The Warrior with the Sword Hands — The Story of Galvarino,
During the 16th century Spain came to dominate over Central and South America, having conquered the might Aztec and Inca Empires. In 1557 the Spanish turned their eye towards dominating the Mapuche people of the Southern Chile. With a force of 700 Spaniards and 4,000 native auxiliaries the Spanish met the Mapuche in battle at Lagunillas on November 8th. Despite being outnumbered, the Spanish quickly defeated the Mapuche army due to superior weapons such a cannon, musket, crossbows, steel swords, and steel armor. Typical of the cruelty of the Spanish conquistadors, the commander of the expedition, Governor Garcia Mendoza ordered captured prisoners to suffer a terrible punishment. Many had their noses cut off, others had their right hand cut off. One Mapuche warrior known as Galvarino had both hand chopped off. The Spanish set the prisoners loose, believing that the horrors they committed would frighten the Mapuche into surrender.
Rather than surrender, the Mapuche were enraged. One warrior, Galvarino, was particularly incensed, holding up his severed arms for all to see. He demanded revenge against the Spanish and called for war. He was personally made commander of an army by the Mapuche war council. To make up for his lack of hands, Galvarino ordered blades to be tied to the stubs of his arms.
On November 30th, 1557 Galvarino and 3,000 warriors ambushed Mendozza and his army. At the head of attack was Galvarino, hacking and slashing with his sword hands in the fierce battle. The fight lasted for almost two hours, but despite outnumbering the enemy and catching them by surprise, the superior technology of the Spanish made the battle a futile effort. The Spaniards crushed the Mapuche army, taking over 800 prisoners including Galvarino. All were executed.
The Spanish conquered the Mapuche, but their victory would be short lived. Using Galvarino as a martyr, the Mapuche revolted four years later and ejected the Spanish after a bloody guerrilla war. The Mapuche managed to defend their sovereignty until they were conquered and occupied by Chile in the mid 19th century. Today Galvarino is still upheld as a symbol by those who advocate for indigenous rights in Chile.
On august 1st, 2017, Santiago Maldonado a.k.a el Brujo, was taken by argentinian police after a very violent attempt at evicting lands occupied by mapuche community, who have been fighting since 2015 to reclaim territory taken by italian businessman Luciano Bennetton. This was the last time anyone saw him, until yesterday (Oct. 17) where his body was found only 300 meters from where he was last seen, tangled in the roots of a tree growing in the Chubut, a river that crosses the territory. It seems clear to us that most likely his body was placed there by those that killed him, the argentinian police, since the area had already been searched at least three times, and also because of how unlikely it is for a body to travel 300 meters upstream.
Members of the community saw them take Santiago into a police car. He did not drown there. The argentinian police are one of the most corrupt ones on this side of the world. They will not hesitate when shooting the communities to defend the interests of “powerful”, rich people. They will not hesitate to kill and dissapear anyone to silence those who scream the truth. But the people are not afraid. They would rather be taken out dead than submit to those who don’t care about the land. They will continue to fight just like they have been doing for centuries. They will continue to make use of any means of self defense against the bullets of the oppressors. They are not afraid and they will not back down.
Brujo, now we know with certainty that we will never hear your voice make bad jokes again, that we will never again share warm mate in the kitchen and that your eyes will never again see the beauty of the struggle to reclaim the land. As horrifying as this is, if it’s your body they found, at least we won’t stay awake at night wondering if they are still torturing you.
“When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money”
Marichiwew pu peñi pu lamgen! Ten times we will overcome!