Captaincy General of Chile

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Capitanía General de Chile
Spanish colony
1541–1818


Flag of the Spanish Empire

Map of the Kingdom of Chile in 1796 and claimed territories
Capital Santiago, Chile
Languages Spanish, Mapudungun
Religion Roman Catholicism
Government Monarchy
King
 -  1541–1556 Charles I
 -  1808–1813 Joseph I
 -  1813–1818 Ferdinand VII
Royal Governor
 -  1541–1556 Pedro de Valdivia
 -  1815–1818 Casimiro Marcó del Pont
Historical era Spanish Empire
 -  Established 1541
 -  Chilean Independence February 12, 1818
Currency Peso

The General Captaincy of Chile (Capitanía General de Chile) or Gobernación de Chile, was a colony of the Spanish Empire from 1541 to 1818, the year in which it declared itself independent, becoming the Republic of Chile. It had a number of governors over its long history and technically one king, Felipe II, who was not the reigning Spanish king.

Name[edit]

The General Captaincy of Chile was incorporated to the Crown of Castile as were all the other Spanish possessions in the New World. The General Captaincy of Chile was first known as New Extremadura (a name subsequently given to a part of Mexico) and then as Indian Flanders. The Captaincy was a part of the Viceroyalty of Perú.

The administrative apparatus of the General Captaincy of Chile was subordinate to the Council of the Indies and the Laws of the Indies, like the other Spanish colonial possessions. The day-to-day work was handled mostly by viceroys and governors, who represented the king's will. The areas of the Americas, which had been the site of complex civilizations or became rich societies were usually referred to by the Spanish as "kingdoms," such as the "New Kingdom of Granada", the "Kingdom of Mexico", or the "Kingdom of Guatemala."

Chile never reached the status of a viceroyalty and was instead classified as a captaincy general because this was a very warlike territory and thus was ruled by a military and not a nobleman like a viceroy.

History[edit]

Exploration and conquest[edit]

Main article: Conquest of Chile

In 1536 Diego de Almagro formed the first expedition to explore the territories to the south of the Inca Empire, which had been granted to him as the Governorship of New Toledo. After Almargo's death, Pedro de Valdivia solicited and was granted in 1539 the right to explore and conquer the area with Francisco Pizarro's approval. Valdivia founded the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo and a few months later its cabildo (municipal council) appointed him governor and Captain General of New Extremadura on June 11, 1541. Other cities founded during Valdivia's administration were Concepción in 1550, La Imperial in 1551, Santa María Magdalena de Villa Rica and Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia in 1552, and the following year Los Confines and Santiago del Estero on the eastern side of the Andes. In 1553 Valdivia also founded a series of forts for protection of the settled areas: San Felipe de Araucan, San Juan Bautista de Purén and San Diego de Tucapel. After Valdivia's death that same year, these last forts, Villarica and Concepcion were lost. they were recovered following the war with Lautaro and Caupolicán. Following the defeat of the Mapuche by García Hurtado de Mendoza, settlements continued to grow and more cities were founded: Cañete de la Frontera on the site of the former Fort San Diego de Tucapel and Villa de San Mateo de Osorno in 1558, San Andrés de Angol in 1560, Ciudad de Mendoza del Nuevo Valle de La Rioja in 1561, San Luis de Loyola Nueva Medina de Rioseco and San Juan de la Frontera in 1562, and Santiago de Castro in 1567. Martín García Óñez de Loyola founded a last city south of the Bio Bio River, Santa Cruz de Coya, in 1595.

Collapse of southern Chile[edit]

Illustration of the Arauco War in Jerónimo de Vivar's book Crónica y relación copiosa y verdadera de los reynos de Chile (1558).

A Mapuche revolt was triggered following the news of the battle of Curalaba in on the 23 of December 1598, where the vice toqui Pelantaru and his lieutenants Anganamon and Guaiquimilla with three hundred men ambushed and killed the Spanish governor Martín García Óñez de Loyola and nearly all his companions.

Over the next few years the Mapuche were able to destroy or force the abandonment of seven Spanish cities in Mapuche territory: Santa Cruz de Coya (1599), Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia (1599), San Andrés de Los Infantes (1599), La Imperial (1600), Santa María Magdalena de Villa Rica (1602), San Mateo de Osorno (1602), and San Felipe de Araucan (1604).

17th century: Consolidation of the colony[edit]

In the 17th century, the Spanish colony of Chile saw a rearrangement of it population center. While in the 16th century, most the cities founded by the Spanish were located from Bio-Bio southward, with only Santiago, La Serena and some transandine cities located north of it, in the 17th century, Spanish authority and settlements were bought down south of Bío-Bío Region. The colony went from being a gold exporter with potential for expanding to the Strait of Magellan to being one of the Spanish Empire's most problematic and poor in natural resources. The Spanish Empire had to divert silver from Potosí to finance a standing army in Chile to fight in the Arauco War. Since the raids of Francis Drake in Chilean waters more seaborne assaults followed in the 17th century, mostly from Dutch corsairs. The Spanish Empire's attempts to block the entrance to the Pacific Ocean by fortifying the Straits of Magellan were abandoned after the discovery of Drake's Passage, focusing then on fortifying the coastal cities of Chile.

