Suárez, Inés de (1512?–1580?)

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Suárez, Inés de (1512?–1580?)

Inés de Suárez (b. 1512?; d. 1580?), Spanish woman who played a forceful and colorful part in the conquest of Chile. In her twenties she went to America, where she became the mistress of Pedro de Valdivia (1500–1553). She accompanied him on his expedition to Chile in 1540, and was well liked by the conquistadores. In September 1541, during Valdivia's temporary absence, the newly founded settlement at Santiago was attacked by large numbers of natives. With the inadequate Spanish force facing total defeat, Inés de Suárez suggested the murder of seven captive caciques (chiefs) as a means of instilling terror among the natives. It is generally accepted that she did (or helped with) the killing herself. After the heads (or possibly the corpses) of the dead caciques were thrown into the crowd of attackers, Suárez donned a coat of mail and led the fighting during the remainder of the battle. The only Spanish woman in the settlement, she devoted herself to caring for the wounded and supervising food supplies.

In recognition of her contributions, Valdivia granted her an encomienda. When the king's representative in Lima, Pedro de la Gasca, heard charges against Valdivia in November 1548, he advised him to terminate his liaison with Suárez. (Valdivia's wife, who was in Spain, traveled to Chile soon afterward, but arrived there only after his death.) Valdivia complied with La Gasca's suggestion, and married Suárez off to one of his most trusted lieutenants, Rodrigo de Quiroga, who himself later became governor of Chile (1565–1567 and 1575–1580). As an act of penitence, Suárez maintained a small church on the Cerro Blanco in Santiago. In 1553 she and Quiroga presented it to the Dominican order. The present church near the site dates from the 1830s. In 2006, novelist Isabel Allende published a novel, Inés of My Soul, based on the life of Suárez.

See alsoChile: Foundations Through Independence .


Stella (Burke) May, The Conqueror's Lady (1930).

Additional Bibliography

Allende, Isabel. Inés of My Soul. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.

                                            Simon Collier