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Lautaro (c. 1535–1557)

Lautaro (c. 1535–1557)

Lautaro (b. 1535?; d. 29 April 1557), Araucanian warrior and leader. Captured at an early stage of the warfare between the Araucanians and the Spaniards under Pedro de Valdivia (1500–1553), Lautaro spent some time as a groom in the conquistador's entourage, where he learned much about Spanish military capacity. Escaping back to Araucanian territory, he emerged as a great military leader of his own people. Toward the end of 1553 his forces successfully attacked and destroyed the Spanish fort at Tucapel: a desperate counterattack by Valdivia himself led to the conquistador's death (December 1553). From this resounding victory, Lautaro went on to defeat the Spaniards at Marigueñu (February 1554) and to force the evacuation of Concepción. Re-founded by the Spaniards, the settlement was attacked and destroyed a second time by Lautaro in December 1555. The following year the brilliant Araucanian launched an offensive to the north of the river Maule. But the Araucanians were never as effective away from their own territory as they were on home ground. Repulsed by Pedro de Villagra (1508?–1577) near the river Mataquito in November 1556, Lautaro fell back on a safe position near the mouth of the Itata. On 29 April 1557 a second attack to the north of the Maule was countered by Francisco de Villagra (1511–1563) at the battle of Peteroa (sometimes called the second battle of Mataquito), in which Lautaro received a fatal wound either from an arrow or a sword.

Lautaro's deeds were frequently evoked as an inspiring precedent by creole patriots at the time of independence. His name (like those of other Araucanian heroes of the period) has often been used as a given name for Chilean boys even in the twentieth century.

See alsoAraucanians .


Fernando Alegría, Lautaro, joven libertador de Arauco (1981).

Additional Bibliography

Dillehay, Tom D. Monuments, Empires, and Resistance in the Andes: The Araucanian Polity and Ritual Narratives. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Ferrando Keun, Ricardo. Y así nació la frontera—: Conquista, guerra, ocupación, pacificación, 1550–1900. Santiago: Editorial Antártica, 2000.

                                         Simon Collier

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