Battle of Penco

The Battle of Penco, on March 12, 1550 was a battle between 60,000 Mapuche under the command of their toqui Ainavillo with his Araucan and Tucapel allies and Pedro de Valdivia's 200 Spaniards on horse and afoot with a large number of yanakuna including 300 Mapochoes auxiliaries under their leader Michimalonco defending their newly raised fort at Penco. It was part of the Arauco War.

Battle of Penco
Part of Arauco War
DateMarch 12, 1550
Vicinity of Penco
Result Spanish Victory
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svgSpanish Empire Lautaro flag.svgMapuche
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svgPedro de Valdivia Lautaro flag.svg Toqui Ainavillo

200 Spanish soldiers:

  • 100 cavalry
  • 100 infantry[1]

Many natives[2]

60,000 warriors, considered exaggerated, modern estimates 6,000[5]
Casualties and losses
some wounded 4000 killed[6]
200 captured[7]


After toqui Ainavillo's defeat in the Battle of Andalien he gathered tens of thousands of warriors from the Arauco and Tucapel regions to reinforce his depleted 15,000 man army for an attack on Valdivia's new settlement at Penco. Meanwhile, Valdivia's force took eight days to construct a fort with a circuit of 1500 paces around his new settlement with a ditch 12 feet deep and wide. The excavated earth was used to fill in behind a wall of tree trunks driven into the earth above the ditch. It had three gates with well built bastions provided with artillery. Following the construction of the fort, Valdivia established the city of Concepción del Nuevo Extremo there on March 3, 1550. He also sent out patrols of his cavalry to call on the local Mapuche to submit to Spanish rule and provide food and service to the Spanish.

On March 12, Ainavillo's army of sixty thousand warriors advanced against the fort at Penco in three separate bodies with 5,000 skirmishers covering their advance and deployment. Once they had arrived they surrounded the fort on all sides but were not equipped to storm the deep ditch and the wall above it. They could only fire arrows and stones at the walls and shout threats leaving the Spanish safe inside. Inside the fort there was some discontent among the conquistadors at being so hemmed in and letting the Mapuche gain courage thinking the Spaniards were afraid of them by not fighting in the field where their cavalry had always been able to defeat these enemies.

Meanwhile, Ainavillo's command that had been previously defeated at Andalien, was recognized by the Spaniards, and they also saw that the Mapuche divisions were separated from each other in a way that prevented them from aiding one another easily. Jerónimo de Alderete without Valdivia's permission picked out Ainavillo's division for a vigorous charge by his cavalry but the Mapuche had learned to close their ranks, presenting their copper tipped pikes and this repelled the Spanish charge with some injury to their horses leaving the Mapuche untouched.

Valdivia realized that Alderete had forced his hand and sent out Pedro de Villagra with the rest of the cavalry and directed the softening up of Ainavillo's command by volleys of their firearms and artillery. Jeronimo de Alderete and Pedro de Villagra then led a new charge that broke Ainavillo's disordered division at the first onslaught and they fled with the Spanish in pursuit, followed by the rout of the other two commands of Mapuche upon seeing the spectacle. Where the fleeing Mapuche entered terrain the cavalry could not follow the Spanish foot and Michimalonco's warriors followed killing many.[8] The battlefield was littered with discarded weapons, 300 dead Indians killed in the clash with Ainavillo alone, according to Vivar, 4,000 was the total Mapuche loss after the pursuit, according to Lobera, and 200 were captured including many leaders of the army. Valdivia had the nose and one hand of each of the prisoners cut off and sent them back with a message that the Mapuche should now submit to Spanish rule. Soon afterward the Mapuche leaders came to submit to the Spanish.

