La Araucana, Spanish epic poem in thirty-seven cantos and three parts (Part 1, 1569; Part 2, 1578; Part 3, 1589), written by Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (1533–1594). Its stanzas (in ottava rima) narrate the warfare between the invading Spaniards and the Araucanians of southern Chile from the arrival of the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia to the years 1557–1558, at which point Ercilla was a soldier in Chile. The poem follows the course of events very closely, though with a number of imaginative flourishes. By 1632 no less than eighteen editions of the epic had appeared, a tribute to its widespread popularity. La Araucana was praised by Cervantes in Don Quixote and was admired by Voltaire. It was the first book to bring Chile to the attention of Europe, and in Chile itself it is regarded as a national classic.
While La Araucana offers some sympathetic portraits of the Native American population and criticisms of Spanish actions, the text ultimately reaffirms Spain's colonial project. Moreover, this epic also highlights tensions between Europe empires. Reaction to imperial competition from Portugual caused Ercilla to increasingly praise and advertise Spanish culture in Part 2.
The sixth stanza of Canto 1, beginning "Chile fértil provincia y señalada / En la región antártica famosa" (Chile, fertile province / located in the famous southern region) can be recited by most educated Chileans. The classic modern study of the poem is a five-volume work (1910–1918) by Chilean scholar José Toribio Medina.
F. Rand Morton, Notes on the History of a Literary Genre: The Renaissance Epic in Spain and America. Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University, 1958.
Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga, La Araucana, edited by Olivo Lazzarín Dante (1977).
Ercilla y Zúñiga, Alonso de. La Araucana. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra, 2003.
Davis, Elizabeth B. Myth and Identity in the Epic of Imperial Spain. Columbia: University of Missouri, 2000.
Mejías-López, William. "La relación ideológica de Alonso de Ercilla con Francisco de Vitoria y fray Bartolomé de las Casas." Revista Iberoamericana 61 (170-171) (Jan-June 1995): 197-217.
Nicolopulos, James. The Poetics of Empire in the Indies: Prophecy and Imitation in La Araucana and Os lusíadas. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000.