Documents how initial Mapuche-Spanish alliances were built and how they were destroyed by increasingly powerful slave-trading elites operating like organized crime families
The history of Spanish presence in the Americas is usually viewed as a one-sided conquest. In This Incurable Evil: Mapuche Resistance to Spanish Enslavement, 1598–1687, Eugene C. Berger provides a major corrective in the case of Chile. For example, in the south, indigenous populations were persistent in their resistance against Spanish settlement. By the end of the sixteenth century, Spanish aspirations to conquer the entire Pacific Coast were dashed at least twice by armed resistance from the Mapuche peoples. By 1600, the Mapuche had killed two Spanish governors and occupied more than a dozen Spanish towns. Chile’s colonial future was quite uncertain.
As Berger documents, for much of the seventeenth century it seemed that there could be peace along the Spanish-Mapuche frontier. Through trade, intermarriage, and even mutual distrust of Dutch and English pirates, the Mapuche and the Spanish began to construct a colonial entente. However, this growing alliance was obliterated by the “incurable evil,” an ever-expanding enslavement of Mapuches, and one which prompted a new generation of Mapuche resistance. This trade saw Mapuche rivals, neutrals, and even friends placed in irons and forced to board ships in Valdivia and Concepción or to march northward along the Andes. The Mapuche labored in the gold mines of La Serena, in urban workshops in Lima, in the silver mines of Potosí, or on the thousands of haciendas in between and would never return to their homes. With this tragic betrayal, Chile was left a more corrupt, violent, and polarized place, which would cause deep wounds for centuries.