Additional informations


  1. ^ Valdivia, Carta, 15 de octubre de 1550
  2. ^ Lobera, Crónica del Reino de Chile, Cap. XXXI,
  3. ^ Marmolejo, Historia de Chile Cap. X
  4. ^ Lobera, Crónica, Cap. XXXIII,
  5. ^ Vivar, Crónica, Capítulo XCVII ; Lobera, Crónica, Cap. XXXI, Ainavillo's division from the local provinces North of the Bio-Bio River: "Ñuble, Itata, Renoguelen, Guachimavida, Marcande, Gualqui, Penco and Talcaguano." ; Lobera, Crónica, Capítulo XXXIII, the other divisions of the army were araucanos y tucapelinos
  6. ^ Lobera, Crónica del Reino de Chile, Cap. XXXIII
  7. ^ Vivar, Crónica, Capítulo XCVII
  8. ^ Lobera, Crónica, Capítulo XXXIII


Pedro de Valdivia commanded in this campaign and battle. Jerónimo de Vivar wrote as a participant in this campaign and battle. Pedro Mariño de Lobera writes he was a witness to this battle. Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo arrived in Concepcion in 1551 and so wrote about it from other participants accounts.


Year 1550 (MDL) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.


The 1550s decade ran from January 1, 1550, to December 31, 1559.


Ainavillo, Aynabillo, Aillavilu or Aillavilú, (in Mapudungun, ailla, nine and filu, snake) was the toqui of the Mapuche army from the provinces of "Ñuble, Itata, Renoguelen, Guachimavida, Marcande, Gualqui, Penco and Talcaguano." They tried to stop Pedro de Valdivia from invading their lands in 1550. He led about twenty thousand warriors in the surprise night attack on Valdivia's camp in the Battle of Andalien. After his defeat in that battle he gathered more warriors from the allied regions of Arauco and Tucapel, south of the Bio-Bio River, for an attack on Valdivia's newly constructed fort of Concepcion at what is now Penco. Leading an army of sixty thousand warriors in three divisions against the fort in the Battle of Penco. Ainavillo's command that had been previously defeated at Andalien, was recognized by the Spaniards and Valdivia picked it out for a vigorous charge by all their cavalry following a softening up by volleys of their firearms. It was broken at the first onslaught and fled with the Spanish in pursuit, followed by the retreat of the other two divisions of the Mapuche upon seeing the spectacle.

Arauco War

The Arauco War was a long-running conflict between colonial Spaniards and the Mapuche people, mostly fought in the Araucanía. The conflict begun at first as a reaction to the Spanish conquest attempt establishing cities and forcing Mapuches into unfree labour. It subsequently evolved over time into phases of low intensity warfare, drawn-out sieges, slave-hunting expeditions, pillaging raids, punitive expeditions and renewed Spanish attempts to secure lost territories.

After many initial Spanish successes in penetrating Mapuche territory, the Battle of Curalaba in 1598 and the following destruction of the Seven Cities marked a turning point in the war leading to the establishment of a clear frontier between the Spanish domains and the land of the independent Mapuche. From the 17th to the late 18th century a series of parliaments were held between royal governors and Mapuche lonkos and the war devolved to sporadic pillaging carried out by Spanish soldiers as well as Mapuches and outlaws.

The Chilean War of Independence brought new hostilities to the frontier, with different factions of Spaniards, Chileans and Mapuches fighting for independence, royalism or personal gain. Mapuche independence finally ended with the Chilean occupation of Araucanía between 1861 and 1883. The modern Mapuche conflict is partially inspired by the Arauco War.

Battle of Andalien

The battle of Andalien, fought in early February 1550, was a night action between 20,000 Mapuche under the command of their toqui Ainavillo and Pedro de Valdivia's 200 Spaniards on horse and afoot with a large number of yanakuna including 300 Mapochoes auxiliaries under their leader Michimalonco.

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.

Jerónimo de Alderete

Jerónimo de Alderete y Mercado (Spanish: [xeˈɾonĩmo ðe aldeˈɾete]; c. 1518 – April 7, 1556) was a Spanish conquistador who was later named governor of Chile, but died before he could assume his post.


