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Lantaro, The Boy Hero Of The Araucanians
by [?]

The river Biobio, in Southern Chili, was for centuries the boundary between liberty and oppression in South America. South of it lay the land of the Araucanians, that brave and warlike people who preserved their independence against the whites, the only Indian nation in America of which this can be said. Valorous and daring as were the American Indians, their arms and their arts were those of the savage, and the great multitude of them were unable to stand before the weapons and the discipline of their white invaders. But such was not the case with the valiant Araucanians. From the period of Almagro, the companion of Pizarro and the first invader of Chili, down to our own days these bold Americans fought for and retained their independence, holding the Biobio as their national frontier, and driving army after army from their soil. Not until 1882 did they consent to become citizens of Chili, and then of their own free will, and they still retain their native habits and their pride in their pure blood.

The most heroic and intrepid of the Indian races, they defied the armies of the Incas long before the Spaniards came, and the armies of the Spaniards for centuries afterwards, and though they have now consented to become a part of the Chilian nation, this has not been through conquest, and they are as independent in spirit to-day as in the warlike years of the past. Their hardy and daring character infects the whole of Chili, and has given that little republic, drawn out like a long string between the Andes and the sea, the reputation of being one of the most warlike and unyielding of countries, while to its people has been applied the suggestive title of “the Yankees of the South.”

It would need a volume to tell the deeds of the heroes who arose in succession to defend the land of Araucania from the arms of those who so easily overturned the mighty empire of Peru. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to the exploits of one of the earliest of these, a youthful warrior with a genius for war that might have raised him to the rank of a great commander had not death early cut short his career. The second Spaniard who attempted the conquest of this valiant people was Pedro de Valdivia, the quartermaster of Pizarro, an able soldier, but one of those who fancied that a handful of Spanish cavaliers were a match for the strongest of the Indian tribes. He little knew the spirit of the race with which he would have to deal.

Southward from Peru marched the bold Valdivia with two hundred Spaniards at his back. With them as aids to conquest was brought a considerable force of Peruvians; also priests and women, for he proposed to settle and hold the land as his own after he had conquered it. Six hundred miles southward he went, fighting the hostile natives at every step, and on the 14th of February, 1541, stopped and laid the foundations of a town which he named St. Jago. This still stands as the modern Santiago, a city of three hundred thousand souls.

We do not propose to tell the story of Valdivia’s wars with the many tribes of Chili. He was in that land nine years before his conquests brought him to the Biobio and the land of the Araucanians, with whom alone we are concerned. On the coast near the mouth of this river he founded a new town, which he named Concepcion, and made this the basis of an invasion of the land of the Araucanians, whom he proposed to subdue.

As it happened, the Araucanian leader at this time was a man with the body of a giant and the soul of a dwarf. He timidly kept out of the way of the Spaniards until they had overrun most of the country, built towns and forts, and had reason to believe that the whole of Chili was theirs. Valdivia went on founding cities until he had seven in all, and gave himself the proud title of the Marquis of Arauco, fancying that he was lord and master of the Araucanians. He was too hasty; Arauco was not yet his.