The Abaucanian Race

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Their Location, Appearance, Etc

The different tribes belonging to this bold and warlike race inhabit Chili and western Patagonia, commencing about latitude thirty degrees, and extending to Terra del Fuego. The Pecherais of that island have also been classed in the same family, and their general conformation of figure and features, except so far as the withering influence of cold and squalid destitution has deteriorated the race, would seem to warrant the conclusion that the two nations were of identical origin.

The mountaineers of Chili are of a much lighter complexion than the aboriginal nations either north or south of them; the tribe of Boroanos in particular have been described as being little, if any, darker than Europeans. The men are tall, hardy, and vigorous, with exceedingly muscular limbs: their faces are broad, and their features rather heavy and coarse, but without the appearance of stupidity or dullness: they have the bright eye and coarse black hair of the Indian. Some of them are noticed with heavy beards, but generally this appendage is thin and scanty, and the common barbarous custom of eradicating it with some substitute for tweezer is resorted to.

Although a considerable difference is observable between the inhabitants of the mountains and the plains, in size, complexion, &c., yet the similarity in language and general appearance is considered sufficient to warrant the conclusion that all originally sprung from the same stock.

Purchas Description of Chill Division of the Tribes

In “Purchas his Pilgrimage,” we find the following quaint description of the physical aspect of the country:

“It is called Chili of the chilling cold, for so the word is said to signify. The hills with their, high looks, cold blasts, and covetous encroaching, drive it almost into the sea: only a narrow valley upon lowly submission to her swelling adversaries, obtaineth room for five and twenty leagues of breadth, where it is most, to extend her spacious length of two hundred leagues on that shore: and to withstand the ocean s fury, she pays a large tribute of many streams, which yet in the night time she can hardly perform; the miserable hills, in their frozen charity, not imparting that natural bounty and duty, till that great arbiter the sun ariseth, and sendeth day with his light-horse troop of sunbeams to break up those icy dungeons and snowy turrets, wherein night, the mountains jailer, had locked the innocent waters. Once, the poor valley is so hampered betwixt the tyrannical meteors and elements, as that she often quaketh with fear, and in these chill fevers shaketh off and loseth her best ornaments.

“And sometimes the neighbor hills are infected with this pestilent fever, and tumble down as dead in the plain, thereby so amazing the fearful rivers, that they run quite out of their channels to seek new, or else stand still with wonder; and the motive heat failing, fall into an uncouth tympany, their bellies swelling into spacious and standing lakes.”

When the western coast of South America was first visited by Europeans, a portion of Chili was, as before-mentioned, subject to the Peruvian monarchy. The Chilian tribes, according to Molina, were fifteen in number, each independent, and governed by its Ulmen, or cacique. ” These tribes, beginning at the north, and proceeding to the south, were called Copiapins, Coquimbanes, Quillotanes, Mapochinians, Promaucians, Cures, Cauques, Pencones, Araucanians, Clinches, Chilotes, Chinquilanians, Pehuenches, Puelches, and Huilliches.” The first four of these, about the middle of the fifteenth century, were reduced by the Inca Yupanqui, without much opposition, but the Promaucians opposed so vigorous a resistance that the progress of the Peruvian arms was effectually stayed. The conquered provinces were allowed to retain their national government and customs, upon payment of tribute to the Inca.

The Chilians were, at this early period, not only bold and skilful in war, but had made much greater advances in the arts of civilization than any other South American race except the Peruvians. The country was too populous to be sustained by the precarious pursuits of hunting, fishing, &c., and a rude but systematic cultivation of the soil had become universal. The vegetable productions brought under cultivation were mostly the same with those used in Peru, and the native sheep or “camel,” was domesticated, as in that country. This animal furnished the wool for the garments of those who inhabited the western valleys the wilder races of the east and south were clothed in skins, principally of the guanaco, a species of wild goat.

