Alonso de Ercilla

Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈlonso ðe eɾˈθiʝa]; August 7, 1533 – November 29, 1594) was a Spanish nobleman, soldier and epic poet, born in Madrid. While in Chile (1556–63) he fought against the Araucanians (Mapuche), and there he began the epic poem La Araucana, considered one of the greatest Spanish historical poems. This heroic work in 37 cantos is divided into three parts, published in 1569, 1578, and 1589. It tells of the courageous insurrection of the Araucanians and also relates the history of Chile and of contemporary Spain.

Alonso de Ercilla
Caballero de Santiago
BornAugust 7, 1533
DiedNovember 29, 1594 (aged 61)
Appletons' Ercilla y Zúñiga Alonso de signature


Ercilla was born into a Basque noble family. His father was Fortuño García de Ercilla, and his mother Doña Leonor de Zúñiga, both from Bermeo (Biscay). In 1548, after his father's death, his mother became lady-in-waiting to the Infanta María and made young Alonso a page to the heir-apparent, Prince Philip (afterwards King Philip II). Ercilla received a very thorough education, for, besides having the most learned teachers, he enjoyed the advantages of very extensive travelling and of living at court where he came in contact with high personages. When he was only fifteen he accompanied Philip through Italy and Germany; and their travels lasted three years. Later, Ercilla accompanied his mother to Bohemia where he left her and then visited Austria, Hungary, and other countries. Returning to Spain, he soon started out again with Philip. In this capacity Ercilla (sometimes spelled Arcilla) visited Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, and was present in 1554 at the marriage of his master to Queen Mary I of England.[1]

In London, he made the acquaintance of Jerónimo de Alderete (1555), whose stories of his thrilling adventures in the New World so fired Ercilla's imagination that he determined to accompany Alderete to the New World. He therefore obtained leave from Philip, and they set sail for America, 15 October 1555. Soon after their arrival, however, Alderete died (near Panamá, April 1556).

In 1556 Ercilla continued on his way to Peru and accompanied García Hurtado de Mendoza, recently named Governor and Commander-in-chief of Chile, where the Araucanians had revolted. He distinguished himself in the ensuing campaign. Apparently he remained in Chile seventeen months, between 1557 and 1559. He participated in the battles of Lagunillas, Quiapo and Millarapue, and witnessed the death of Caupolicán, protagonist of La Araucana. This is an epic poem of military exaltation in 37 "cantos" or verses, where the narrator relays the most significant facts of the Arauco War against the Araucanos (mapuches) and which he began to write during the campaign.

2017 Santiago de Chile - Estatua de Alonso de Ercilla - Plaza Ercilla, avenida Blanco Encalada con Ejército
Statue of Alonso de Ercilla in Blanco Encalada, Santiago de Chile

In March 1558, García Hurtado de Mendoza founded the city of San Mateo de Osorno and while their neighbours were preoccupied with the celebrations in the new city, García left by a secret entrance, disguised by a helmet with closed visor, accompanied by Ercilla and Pedro of Eyrie. They were confronted by Juan de Pineda, an old enemy of Alonso de Ercilla, and there was a fight. García was warned of the situation.

Alonso de Ercilla ran to a church and looked for asylum. The governor imprisoned both duelists and condemned them to be executed on the following day. However, many people considered the sentence unjust and tried to persuade García to reprieve them. The preparations for the execution continued and all hope of saving them was lost. Then two women, one Spanish and another Native American, approached the house of García, entering by the window, and managed to convince the governor to spare the lives of both. Ercilla was imprisoned for three months and soon afterwards was exiled to Peru.

Later life

After Ercilla's return to Spain in 1562, he made several diplomatic journeys to Austria, where his mother was a maid of honor at the imperial court, and also visited Italy, France, Germany and Bohemia. In 1570, he married Doña María de Bazán, a woman of illustrious family and of intellectual attainments and, after other diplomatic missions, settled permanently in Spain in 1577. In 1571 he was made a knight of the Order of Santiago, and in 1578 he was employed by Philip II on a mission to Zaragoza. He complained of living in poverty but left a modest fortune, and was obviously disappointed at not being offered the post of secretary of state.[1] Ercilla's later years were saddened by the loss of his only son, and his own death occurred in Madrid in 1594.


