Battle of Mataquito

The Battle of Mataquito was fought in the Arauco War on April 30, 1557, between the forces of the Spanish governor, Francisco de Villagra, and Mapuche headed by their toqui Lautaro. It was a surprise attack, carried out at dawn, on Lautaro's fortified camp between a wooded mountain and the shore of the Mataquito River.[7] The battle is notable for ending Mapuche designs on Santiago, while also avenging the death of former governor Pedro de Valdivia, who had been killed by Lautaro's warriors four years earlier.

Battle of Mataquito
Part of the Arauco War
DateApril 30, 1557
Vicinity near the foot of the Cerro Chiripilco northeast of the modern town of La Huerta in Hualañé on the north bank of the Mataquito River[1]
Result Spanish victory
Spanish Empire Mapuche
Commanders and leaders
Francisco de Villagra Lautaro 
120 Spanish soldiers[2] and a number of indios amigos[3] 700 Mapuche and 500 allied warriors,[4] from the provinces of "Itata, Nuble and Renoguelen"[5]
Casualties and losses
1 Spaniard, over half of the indios amigos 250 – 500 Mapuche[6]


In early 1557, following the defeat and retreat of Lautaro after the Battle of Peteroa, Francisco de Villagra felt strong enough to gather a strong force of soldiers and march south to aid the remaining cities against the Mapuche besetting them. Discovering that the city of Santiago was now relatively unprotected, Lautaro evaded the army of Villagra, letting them pass to the south. He soon marched again on Santiago, gathering a new army of 6,000 men joined by allies under Panigualgo,[8] raising its strength to 10,000 men.[9] However once the army reached the banks of the Mataquito River, Lautaro's treatment of the local Indians in a manner similar to that of the Spaniards had created many enemies, and after a quarrel with his ally over this mistreatment, most of the allies and many of the Mapuche refused to follow him. He moved over a league up river from Lora and established himself in a fortified camp[10] in a place called Mataquito.[11]

Villagra became aware that the location of the camp had been betrayed by local Indians previously abused by Lautaro. Villagra sent word to Juan Godíñez near Santiago to meet him as he hurriedly returned from the south with seventy men. The Spanish forces met at a location in the province of Gualemo three leagues from Lautaro's camp,[12] without Lautaro being warned by the local Indians. The unified force of Francisco de Villagra and Juan Godíñez came to 120 men, with 57 horsemen (including Pedro Mariño de Lobera), five arcabuzeros, and more than four hundred yanakuna, made a surprise night march over the hills of Caune, to the one overlooking Lautaro's camp, on the shore of the Mataquito River. Villagra sent a body of Spanish infantry (including Alonso López de la Eaigada) with arquebus or swords and shields into the carrizal under Gabriel de Villagra.[10][13]

At dawn Villagra made his surprise attack on the camp. The infantry burst into the fortress while Juan Godíñez and Villagra led the charge of the cavalry down the hill against the fortress with their Indian allies in advance.[14] In the beginning of the battle they killed Lautaro, coming out of the doorway of his ruca.[10] When the Spaniards shouted Lautaro was dead, the allied warriors from Itata, Ñuble, and Renoguelen fled any way they could,[15] leaving only Lautaro's Mapuche fighting a six-hour battle, putting up a stubborn resistance despite the death of their leader. At the end of the battle Lautaro and from 250 to 500 Mapuche[14] were killed, while the Spaniards lost Juan de Villagra and over half of their yanacona killed or wounded along with many of the Spaniards' horses. Lautaro's head was then taken and displayed in the main plaza of Santiago.


  1. Mataquito was one of the two encomiendas of Juan Jufré on the banks of the Mataquito River. I—Probanza de los méritos y senidos del general Juan Jufré en el descubrimiento y población de las provincias de Chile. (Archivo de Indias, Patronato, 1-5-32/16), pg. 5-216.
  2. Lobera,Historia de Chile, Chapter LV
  3. Lobera, Crónica del Reino de Chile, Chapter LV; Rosales, Historia de Chile, Cap. X, Juan Gudiñez had two hundred and fifty Indian friends
  4. Jerónimo de Vivar, Capítulo CXXIX
  5. Lobera, Crónica, Capítulo LV
  6. Lobera, Historia de Chile Cap. XXII, no losses mentioned; Alonso Lopez de Larraigada, 500 killed; Vivar, Crónica Capítulo CXXIX, Lautaro another captain and 250 warriors killed; Marmolejo Historia, Cap. XXII "more than three hundred Indians died in this assault with many others wounded or surrendered": Roslaes, Cap. X "six hundred Indians, with many wounded who went to die to their land"
  7. The location of this battle is uncertain and the location of the Mataquito camp has been confused with Lautaro's 1556 Peteroa fortress. According to Vivar, Crónica, CXXIX, the 1557 battle was fought at a location three leagues from the province of Gualemo where Francisco de Villagra with seventy men met Juan Godíñez prior to their night march on the Mataquito camp. A soldier in this campaign and the battle, under Juan Godíñez, Alonso Lopez de la Raigada, refers to Lautaro's 1556 fortress as "Peteroa" and the camp where Lautaro was killed as "Mataquito" and also refers to "Peteroa" and "Mataquito" as separate places (Medina, Colección de documentos inéditos, Información de senidos de Alonso López de la Eaigada). Lobera does not give a place name to the location of the 1556 fortress. He does call the place of the 1557 battle he took part in as being at the "lugar de Mataquito"; Capítulo LV. Marmolejo gives no place names to the location. A place along the north shore of the Mataquito River near the foot of the Cerro Chiripilco northeast of the town of La Huerta in Hualañé is believed to be the location of this camp and a monument was put up commemorating it.
  8. Diego de Rosales, Historia de Chile, Cap. X, calls him Chillican
  9. Lobera, Cap. LV
  10. Rosales, Historia General, Cap. X.
  11. Lobera, Chapter LV
  12. Vivar, Crónica, CXXIX
  13. Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de Chile, Vols. 6–7, IV. Información de senidos de Alonso López de la Eaigada, vecino de la ciudad de Santiago de Chile.
  14. See note 5
  15. Lobera, Chap. LV


Of these sources Pedro Mariño de Lobera and Alonso López de la Eaigada participated in the battle. While Jerónimo de Vivar and Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo were both living in Chile at the time, Vivar was in Santiago compiling his history, Marmolejo was in the south. Diego de Rosales wrote about one hundred years after the battle, Vicente Carvallo y Goyeneche over two hundred years later.

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