed to have him tried in Lima, accused of tyranny, malfeasance of public funds and public immorality. One of the charges levelled against him was that he, being married, openly lived with Inés de Suárez "…in the manner of man and wife and they sleep in one bed and they eat in one dish…". In exchange for being freed, and for his confirmation as Royal Governor, he agreed to relinquish her and to bring to Chile his wife, Marina Ortíz de Gaete, who only arrived after Valdivia’s death in 1554. He was also ordered to marry Ines off, which he did, upon his return to Chile in 1549, to one of his captains, Rodrigo de Quiroga. As recognition for his services Valdivia was finally appointed as adelantado and won the royal assent to his coveted title of Governor of Chile, returning to the settlement with his position and prestige considerably strengthened.