Alonso de Ercilla 1
Alonso de Ercilla in the Retratos de Españoles Ilustres ("Portraits of Illustrious Spaniards"), 1791.

Ercilla's great work is La Araucana, an epic poem of thirty-seven cantos, describing the difficulties encountered by the Spaniards during the insurrection in Arauco, and the heroic deeds of the natives as well as his companions. The epic partakes of the character of history, and the author adheres with such strict fidelity to the truth, that subsequent historians characterize his work as thoroughly trustworthy. In it the difficult art of story-telling is carried to perfection. Places are admirably described, dates are given with accuracy, and the customs of the native faithfully set forth, giving to the narrative animation and colouring.

The poem was published in three parts, of which the first, composed in Chile and first appearing in 1569, is a versified narrative adhering strictly to historic fact; the second, published in 1578, is encumbered with visions and other romantic machinery; and the third, which appeared in 1589-1590, contains, in addition to the subject proper, a variety of episodes mostly irrelevant.[1] Nevertheless, many scholars consider it the most successful Renaissance epic in the Classical mode written in Spanish. The best editions are those published by the Spanish Academy in 1776 and 1828.

In literature

In his novel In Search of the Castaways (1867), Jules Verne wrote,[2] "Araucania is populated by the Mapuche, the native Chilean race extolled in verse by the poet Ercilla".


There is a municipality in the Araucania Region of Chile named after Ercilla.

See also


  1. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ercilla y Zúniga, Alonso de" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 734.
  2. ^ In Search of the Castaways, Chapter XI, "Traversing Chile".


External links

1533 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1533.

1569 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1569.

1578 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1578.

1589 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

1594 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1594.


Caupolican (meaning ‘polished flint’ (queupu) or ‘blue quartz stone’ (Kallfulikan) in Mapudungun) was a mapuche toqui, or war leader of the Mapuche people, who led the resistance of his people against the Spanish Conquistadors who invaded the territory of today's Chile during the sixteenth century. His rule as Toqui lasted roughly from 1553-1558 AD

Colegio Alonso de Ercilla

Colegio Alonso de Ercilla (English: Alonso de Ercilla School) is a Chilean high school located in Rancagua, Cachapoal Province, Chile.

Colocolo (tribal chief)

Colocolo (from Mapudungun "colocolo", mountain cat) was a Mapuche leader ("cacique lonco") in the early period of the Arauco War. He was a major figure in Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga's epic poem La Araucana, about the early Arauco War. In the poem he was the one that proposed the contest between the rival candidates for Toqui that resulted in the choice of Caupolicán. As a historical figure there are some few contemporary details about him. Stories of his life were written long after his lifetime and display many points of dubious historical accuracy.

Cumming metro station

Cumming is an underground metro station on the Line 5 of the Santiago Metro, in Santiago, Chile. It is located underneath Catedral street in the commune of Santiago, between metro stations Quinta Normal and Santa Ana.

The station opened on March 31, 2004, along with Quinta Normal station. A ghost station, Libertad, lies between Quinta Normal and Cumming station.

The station is located in the heart of Barrio Brasil, a lively neighborhood known for its cultural scene, near the Brasil campus of the Academy of Christian Humanism University, the Alberto Hurtado University and the Alonso de Ercilla Institute. At the entrance to the station lies the Iglesia de los Capuchinos, a church built in the Neoclassic Greco-Roman style.The station has disability access. Shotcrete was used for primary and secondary lining of the tunnels. The walls on the platform level and the mezzanine level ceiling feature perforated aluminum panels. A glazed street-level pavilion, which features shade devices, provides access to the station.

