Destruction of the Seven Cities

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Settlements of the Conquistadores before the Destruction of the Seven Cities

The Destruction of the Seven Cities (Spanish: Destrucción de las siete ciudades) is a term used in Chilean historiography to refer to the destruction or abandonment of seven major Spanish outposts in southern Chile around 1600 caused by the Mapuche and Huilliche uprising of 1598. The Destruction of the Seven Cities is one of the events that mark the end of the Conquest period and the beginning of the proper colonial period.

The revolt was triggered following the news of the Disaster of Curalaba on 23 December 1598, where the vice toqui Pelantaru and his lieutenants, Anganamon and Guaiquimilla, with three hundred men ambushed and killed the Spanish governor Martín García Óñez de Loyola and nearly all his companions.

Over the next few years, the Mapuche were able to destroy or force the abandonment of many cities and minor settlements including all the seven Spanish cities in Mapuche territory south of the Biobío River: Santa Cruz de Coya (1599), Santa María la Blanca de Valdivia (1599, reoccupied in 1602 and abandoned again in 1604), San Andrés de Los Infantes (1599), La Imperial (1600), Santa María Magdalena de Villa Rica (1602), San Mateo de Osorno (1603), and San Felipe de Araucan (1604).

Impact on the Spanish possessions

The collapse of the Spanish cities in the south following the battle of Curalaba (1598) meant for the Spaniards the loss of both the main gold districts and the largest indigenous labour sources.[1] After those dramatic years the colony of Chile became concentrated in the central valley which became increasingly populated, explored and economically exploited.[2]

The abandoned city of Valdivia turned into an attractive site for Spain's enemies to control since it would allow them to establish a base amidst Spain's Chilean possessions.[3] Recognizing this situation the Spanish attempted to reoccupy Valdivia in the 1630s but were thwarted by hostile Mapuches.[4] The Dutch briefly occupied Valdivia in 1643.[3] Having been told that the Dutch had plans to return to the location, the Spanish viceroy in Peru sent 1000 men in twenty ships (and 2000 men by land, who never made it) in 1644 to resettle Valdivia and fortify it.[5][6]


  1. Salazar & Pinto 2002, p. 15.
  2. Villalobos et al. 1974, pp. 160-165.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Valdivia colonial (1552–1820)". Memoria chilena (in Spanish). Biblioteca Nacional de Chile. Retrieved September 30, 2014.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Bengoa 2003, pp. 450–451.
  5. Robbert Kock The Dutch in Chili at
  6. Kris E. Lane Pillaging the Empire: Piracy in the Americas, 1500-1750, 1998, pages 88-92