18th century: Reforms and development[edit]

Government[edit]

As noted, the area had been designated a governorship (gobernación) during the initial exploration and settlement of the area, but because the local Amerindian peoples demonstrated fierce resistance, a more autonomous, military-based governmental authority was needed. Thus, the governor was given command of the local military and the title of captain general. This arrangement was seen in many places of the Spanish Empire.

The greatest setback the Spanish settlements suffered was the Disaster of Curalaba in 1598, which nearly wiped them out. All cities south of the Bio-Bío River with the exception of Castro were destroyed. The river became La Frontera, the de facto border between Spanish and native areas for the next century. (See Arauco War)

Political history[edit]

As noted, the area had been designated a governorship (gobernación) during the initial exploration and settlement of the area, but because the local Amerindian peoples demonstrated fierce resistance, a more autonomous, military-based governmental authority was needed. Thus, the governor was given command of the local military and the title of captain general. This arrangement was seen in many places of the Spanish Empire.

Chile also has the curious distinction of being the one region of the Spanish Empire that technically had a king, Philip II, who was not the reigning Spanish king. In 1554 the Infante Philip married Queen Mary I of England, when he was still just the heir to the Spanish throne. In order to bring him up to an equal rank with the Queen, he was named the "King of Chile" by his father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Additionally he received the Kingdom of Naples, a possession of the Crown of Aragon and which came with a claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Thus the marriage treaty could jointly style the couple as King and Queen in a formula that reflected not only Mary's but also Philip's dominions and claims:

Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, Chile and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.

For all practical purposes, the title had no effect on Chile's administration, continuing its practical identity as a gobernación and reino in the Spanish Empire. After Philip became King of Spain in 1556, the title simply merged back to the many held by the Spanish king.

The greatest set back the Spanish settlements suffered was the Disaster of Curalaba in 1598, which nearly wiped them out. All cities south of the Biobío River with the exception of Castro were destroyed. The river became La Frontera the de facto border between Spanish and Native areas for the next century. (See Arauco War.)

Chile lost more than half of its territory with the Bourbon reforms of Charles III, when all of its trans-Andean possessions were transferred to the domain of the newly created Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776[citation needed]. Chile gained two intendancies, Santiago and Concepción in 1786 and became a Bourbon-style Captaincy General in 1789.

Society[edit]

Societal groups[edit]

"Baile del Santiago antiguo" by Pedro Subercaseaux. Chile's colonial high society were made up by landowners and government officials.

The Chilean colonial society was based on a caste system. Local of criollos (American born Spaniards) enjoyed privileges like the ownership of encomiendas (Indian labor jurisdictions) and were allowed to access some public charges like corregidor or alférez. Mestizos made up initially a small group but came with time to make up the bulk of Chilean society becoming more numerous than indigenous peoples.[1] Mestizos were not a homogeneous group and were judged more by appearance than by actual ancestry.[1] Indians enjoyed the lowest prestige among societal groups in colonial Chile, many of them were used as cheap labor in encomienda but their numbers decreased over time due to diseases and mestization. Pehuenche's, Huilliches and Mapuches living south of La Frontera were not part of the colonial society since they were outside the de facto borders of Chile. Black slaves made up a minority of the population in colonial Chile and had a special status due to their high cost of import and maintenance.[1] Black slaves were often used as housekeepers and other posts of confidence.[1] Peninsulares, Spaniards born in Spain, were a rather small group in late colonial times, some of them came as government officials and some other as merchants. Their role in high government positions in Chile led to resentment among local criollos.[1] Mixing of different groups was not uncommon although marriage between members of the different groups was rare.

During late colonial times new migration pulses took off leading to large numbers of Basque people settling in Chile mingling with landowning criollos, forming a new upper class.[1] Scholar Louis Thayer Ojeda estimates that during the 17th and 18th centuries fully 45% of all immigrants in Chile were Basques.[2]

Sex and marriage[edit]

Indigenous women in the colonial society were noted, from a Spanish point of view, for their sexual liberalism and engaged often sexually with men from other ethnicities.[3] The same was true for the black slaves who due to their "many" intercourses with other groups were strictly prohibited by law to engage in sexual activities with other ethnicities in order to avoid the proliferation of black individuals.[3]

16th century Spaniards are known to have been pessimistic about marriage.[3] Many of the initial conquistadores had left their wives in Spain and engaged in adultery in Chile.[3] Examples of this is Pedro de Valdivia who held Inés de Suárez as lover.[3] Adultery was explicitly forbidden for Catholics and the Council of Trent (1545–1563) made the climate prone for accusations of adultery.[3] Over the course of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries marital fidelity increased in Chile.[3]

Economy[edit]

Further information: Economic history of Chile

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Villalobos, Sergio. Historia De Chile, Tomo 2. Editorial Universitaria, Chile.
  2. ^ William A. Douglass, Jon Bilbao (2005). "Amerikanuak: Basques in the New World". University of Nevada Press. p.81. ISBN 0-87417-625-5
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Historia de la vida privada en Chile. El Chile tradicional. De la conquista a 1840. 2005. Aguilar Chilena de Ediciones S.A. pp. 53-63.

External links[edit]