Their houses were generally square, built of brick, or of wood plastered with clay, and thatched with rushes. Culinary utensils were formed of stone, wood, or earthenware. They wrought, with some skill, in the usual metallic productions of the country, using, like the Peruvians, a hardened alloy of copper, with other metals, as a substitute for iron. In common with the latter nation, a system of recording events or statistics by the ” quipu,” was all that was observable as analogous to the art of writing.

Among the Natives Almagro’s Invasion

The Promaucians, whose courage and patriotism had a century before checked the advance of the royal forces of the Inca, were found no less formidable by the first Spanish invaders. Almagro, after his frightful passage of the Cordilleras, in which, as is said, he lost one hundred and fifty Spaniards, and some ten thousand Indian allies, was well received by the tributary provinces of Chili. He collected no small booty in gold, which he distributed among his followers, and continued his march to Coquimbo. Here he was guilty of an act of barbarity too common wherever the Spaniards of that time were successful in their Indian campaigns. Two of his soldiers had been put to death at Guasco, in consequence of some acts of rapacity or violence, and in revenge, Almagro seized and burned alive the chief of the district, with his brother and twenty other of the native inhabitants.

Marching into the province of the Promaucians, the Spaniards found an enemy superior to any before encountered. Not even the terrors of the cavalry and weapons of the Europeans could daunt the brave^ mountaineers, who rallied under the banners of their chiefs for the protection of home and country. A single battle was sufficient to satisfy the invaders that little was to be gained by any further advance, and Almagro, with his troops, returned to Peru, as heretofore related, to seize upon Cuzco as being contained within the grant made to him by the crown.

Expedition Of Pedro De Valdivia

In 1540, Pedro de Valdivia, a bold and active Spanish soldier, and high in the confidence of Pizarro, was commissioned to lead the second expedition against the provinces of Chili. He took with him two hundred Spaniards and a large body of Peruvians, with the intent of forming a colony and commencing a permanent settlement. Some of the domestic animals of Europe were taken for use of the new colony, and a number of women and ecclesiastics were added to the company.

Founding of St. Jago

Crossing the mountains during the favorable season of summer, Valdivia entered Chili, but found on his arrival that the northern tribes, freed from the yoke of the Incas, were disposed to reassert their former independence. The want of union, however, prevented them from being able to stem the progress of the Spaniards. The invader pressed on, crushing all opposition, to Mapocho, the province where he founded the city of St. Jago.

While the new capital was in progress of construction, the natives of the district fell boldly upon the intruders, burned their buildings, and drove them into a fort, which they had constructed in the center of the town. The Spaniards were eventually victorious; but the spirit of the Mapochonians was not broken, and for years afterwards they continued to harass the settlers in every possible manner. The opening of the rich mines of the valley of Quillota reconciled the colonists to every danger and privation; and, for convenient communication with Peru, a vessel was built in the river Chile, which flows through that district.

Valdivia now sent emissaries to Peru, under convoy of thirty mounted men, to beat up for recruits. These messengers were eight in number, and, as a bait to new adventurers, their “spurs, bits, and stirrups he directed to be made of gold.” A body of Copiapans attacked this party on their route, and slew all except two, named Alonzo Monroy and Pedro Miranda, whom they carried to their ulmen or cacique. By the intervention of the chief’s wife their lives were spared, and they were engaged to teach the young prince, her son, the art of riding. The ungrateful Spaniards took advantage of the confidence placed in them, to murder their charge and escape on the horses. They succeeded in reaching Peru, and procured a considerable number of adventurers to try their fortunes in the new and promising regions of the south.

Peace with the Promaucians

The Chilians did not quietly submit to Spanish encroachments. The inhabitants of Quillota, by an artful stratagem, drew the Spaniards connected with the mines into an ambuscade, and murdered nearly the whole number; they followed up their advantage by burning the military stores and the vessel which had been built at the river Chile. Valdivia had the good fortune or skill to overawe or conciliate the Promaucians, and an alliance was formed between the Spaniards and that tribe.


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MLA Source Citation:

Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 24 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-abaucanian-race.htm - Last updated on Jan 31st, 2013


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