Caupolicán (? in Pilmaiquén – 1558 in Cañete) was a Toqui, the military leader of the Mapuche people of Chile, who commanded their army during the first Mapuche rising against the Spanish conquistadors from 1553 to 1558.
Following the successful campaign of conquest by Pedro de Valdivia in Araucanía and the failure of the toqui Lincoyan to stop them, the Mapuche were persuaded by Colocolo to choose a new supreme war leader in response to the Spanish threat.
Caupolicán as an Ulmen of Pilmayquen won the position of Toqui by demonstrating his superior strength by holding up a tree trunk for three days and three nights. In addition to proving his physical power, he also had to improvise a poetical speech to inspire the people to valor and unity.
Caupolicán's death came in 1558, at the hands of colonizing Spaniards as their prisoner. He was impaled by making him sit on a stake while his wife was forced to watch. After his death he was replaced by his son Caupolicán the younger.
- Caupolicán carried it for two days and one night according to Vivar, Cap. CXVII. Alonso de Ercilla made it three days and three nights.
- The first history of Chile was written in 1558 by Jerónimo de Vivar, Crónica y relación copiosa y verdadera de los reinos de Chile (Chronicle and abundant and true relation of the kingdoms of Chile) ARTEHISTORIA REVISTA DIGITAL; Crónicas de América (on line in Spanish)
- Much of the legend of Caupolicán is found in the epic poem La Araucana by Alonso de Ercilla, a major piece of literature about the Spanish conquest of the Americas.