Battle of Tucapel

The Battle of Tucapel (also known as the Disaster of Tucapel) is the name given to a battle fought between Spanish conquistador forces led by Pedro de Valdivia and Mapuche (Araucanian) Indians under Lautaro that took place at Tucapel, Chile on December 25, 1553. This battle happened in the context of the first stage of the Arauco War, named the "offensive war" within a larger uprising by Araucanians against the Spanish conquest of Chile. It was a defeat for the Spaniards, resulting in the capture and eventual death of Valdivia.

Pedro de Valdivia
Pedro de Valdivia


The Arauco War was a large scale war that took place in what is now Chilean territory between Spanish conquerors and Mapuches. Pedro de Valdivia was the Spanish conqueror, who founded the first cities in Chilean territory. Around 1550, he took a Mapuche man who had offered his services as his servant. The conqueror baptized him as Felipe Lautaro. Under Pedro de Valdivia's wing, Lautaro quickly learned horse-riding and Spanish military techniques that he would use later in the war that was taking place at the moment. Once he had learned this knowledge, he eventually went back to his village and decided to use these techniques to his advantage. At the same time, Pedro de Valdivia was using a policy of quickly founding cities, dispersing his forces in the conquered territory. His forces also built numerous forts, like Tucapel and Purén.

Valdivia went on an inspection tour of a group of forts constructed to secure the Chilean interior for the Spanish. He left Concepción in December 1553 and worked his way south to Quilacoya, where he gathered troops for the march into the restive territory of Arauco. Mapuche spies observed his column from the hills, but merely followed and did not present themselves for battle. Meanwhile, the Mapuche leader Lautaro kept the forces of Gómez de Almagro bottled up in the nearby fort of Purén through various trickery. He learned through his spies of the southwards movements of Valdivia, and realized that they would probably pass through the fort of Tucapel.

Valdivia became perturbed by the lack of news from Tucapel and by the lack of hostility on the road. On December 24, he decided that he would make for the fort, hoping to find Almagro and his troops there. The tranquility and the occasional sightings of Indians in the distance continued to raise his suspicion, and he sent an advance scouting team of five men under the command of Luis de Bobadilla to explore the road ahead and return information about the location of the enemy.


Lautaro Cañete
Bust of Lautaro in the square of Cañete.

Tucapel fort was located on a hill in the coastal mountain range. In December 1553, Mapuche forces, under the command of the vice toqui Lautaro attacked and destroyed the fort using the battle tactics learned from the Spanish. Pedro de Valdivia had left Concepción with only 50 soldiers and sent a message to Purén fort to send reinforcements. The message, however, was intercepted by Lautaro's men.

Valdivia received no reports from his leading element, and spent the night a half day's journey from Tucapel. On Christmas Day, December 25, 1553, he left early in the morning for the fort, arriving in its vicinity with silence reigning. He found it completely destroyed. Neither Gómez de Almagro nor Bobadilla was anywhere to be found. He decided to make camp amidst the damp ruins of the fort, but the contingent had hardly begun to make preparations when there were shouts from the surrounding forest. Without advance warning, a mass of Mapuche warriors charged out towards the Spanish enclave.

A veteran soldier, Valdivia had time to form and arm his defensive line and repulsed the first attack. The cavalry charged upon the rearguard of the retreating Mapuche force, but the Indians were prepared for this action and reversed the charge with lances. However, with much valor and resolution the Spaniards managed to drive back the resulting Mapuche surge into the forest. The Spaniards savored their temporary victory.

There was still more to come, however. A second squadron of Mapuches attacked, this time armed with maces and ropes as well as lances, with which they succeeded in dismounting the unfortunate Spanish caballeros, whom they quickly dragged out of the battlefield once they were on the ground. The Spanish managed to drive them back, but not without leaving many fallen. Then a third group of Mapuches appeared, this time with Lautaro behind it.

