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Pedro de Valdivia

Spanish Conquistador

Born: 1497

Died: 1554

Pedro de Valdivia was a Spanish Conquistador who founded various cities within Chile, including Santiago, Concepcion and Valdivia.

His early years
Pedro de Valdivia is believed to have been born in Badajoz, Spain in 1500 (some source put his date of birth as early as 1497) from a family of nobles. In 1520 he enlisted with the army of Charles V and fought in Flanders in 1521 and Italy between 1522 and 1525. He married Marina Ortiz de Gaete. In 1535 he left her to embark for a voyage to Venezuela.

In 1537 he went to Peru to help Francisco Pizarro in de struggle against Diego de Almagro and won. Afterwards he went with Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro to conquer both the province of Collao and las Charcas in High Peru (currently Bolivia). As compensation for conquering these lands, Valdivia was awarded a silver mine.

The expedition
After the failure of the expedition of Diego de Almagro, Valdivia asked the governor of Peru permission to complete the conquest of the lands south of Peru (known as Nuevo Toledo). He got the permission and was named lieutenant of the Governor, and not Governor as he wanted.

The expedition was fraught with problems from the beginning. Valdivia had to sell the lands that where assigned to him to finance the expedition. A shortage of solders and adventurers was also problematic since they were not interested in conquering what they were sure were extremely poor lands.

The expedition left Cuzco in January of 1540 with almost a thousand native Indians and only a few Spanish. En route more Spanish joined the expedition. These conquistadores had formed part of the failed campaigns to the highlands of Bolivia. All in all around 150 Spanish joined the expedition of Valdivia.

He followed the desert route of Atacama, the same route that Almagro had followed back to Peru. When they arrived at the valley of Copiapo Valdivia took possession of the land in the name of the king. Soon thereafter they continued south and in December of the same year they arrived in the valley of the Mapocho River, where they finally decided to establish a permanent settlement.

Foundation of Santiago
On the February 12, 1541 Pedro Valdivia founded Santiago, Chile. The ceremony was held at the foot the hill Huelén (now known as Cerro Santa Lucia).

One of the first orders that Valdivia gave was for the search for gold in the Marga Marga mines and the construction of a courier service to Peru.

Destruction of Santiago
After an apparent peaceful period, on the 11th of September 1541, local Indians led by Michimalonko attacked the new Village of santiago. Valdivia was not in the village at the time, and the defense of the city was led by Inés Suérez.

This event meant a real setback for the conquest of the Chilean territory, since the rebuilding could only start in 1543 with the arrival of new supplies.

New Initiatives
In September of 1543 new arms, cloths and other equipment from Peru arrived in the ship Santiaguillo. because of this Valdivia was in a position to send an expedition, led by Juan Bohén, north. Where in between Santiago and the northern Atacama desert, In the valley of Coquimbo, La Serena, Chile was founded.

In February of 1546 Valdivia, accompanied by 70 men, traveled south. He got to the bio-bio river where he had planned to found another town. However the hostility of the indigenous people forced him to return to Santiago in March of 1547.

In 1547 and 1548 Valdivia was in Peru to gather more resources and men. While he was there he fought in the battle of Xaquixahuana. As recognition for his services the then vice-king of Peru gave Valdivia de title of Governor.

Between 1549 and 1553, after his arrival back in Santiago, Valdivia again undertook the conquest of the South. Which wasn't made any easier by heavy resistance from the indigenous Indians. Nevertheless in 1550 he got to the bio-bio zone, where after winning a battle with the indigenous he founded Concepción. Later they also founded the more southern villages of La Imperial, Valdivia and Villarica among others.

The uprising of 1553
After a brief stay in Santiago, Valdivia returned to the south again in December of 1552. To keep the connection open between Concepción and the southern settlements Valdivia had a number of forts build in the coastal mountain range.

One of the first signs that a big rebellion was building was in the attack on the fort of Tucapel. Valdivia decided to personally inspect the fort, but the indigenous forces attacked when the party was near to fort and Valdivia was captured.

The Death of Valdivia
There are many legends surrounding the death of Pedro de Valdivia at the hands of the indigenous Indians of ???,  but the one thing they all have in common is how extraordinarily violent and painful they were.

According to one legend the Indians beat him to death with sticks, impaled him on a stake, and then cut his heart into pieces before devouring the still beating chunks.   Another has Valdivia tied to a stake with his mouth forced open while a high priest poured molten gold down his throat in order to "finally quench Valdivia's endless hunger for gold."  Other stories also exist, but you get the idea.

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