1. Canto General
“Lautaro” is one of the Canto General poems. In this blog the Canto General poems that have been used for the oratorio Canto General, composed by Mikis Theodorakis are available in Spanish, Greek, German, French, English and Dutch. You can find them in the menu up here, and in submenus. Search for Canto General.
When translating the English translation into Dutch I got curious about Lautaro. I found very interesting information, and this deepens the effects of the composition, and the lyrics. Note: the lyrics in the oratorio are not always the same as the original poem.
Lautaro was a slender arrow.
Supple and blue was our ancestor.
His childhood was but silence.
His adolescence was dominion.
His youth was an aimed wind.
He made himself like a long lance.
He hardened his feet in the waterfalls.
He taught his head among the thorns.
He tried his strength against the guanaco.
He lived in hollows of snow.
He snatched food from eagles.
He seized the secrets of the peaks.
He nourished petals of flame.
He was nursed by chill Spring.
He scorched himself in infernal chasms.
He was a hunter among cruel birds.
His hands were stained with victories.
He interpreted the aggressions of the night.
He withstood eruptions of sulphur.
He made himself swiftness, sudden light.
He assumed the patience of Autumn.
He labored in invisible lairs.
He slept in sheets of blizzard.
He equalled the flight of arrows….
Only then he was worthy for his people.
The blood touches a vein of quartz.
The ground swells where the drop falls.
Thus is Lautaro born of the earth.
2. Summary about Lautaro’s life
Lautaro (Mapudungun: Lef-Traru “swift hawk“) (1534? – April 29, 1557) was a young Mapuche toqui who achieved notoriety for leading the indigenous resistance against Spanish conquest in Chile. Lautaro begun his career as a captive of Pedro de Valdivia but escaped in 1551. Back among his people he was declared toqui and led Mapuche warriors into a series of victories against the Spanish culminating in the Battle of Tucapel in December 1553 where Pedro de Valdivia was killed. The outbreak of a typhus plague, a drought and a famine prevented the Mapuches from taking further actions to expel the Spanish in 1554 and 1555. Between 1556 and 1557 a small group of Mapuches commanded by Lautaro attempted to reach Santiago to liberate the whole of Central Chile from Spanish rule. Lautaro’s attempts ended in 1557 when he was killed in an ambush by the Spanish.
Today Lautaro is revered among Mapuches and non-Mapuche Chileans for his resistance against foreign conquest, servitude and cruelty. More.
3. Article in “Taringa!”: Lautaro, military genius of Arauco
Translation from an article in “Taringa!“: “Lautaro, Military Genius, Caudillo [a Spanish or Latin American military dictator], Liberator, Leader, Hero, Warrior, Strategist, Visionair, these and many more are the appellations with which this young Mapuche has been described that 5 centuries after his death, is still remembered by world historiography.”
Lautaro, or Left-raro (Ave Veloz), was born in Trehuaco, Province of Ñuble Biobio region, in the “Ngulu Mapu” according to the Mapuche story, and according to the Chilean historiography, in Mapuche territory. He was the son of Curiñancu (Black Harrier), at 11 years was captured and taken as a slave, but according to the Mapuche historiography, Lautaro was to learn from the wingkas (invaders).
Lautaro spent 3 years among the Spaniards, becoming a page of Pedro de Valdivia (conquistador of Chile), his usual task as a page was caring for the horses of Valdivia, and to accompany him always in battles and military exercises. Thus he learned not to fear the horse, and became an excellent rider, something very common in the Mapuche culture. It was in those years that he learned the military tactics, that would bring him so many victories in the future.
For obvious reasons, he made friends with the Spaniards, and especially with one of the captains of Valdivia, Marcos Veas, who taught him the use of some weapons and tactics of cavalry, this was common (that the Spaniards taught about the use of weapons) since the captured Indians were transformed into Yanaconas, that is, part of the soldiers that the Spaniards used in the battles.
Lautaro dressed as Araucano leader
In 1550, during the battle of Andalien and Penco, Lautaro witnessed the scuffles to which Valdivia had to subdue the defeated Mapuches.
These events struck him and caused a strong resentment and hatred against the invader, the Wingka. Let us not forget that Lautaro was already a teenager, and much of his life had developed with the Spaniards, of whom for obvious reasons he must have felt an affection, but seeing the barbarous acts that these committed with his people, made that in his head grew a huge gap, with who he was when he rebelled, and the one he became suddenly: he was going to rebel against his father formador (instructor), the wingka. His decision would mark the story of Arauco.