Czesław Ratka

Czesław Ratka (born 1952) is a Polish engineer and translator. He graduated at Politechnika Śląska (Silesian University of Technology) in Gliwice. He specialised in electronics. He was especially concerned with hygrometry. He has been interested in Spanish language and literature for forty years. He is famous for translating two parts of La Araucana (The Araucaniad) by the 16th-century Spanish poet Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (1533-1594). For this translation he was awarded with the Cervantes Institute Award. In his translation Czesław Ratka retained the ottava rima of the original. His version of the poem is regarded as excellent by critics and other translators, for example by Wojciech Charchalis and Florian Śmieja. Czesław Ratka's work was compared to Piotr Kochanowski's translation of Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso (1618).

Ercilla, Chile

Ercilla is a Chilean town and commune in the Malleco Province, Araucanía Region. Its name is a tribute to Alonso de Ercilla, who wrote La Araucana.

Ercilla (disambiguation)

Alonso de Ercilla (1533–1594) was a Spanish nobleman, soldier, epic poet, and author of La Araucana.

Ercilla may also refer to:

Ercilla, a commune of Chile's Araucanía Region

Ercilla, a genus of flowering plants in the Phytolaccaceae family

Ercilla, a bi-weekly Chilean news magazine

3114 Ercilla, a main belt asteroid

Ercilla (magazine)

Ercilla is a biweekly news magazine published in Santiago, Chile. It is one of the oldest news magazines in the country. Its title is a reference to Alonso de Ercilla who wrote the first epic poem in Spanish in Chile.

Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega

Gabriel Lobo Lasso de la Vega (1555–1615) was a Castilian poet, playwright, and historian of the Spanish Golden Age.

De la Vega came from a minor noble family, the Counts of Puertollano, and was born and died in Madrid. He studied under the epic poet Alonso de Ercilla from 1571 to 1572. He was a king's guardsman under Philip II and Philip III. This gave him plenty of time to pursue literature.


Galvarino (died c. November 30, 1557) was a famous Mapuche warrior during the majority of the early part of the Arauco War. He fought and was taken prisoner along with one hundred and fifty other Mapuche, in the Battle of Lagunillas against governor García Hurtado de Mendoza. As punishment for insurrection, some of these prisoners were condemned to amputation of their right hand and nose, while others such as Galvarino had both hands cut off. Galvarino and the rest were then released as a lesson and warning for the rest of the Mapuche. Mendoza sent him to inform general Caupolicán of the number and quality of the people which had entered their land again, to put some fear into him, among other means that were tried, so that he might submit without coming to blows.When returning to the Mapuche he appeared before Caupolicán and the council of war, showing them his mutilations, crying out for justice and a greater rising of the Mapuche against this Spanish invader like the one of Lautaro. For his bravery and gallantry he was named by the council to command a squadron. With knives fastened on both mutilated wrists replacing his hands he fought next to Caupolicán in the following campaign until the Battle of Millarapue where his squadron fought against that of governor Mendoza himself where he was able to strike down the number two in command.

He came commanding as a sergeant and animating his men this way: "Ea, my brothers, see that you all fight very well, you do not want be as I am without hands, so that you will not be able to work nor to eat, if you do not give it to them!" And he raised those arms on high, showing them to cause them to fight with more spirit and saying to them: "Those that you are going to fight with cut them, and also will do to whichever of you they take, and nobody is allowed to flee but to die, because you die defending your mother country". He moved ahead of the squadron a distance, and said with a loud voice that he would die first and though he no longer had hands, that he would do what he could with his teeth.

Jerónimo de Vivar, Crónica, Capítulo CXXXIII.

"My Brothers, why have you stopped attacking these Christians, seeing the manifest damage that from the day which they entered our kingdom until today they have done and are doing? And they still will do to you what you see that they have done and they are doing? And still they will do to you what you see that they have done to me, cut your hands off, if you are not diligent in making the most of wreaking destruction on these so injurious people for us and or our children and women".