Valdivia, aware of the desperate situation due to the Spanish losses and fatigue, gathered together his available men and threw himself into the bitter fight. Already half of the Spanish forces were casualties and the Indian auxiliaries were steadily being reduced. Valdivia, seeing that the fight was lost, ordered the retreat, but Lautaro himself came around the flank and sealed the Spanish fate. The Indians felled every one of the Spaniards, and only Valdivia and the cleric Pozo, who rode the best horses, were able to escape. However, when crossing the swamps the men became bogged down and the Mapuches eventually captured them.


Valdivia's death

According to Jerónimo de Vivar, the toqui Caupolicán personally ordered the execution of Valdivia, who was killed with a lance and his head, along with those of the two other bravest Spaniards, were put on display.[4] Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo writes Valdivia offered as a ransom for his life that he would evacuate the Spanish settlements in their lands and give them large herds of animals, but this was rejected and the Mapuche cut off his forearms, roasted and ate them in front of him before killing him and the priest.[5] Pedro Mariño de Lobera also wrote that Valdivia offered to evacuate the lands of the Mapuche but says he was shortly after killed by a vengeful warrior named Pilmaiquen with a large club, saying Valdivia could not be trusted to keep his word once freed.[6] Lobera also says that a common story in Chile at the time was that Valdivia was killed by giving him the gold that the Spaniards so desired; however, the gold was molten and was poured down Valdivia's throat.[6] According to a later legend, Lautaro took Valdivia to the Mapuche camp and put him to death after three days of torture, extracting his beating heart and eating it with the Mapuche leaders.

Following the battle Caupolicán went on to blockade the city of Valdivia and the few remaining Spanish settlements in the south of Chile. Lautaro watched the Spanish forces in Concepción, the center of the Spanish power in southern Chile. The Spanish for a while were in some disarray as the succession of the governorship was for a while in dispute between three men.

See also


  1. ^ Vivar, Capítulo CXV.
  2. ^ Vivar, Capítulo CXV "más de cincuenta mil indios"; Marmolejo, Capítulo XIV "cincuenta mill indios y más"; Lobera, Capítulo XLIII "ciento y cincuenta mil"; Diego de Roslaes, Vol. 1, Libro III Cap. XXXV, "veinte mil indios"
  3. ^ Lobera, Crónica del Reino de Chile, Capítulo XLIII, Lobera names several famous araucanos captains that died in the battle: Triponcio, Gameande, Alcanabal, Manguié, Curilen, Layan, Ayanquete and others of much fame.
  4. ^ Vivar, Capítulo CXV. Vivar says this is according to Indians that had been in the battle, no Spaniard had survived.
  5. ^ Marmolejo, Capítulo XIV.
  6. ^ a b Lobera, Capítulo XLIII.


Jerónimo de Vivar, Pedro Mariño de Lobera and Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo all were in Chile at the time of this battle and wrote about it from other participants accounts.


Year 1553 (MDLIII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

2013 Tucapel

2013 Tucapel, provisional designation 1971 UH4, is an eccentric Florian asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 11 kilometers in diameter. It was discovered on 22 October 1971, by the University of Chile's National Astronomical Observatory at Cerro El Roble Astronomical Station. It was named for one of the indigenous Mapuche chiefs.


Angol is a commune and capital city of the Malleco Province in the Araucanía Region of southern Chile. It is located at the foot of the Nahuelbuta Range and next to the Vergara River, that permitted communications by small boats to the Bío-Bío River and Concepción. This strategic position explains the successive foundations of this city during the Arauco War. It was first founded in 1553 as a "conquistador" fort of Confines, the fort was later destroyed and rebuilt several times and it was not until the Pacification of Araucania in the late 19th century that it was rebuilt with the name of Angol. The city has a current population of approximately 49,000. Within the electoral divisions of Chile, it belongs to the 48th electoral district and the 14th senatorial circumscription.

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 Marihueñu

Battle of Marihueñu was one of the early decisive battles of the Arauco War between the Mapuche leader Lautaro and the Spanish general Francisco de Villagra on 23 February 1554.