Lautaro learning the Spanish culture
In 1551, as a page, Lautaro accompanied Valdivia in founding the forts of Cautín, Nueva Imperial until arriving at Villarrica, in the Mapuche territory. Valdivia decided to return to La Concepción and from there to Santiago in the winter of 1552. At some point between the stay in Concepcion (present Penco) and the journey to Santiago, Lautaro escaped. So his decision was taken and was “expel the invader” from the Ngulu Mapu. Lautaro appeared formally at his town. There was a “cahuín” (meeting), where the caciques (leaders) were discussing already what to do with the invader of which already was known who was cold and ruthless, and it was then that Lautaro appears, and keeps a small speech:
“He vívido mucho tiempo entre los españoles (wingkas), he sido criado por el gobernador Valdivia, de cuyos caballos he cuidado, los cristianos son tan mortales como nosotros, Valdivia es un hombre como todos, los caballos se cansan y se mueren. Para vencer a los extranjeros y sus animales, basta pelear con valor, si así lo hacéis, os libertaréis del pesado yugo que quieren echar sobre vosotros…”
[“I have lived a long time among the Spaniards (wingkas), I have been raised by Governor Valdivia, whose horses I have cared for, Christians are as mortal as we are, Valdivia is a man like everyone, horses get tired and die. To overcome the foreigners and their animals, it is enough to fight with dignity, if you do so, you will be freed of the heavy yoke that they want to throw upon you … “]
“Caupolicán” (captain), the war toqui (military chief), chooses him as his lieutenant in the war, in his squadron. Lautaro prepares his men, and transforms them into true military squadrons.
Battle of Tucapel, death and capture of Valdivia
This is put into practice in the Battle of Tucapel. Lautaro captures an emissary and learns that Valdivia is heading south and must necessarily pass through Tucapel. Valdivia is wondering why he did not receive any news about the fort of Tucapel and that besides that there were no worrying signs: this was the strategy of Lautaro. So on December 24, he decides to go to Tucapel. The tranquility and the rare presence of Indians in the distance arouse suspicions and he sends Luis de Bobadilla with five men to explore the road and give information about the presence of ant enemy. He does not see them again.
Valdivia already suspects that something is not right when on December 25 he arrives at Fort Tucapel, and sees that everything has been destroyed. In some few moments, out of nowhere, a few shouts came out of the forest, followed by a mass of hundreds of men rushing to the conqueror. Valdivia, a military expert, could hardly put his defensive lines together and withstand the first clash. With great courage and determination, the Spaniards succeeded in breaking down the Mapuche attack. Surprisingly quick the Indians vanish in the forest, and some moments later a new Indian squadron appeared, and again he had to put up lines and again he has to refresh the cavalry.
After several minutes of battle, the same scene was repeated, and when a cornet sounded, the escudrón (squadron) withdraw. Valdivia realized that the Indians he was fighting against were organized, and that they were as professional as the best army he battled with. A third squadron comes out into the light, which was this time under the leadership of Lautaro. Valdivia, watching desperate the situation, due to the weariness and casualties, gathered the available men and launched them into the struggle. Half of the Spaniards lay in the field, and there were less and less Yanaconas.
In a moment of the battle, Valdivia addresses those who still surround him and says: “Gentlemen what will we do?”. Captain Altamirano answers: “What can your Highness want us to do else than that we fight and die!” Valdivia, seeing the battle lost, ordered the retreat, but Lautaro himself attacked on the flank, causing confusion. Valdivia riding a very good horse manages to flee, but when crossing a swamp, the horses were sinking, as Lautaro had foreseen, and the Araucanos under the control of Lautaro captured him.
Capture of Valdivia
The story in the article goes into details of more battles and more cruelties that I leave to you to translate from the original text. Finally also Lautaro has been killed.
Death of Lautaro
Francisco de Villagra, who was the new governor of Chile, tried to break down definitively the Araucanian resistance, and Lautaro. Villagra was informed about the location of Lautaro’s squadrons and went there.
Villagra had already organized a form of attack when an impatient trumpet played the signal ahead of time. Immediately, the Mapuches came out to take their weapons, and Villagra shouted: “¡Santiago y cierra España, adelante!” This surprised the entire Lautaro army, creating confusion and flight. The place where Lautaro was, was known by the indigenous Villagra’s spies, therefore they went resolutely to Lautaro’s house, where also his wife Guacolda was.
Lautaro stepped out the door with Valdivia’s sword in his hand, and was pierced at the very moment by a spear, while his own people were taken by surprise and massacred. The jubilant Spaniards shouted: “Here are the Spaniards. Lautaro is dead!”
With the end of Lautaro, a notable figure disappears from the Arauco war, no one else even equaled his conditions as a leader or his military genius, who lived up to the great strategists of his time.
Lautaro’s corpse was beaten, beaten and dismembered alive for hours, his head was displayed in the Plaza de Armas de Santiago for a long time strung on a Spanish spear.
“Sin lugar a dudas, es un símbolo de la resistencia Mapuche. Sin lugar a dudas, es un símbolo de una inteligencia militar…al parecer notable”
“Undoubtedly, Lautaro is a symbol of the Mapuche resistance. Undoubtedly, Lautaro is a symbol of military intelligence … apparently remarkable”
This is the story of the greatest caudillo (commander) in the Arauco war, this was just a simple tribute to the son of Arauco, who never gave up, who fought for his land, his people and his race, and who, at the age of 23 years, checkmated the total Spanish empire.
4. Other websites:
5. Documentary: Grandes Chilenos ~ Lautaro