Calfucurá (1770–1873)

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Calfucurá (1770–1873)

Calfucurá (b. late 1770s; d. 1873), Araucanian leader. Calfucurá headed the rise of an important intertribal confederation in the Argentinian pampas that flourished in the last half of the nineteenth century until subjugation by the Argentine army in the 1880s.

In 1835 a group of Araucanians (also called Mapuches) headed by Calfucurá moved east from Chilean homelands near Llaima, in the southern cordillera (in the region of the Imperial River and Cautín), to establish a permanent encampment near a large salt deposit called the Salinas Grandes. Following a struggle for power over control of the Salinas Grandes with the Voroganos—a loosely organized group of Pampas and Araucanian followers of Mariano Rondeau—Calfucurá emerged victorious, and Rondeau's followers joined Calfucurá's Araucanian settlement.

Calfucurá's leadership was derived primarily from personal charisma as well as from military knowledge and status within the Araucanian world. Under his leadership, this Araucanian confederation in the pampas expanded to enjoy relative prosperity and autonomy and to become a large, well-organized threat to Argentine lives and property. Between 1834 and 1856, Calfucurá negotiated temporary alliances between neighboring Pampas, Tehuelches, Ranqueles, and other Araucanian bands or tribes, and also entered into a structured alliance with the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas in exchange for annuity payments in goods. Because of their control of the salt mines in the Salinas Grandes, Calfucurá's people escaped dependency on the payments and thrived on intra-tribal trade in salt—necessary for making charqui (salted meat)—and livestock (mostly cattle and horses).

When the annuity program ended after the fall of Rosas in the 1850s, the Araucanian followers of Calfucurá responded with raids called malones (also called malocas). In the next two decades in a series of highly organized raids against creole ranching interests in the southern Argentina frontier, Calfucurá's Voroganos acquired hundreds of thousands of head of cattle and horses and hundreds of cautivos (captives) to tend to these herds. When Calfucurá died of natural causes in 1873, he left a confederation of Araucanians that included over 224 tribes. This confederation, under the leadership of Manuel Namuncurá, Calfucurá's son, continued to resist Argentine subjugation until 1879.

See alsoAraucanians .


Estanislao S. Zeballos, Callvucurá y la dinastía de los Piedra (1961).

Judith Ewell and William Beezeley, eds. The Human Tradition in Latin America: The Twentieth Century (1989), pp. 175-187.

Additional Bibliography

Poggi, Rinaldo Alberto. "Releyendo cartas de Calfucurá." Investigaciones y Ensayos 47 (February 1997): 469-493.

                                     Kristine L. Jones