Ambrosio de Benavides

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Ambrosio de Benavides

Ambrosio de Benavides Medina Liñán y Torres (January 20, 1718 – April 27, 1787 ) was a Spanish colonial administrator who served as Royal Governor of Puerto Rico, Royal Governor of Charcas and Royal Governor of Chile.

Early life[edit]

Benavides was born in Granada, the son of Juan Carlos de Benavides Mesía Ponce de León, head of the Inquisition in Cordoba, and of his wife, María Teresa de Medina Liñán y Torres.[1] In 1738, he joined the Spanish Army as a cadet, eventually being posted to Málaga, Ceuta and Melilla. He became an infantry captain in 1741, a sergeant major in 1754, a lieutenant colonel in 1760 and a full colonel in 1761. On September 25, 1760 he was appointed governor of Puerto Rico by King Ferdinand VI of Spain.

As governor of Chile[edit]

Benavides was notified of his appointment as Captain General of Chile in May 1780, and immediately started the long trip overland. He had to stop and winter in the city of Mendoza but finally managed to arrive to Santiago on December 11, assuming his position the next day.[2] Nonetheless, the long and arduous journey took a heavy toll on his health from which he never really recovered.[1]

Conspiracy of the Tres Antonios[edit]

As soon as Benavides arrived, he was faced with the so-called Conspiracy of the Tres Antonios, where 2 Frenchmen, Antonio Gramusset and Antonio Berney, and a criollo, José Antonio de Rojas, inspired by the Enlightenment ideals, had formulated a plan to establish Chile as an independent republic. All three conspirators were secretly arrested on January 1, 1781, putting an end to any possible civil unrest before it even started.

Flood of 1783[edit]

The fall of 1783 was one of the harshest on record for Chile. On April 13, a strong earthquake affected Santiago and on June 16, the Mapocho River, after nine days of uninterrupted rain, flooded the city. The river first overran its course to the orient of the city, and came down the Alameda (which itself is a former river branch). Soon it also overrran the dikes flooding all the north side (La Cañadilla) of the city. The whole downtown area became an island surrounded by water on all sides. Many nuns, such as the carmelitas de San Rafael had to be rescued on horseback from their isolated monasteries. Finally the storm abated on the 17th, without casualties but with great economic losses.

Bourbon reforms[edit]

King Charles III decided to reform the political administration of the empire. Among other reforms he subdivided the General Captaincies into Intendencias. In Chile two were created in 1786: Santiago, covering the area from Copiapó to the Maule river; and Concepción, from the Maule river to the Valdivia River. Benavides, while remaining governor of Chile, became also the intendant of Santiago, and brigadier Ambrosio O'Higgins became intendant of Concepción. Benavides named as his assistant Alonso de Guzmán y Peralta; while O'Higgins named Juan Martínez de Rozas, both lawyers.[2]

Another consequence of the reforms was that the King reserved for himself the appointment of the military governors of Valparaíso and Valdivia, and while continental Chile remained as a Captaincy-General within the viceroyalty, Chiloé Island was detached and made a direct dependency of the Viceroyalty of Perú.

Public works[edit]

During his period, the Italian architect Joaquín Toesca arrived to Chile. He was charged with the construction of the new Cathedral, the La Moneda Palace, the new building for the Cabildo and the new public jail. He paid much attention in the construction of the Maipo channel, and the reconstruction of Santiago after the floods of 1783, including moving the location of La Moneda from his original emplacement next to the river to the current one.

Death[edit]

On March 27, 1787, he officially appointed Tomás Álvarez de Acevedo as interim governor and retired to Cauquenes to try to restore his health.[1] There he died on April 27. He was buried in the Cathedral of Santiago.[2]

Additional information[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Sources[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Esteban Bravo de Rivero
Royal Governor of Puerto Rico
1761-1766
Succeeded by
Marcos de Vergara
Preceded by
Juan Martínez de Tineo
Royal Governor of Charcas
1769-1778
Succeeded by
Gerónimo Manuel de Ruedas
Preceded by
Tomás Álvarez
Royal Governor of Chile
1780-1787
Succeeded by
Tomás Álvarez
Military offices
Preceded by
Esteban Bravo de Rivero
Captain General of Puerto Rico
1761-1766
Succeeded by
Marcos de Vergara
Preceded by
Agustín de Jáuregui
Captain General of Chile
1780-1787
Succeeded by
The Marquis of Osorno