Pedro Mariño de Lobera, Crónica del Reino de Chile, Libro 2 Capítulo IV

However Mendoza's command broke Galvarino's division after over an hour of combat and won the battle killing three thousand Indians, and captured more than eight hundred including him. Mendoza ordered him to be executed by being thrown to the dogs.In the book La Araucana, written by Alonso de Ercilla, he explains that the real death of Galvarino was by hanging.

La Araucana

La Araucana (also known in English as The Araucaniad) is a 16th-century epic poem in Spanish about the Spanish Conquest of Chile by Alonso de Ercilla. It was considered the national epic of the Captaincy General of Chile and one of the most important works of the Spanish Golden Age (Siglo de Oro).

Latin American poetry

Latin American poetry is the poetry of Latin America, mostly but not entirely written in Spanish or Portuguese. The unification of Indigenous and imperial cultures produced a unique and extraordinary body of literature in this region. Later with the introduction of African slaves to the new world, African traditions greatly influenced Latin American poetry. Many great works of poetry were written in the colonial and pre-colonial time periods, but it was in the 1960s that the world began to notice the poetry of Latin America. Through the modernismo movement, and the international success of Latin American authors, poetry from this region became increasingly influential.

Pedro de Oña

Pedro de Oña (1570–1643) is considered the first known poet born in Chile, and is best remembered for his verse epic poem Primera parte de Arauco domado (“First Part of the Araucan Conquest”). Born in Angol, he was the son of a military captain, Gregorio de Oña, who had perished during the conquest of Chile by Spain. Pedro de Oña grew up amid this ongoing conflict; he was born in what was then a small military post, in a territory largely controlled by Chile's indigenous peoples.His mother remarried with a man of considerable influence, thus allowing Pedro de Oña to study in Lima at the Real Colegio de San Martín and later, at the Universidad de San Marcos. He received his degree from the viceroy García Hurtado de Mendoza, 5th Marquis of Cañete, and in 1596 received his bachelor's degree in Lima. He studied various baroque and classical writers, and worked at various jobs in Peru.In 1596 he published Arauco domado. This epic poem, written in rhymed couplets, praises the military deeds of Hurtado de Mendoza.

It appears that Hurtado de Mendoza, dissatisfied with how he was portrayed in La Araucana by Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga, commissioned a new work: De Oña’s. His models were Virgil’s Aeneid as well as Ercilla's work, although, while Ercilla praised the courage of the indigenous people, De Oña praises the courage of his patron Hurtado de Mendoza. The Arauco domado is a poem of 20 cantos that contain dramatic episodes, which include the Battle of Bío-Bío, the rebellion in Quito against the royal tax collectors, and the naval victory of the pirate Richarte Aquines (i.e. Richard Hawkins) over Don Beltrán de Castro y de la Cueva. Other cantos refer to dreams and prophecies, while some contain pastoral and erotic elements, such as the passage concerning Caupolicán and Fresia bathing in a fountain in a glade. In the poem, De Oña characterizes the Mapuches as savage and terrifying. Nevertheless, he provides information on their rites and customs, and those of other indigenous peoples.When his patron Hurtado de Mendoza departed from Peru, the viceroy’s enemies decided to harm Pedro de Oña’s career by banning Arauco domado and denouncing the writer for various writings that the archbishop of Lima, Pedro Muñiz, considered defamatory.De Oña also wrote the Temblor de Lima de 1609 (Lima, 1609), El Vasauro (Cuzco, 1635), and a sacred epic, the Ignacio de Cantabria (Seville, 1639). In his Apologético en favor de Don Luis de Góngora, Príncipe de los poetas lyricos de España: contra Manuel de Faria y Sousa, Cavallero portugués (1662), Juan de Espinosa Medrano refers to Pedro de Oña, among others, in his defense of Góngora.When De Oña’s wife died, the poet was left with five children in his care and lived in poverty for the rest of his life.

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