Cañete, Chile

Cañete is a city and commune in Chile, located in the Arauco Province of the Biobío Region. It is located 135 km to the south of Concepción. Cañete is known as a "Historic City" (Spanish: ciudad histórica) as it is one of the oldest cities in country. The Battle of Tucapel and Pedro de Valdivia's death happened near the city's current location. Cañete was also an important location in the Arauco War.

Chile–Spain relations

Chile–Spain relations refers to the current and historical relations between Chile and Spain. Both nations are members of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, Organization of Ibero-American States and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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.

Conquest of Chile

The Conquest of Chile is a period in Chilean historiography that starts with the arrival of Pedro de Valdivia to Chile in 1541 and ends with the death of Martín García Óñez de Loyola in the Battle of Curalaba in 1598, and the destruction of the Seven Cities in 1600 in the Araucanía region.

This was the period of Spanish conquest of territories, founding of cities, establishment of the Captaincy General of Chile, and defeats ending its further colonial expansion southwards. The Arauco War continued, and the Spanish were never able to recover their short control in Araucanía south of the Bío Bío River.

December 25

December 25 is the 359th day of the year (360th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. Six days remain until the end of the year.

Francisco de Aguirre (conquistador)

Francisco de Aguirre (Spanish pronunciation: [fɾanˈθisko ðe aˈɣire]; 1507–1581) was a Spanish conquistador who participated in the conquest of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.


Lautaro (Mapudungun: Lef-Traru "swift hawk") (Spanish pronunciation: [lau̯ˈtaɾo]; 1534? – April 29, 1557) was a young Araucanian toqui known for leading the indigenous resistance against Spanish conquest in Chile and developing the tactics that would continue to be employed by the Mapuche during the long-running War of Arauco. Lautaro was captured by Spanish forces in his early youth, and he spent his teenage years as a personal servant of chief conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, but escaped in 1551. Back among his people he was declared toqui and led Mapuche warriors into a series of victories against the Spanish culminating in the Battle of Tucapel in December 1553 where Pedro de Valdivia was killed. The outbreak of a typhus plague, a drought and a famine prevented the Mapuche from taking further actions to expel the Spanish in 1554 and 1555. Between 1556 and 1557 a small group of Mapuche commanded by Lautaro attempted to reach Santiago to liberate the whole of Central Chile from Spanish rule. Lautaro's attempts ended in 1557 when he was killed in an ambush by the Spanish.

Today Lautaro is revered among Mapuche and non-Mapuche Chileans for his resistance against foreign conquest, servitude and cruelty.

List of conflicts in South America

This is a list of armed conflicts in South America.

Marina Ortiz de Gaete

Marina Ortiz de Gaete González (c. 1509 – April 1592) was the wife of Pedro de Valdivia, and played an important role in the politics of the conquest and early history of the Kingdom of Chile.

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.

Rodrigo de Quiroga

Rodrigo de Quiroga López de Ulloa (c. 1512 – February 20, 1580) was a Spanish conquistador of Galician origin. He was twice the Royal Governor of Chile.

Royal Governor of Chile

The Royal Governor of Chile ruled over the Spanish colonial administrative district called the Captaincy General of Chile, and as a result the Royal Governor also held the title of a Captain General. There were 66 such governors or captains during the Spanish conquest and the later periods of Spanish-centered colonialism.


Tucapel is a town and commune in the Arauco Province, Bío Bío Region, Chile. It was once a region of Araucanía named for the Tucapel River. The name of the region derived from the rehue and aillarehue of the Moluche people of the area between the Lebu and the Lleulleu Rivers, who were famed for their long resistance to the Spanish in the Arauco War. Tucapel is also the name of a famous leader from that region in the first resistance against the Spanish mentioned in Alonso de Ercilla's epic poem La Araucana. Formerly belonging to the Nuble Province, in the Department of Yungay. Near the town of Tucapel is the Plaza de San Diego de Tucapel. The capital of the commune is the town of Huépil, moving the municipality from Tucapel in 1967. In mapudungún its name means "To seize or to take by force".

The main economic activities of the commune are commerce, agriculture and forestry.

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