Lincoyan (c. 1519 Arauco - 1560 Cañete) was the Mapuche toqui that succeeded Ainavillo in 1550 after the defeat at the Battle of Penco. He tried to stop Pedro de Valdivia from invading and establishing fortresses and cities in their lands between 1551 and 1553 at the beginning of the Arauco War with no success. In 1551 he attacked Valdivia on the banks of the Andalien, but the neighboring fort resisted his assaults. During part of that year and in 1552 he continued fighting against Valdivia along Cauten River. In 1553, he was replaced by Caupolicán, but he was given the command of a division. In this year he took part in the capture of the fortresses of Arauco and Tucapel. Soon after this battle he defeated a strong Spanish force that came to protect Imperial. He followed Caupolicán in all his victories and in all his battles until the death of that chief in 1558. Afterward he continued the war against the Spaniards until he was killed in the Battle of Cañete.

List of battles (geographic)

This list of battles is organized geographically, by country in its present territory.

List of conflicts in South America

This is a list of armed conflicts in South America.

List of wars involving Spain

This is a list of wars fought by the Kingdom of Spain or on Spanish territory.


The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of present-day Patagonia. The collective term refers to a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Their influence once extended from the Aconcagua River to the Chiloé Archipelago and spread later eastward to the Argentine pampa. Today the collective group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile, and about 9% of the total Chilean population. They are particularly concentrated in Araucanía. Many have migrated to the Santiago and Buenos Aires area for economic opportunities.

The Mapuche traditional economy is based on agriculture; their traditional social organization consists of extended families, under the direction of a lonko or chief. In times of war, they would unite in larger groupings and elect a toki (meaning "axe, axe-bearer") to lead them. They are known for the textiles woven by women, which have been goods for trade for centuries, since before the arrival of European explorers.

At the time of Spanish arrival the Araucanian Mapuche inhabited the valleys between the Itata and Toltén rivers. South of it, the Huilliche and the Cunco lived as far south as the Chiloé Archipelago. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, Mapuche groups migrated eastward into the Andes and pampas, fusing and establishing relationships with the Poya and Pehuenche. At about the same time, ethnic groups of the pampa regions, the Puelche, Ranquel and northern Aonikenk, made contact with Mapuche groups. The Tehuelche adopted the Mapuche language and some of their culture, in what came to be called Araucanization.

Some Mapuche mingled with Spanish during colonial times, and their descendants make up the large group of mestizos in Chile. But Mapuche society in Araucanía and Patagonia remained independent until the Chilean Occupation of Araucanía and the Argentine Conquest of the Desert in the late 19th century. Since then Mapuche have become subjects, and then nationals and citizens of the respective states. Today, many Mapuche and Mapuche communities are engaged in the so-called Mapuche conflict over land and indigenous rights in both Argentina and in Chile.

March 12

March 12 is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. 294 days remain until the end of the year.

Military history of South America

The military history of South America can be divided into two major periods - pre- and post-Columbian - divided by the entrance of European forces to the region. The sudden introduction of steel, gunpowder weapons and horses into the Americas would revolutionize warfare. Within the post-Columbian period, the events of the early 19th century, when almost all of South America was marked by wars of independence, also forms a natural historical juncture. Throughout its history, South America has had distinct military features: it has been geographically separated from many major military powers by large oceans; its unique terrain has imposed major logistical challenges, and privileged naval lines of communications.

Pedro de Valdivia

Pedro Gutiérrez de Valdivia or Valdiva (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈpeðɾo ðe βalˈðiβja]; April 17, 1497 – December 25, 1553) was a Spanish conquistador and the first royal governor of Chile. After serving with the Spanish army in Italy and Flanders, he was sent to South America in 1534, where he served as lieutenant under Francisco Pizarro in Peru, acting as his second in command. In 1540 he led an expedition of 150 Spaniards into Chile, where he defeated a large force of indigenous natives and founded Santiago in 1541. He extended Spanish rule south to the Biobío River in 1546, fought again in Peru (1546 – 48), and returned to Chile as governor in 1549. He began to conquer Chile south of the Biobío and founded Concepción in 1550. He was captured and killed in a campaign against the Mapuche. The city of Valdivia in Chile is named after him.

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