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Chapter 21

This webpage reproduces part of
History of Chile

Luis Galdames

translated and edited by Isaac Joslin Cox
Russell & Russell
New York 1964

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Biographies: B

 p441  Biographical Notes
(beginning: A)

In preparing the sketches that follow, the editor and translator found Virgilio Figueroa's Diccionario histórico y biográfico de Chile peculiarly useful. It covers much the same ground and largely supersedes the older work of Pedro Pablo Figueroa, Diccionario biográfico de Chile. P. P. Figueroa is not a relative of Virgilio. Both writers are charged with numerous minor errors and often show a partisan bias, but they give us details that can be found nowhere else. An attempt has been made to check their accounts with those of other writers but in many cases, particularly for recent events, their statements have had to be accepted in lieu of more authoritative ones. For the colonial period the scholar­ly work of José Toribio Medina, Diccionario biográfico colonial de Chile, is essential. All three of these compilations have been supplemented by José Espasa's Enciclopedia universal ilustrada, Europeo-Americana.

In order to simplify the references to these three authorities, the editor has adopted the following abbreviations: Espasa, "E"; Figueroa, "F"; Medina, "M." Because of his numerous references to Historia jeneral de Chile (see p354) of Diego Barros Arana, he has also made use of the initial "B" for that writer. Use has also been made of Who's Who in Latin America, edited by Percy Alvin Martin (Stanford, 1935). All other references in the Biographical Notes are given in full.

José Fernando Abascal y Souza (1743‑1827), Marqués de la Concordia, a native of Oviedo, entered the army in 1762, fought in Morocco and at Roussillon,º and became a general in the war against France, 1793‑1795. In 1804, after service in Cuba and Mexico, he was appointed viceroy of Peru. Captured by the English while on his way to that post, he eventually escaped and assumed command there. During the invasion of Spain by Napoleon's forces, he exerted himself to send supplies and munitions to the mother country. He introduced many reforms in the viceroyalty, such as establishing schools and abolishing the Inquisition, and especially strove to maintain harmonious relations between the Spaniards and Creoles — hence his title. After the revolutionary outbreak in Buenos Aires on May 25, 1810, he proceeded to incorporate the neighboring provinces of Córdoba, Potosí, La Paz, and Charcas with his viceroyalty. He formed within his jurisdiction a royalist party that did much to suppress insurrection. Nevertheless, Ferdinand VII replaced him in 1816 with his subordinate, Palezuela. — EI, 181.

 p442  Antonio de Acuña y Cabrera (d. 1662) had seen military service in Piedmont and Lombardy before coming to Peru, where he enjoyed some prestige through the influence of his relatives rather than through his own merits. Appointed to the presidency of Chile by the viceroy of Peru, he took possession of the office in May, 1650, and his appointment was confirmed by the sovereign some two years later. His term of office was then extended to eight years, but he was deposed on February 20, 1655, as shown in the text. Although he was ordered back to his post by the audiencia in Santiago, the viceroy summoned him to Peru and sent four hundred soldiers to enforce the order. In Lima, through family influence, he escaped the consequences of his folly, but died in that city. — M, p11.

Francisco de Aguirre (ca. 1507‑1580?) was born in Talavera de la Reina and first saw military service in Italy, being present at the sack of Rome in 1527. Arriving in Peru about 1536, he fought against Almagro. He campaigned in Upper Peru with Gonzalo Pizarro and Diego de Rojas, accompanied Valdivia to Chile, filled various municipal offices in Santiago, and, reoccupying the valley of Coquimbo, first settled by Juan Bohón, established there the city of La Serena. Furthermore, he was designated by Valdivia as lieutenant-governor and in that capacity began to dispute with another Spaniard, Juan Núñez del Prado, for possession of the city of El Barco, east of the Andes, where he founded Santiago del Estero. While engaged in subduing the neighboring Indians, he learned of the death of Valdivia and recrossed the Andes to assume the government of the province. Recognized as governor in the north, he found himself opposed by Francisco de Villagra, who obtained equal recognition in the south. Ultimately both claimants were taken prisoner and banished to Lima by Hurtado de Mendoza. In 1569 Aguirre became governor of Tucumán but, owing to charges brought by his enemies before the Inquisition, he retired to La Serena where he died. — EIII, 647; M, pp18‑30.

Pedro Aguirre Cerda (1879‑1941),​a born in Los Andes, was educated in the local schools and in the Liceo of San Felipe. In 1897 he entered the Instituto pedagógico where he prepared himself to teach Spanish, at the same time taking up the study of law in the National University. He received his title as advocate in 1904, when professor of Spanish in the National Institute. In 1910 he went to Europe to study public finance and pedagogy and on his return took an active part in educational and financial reform. He became deputy for his native town of Los Andes, was minister of justice and public instruction in 1918, assisted in organizing Alessandri's campaign for the presidency, served as minister of the interior in three of Alessandri's cabinets and as  p443 senator from Concepción, and shared Alessandri's exile. He is justly famed for his eloquence, his mental energy, his skill in political manipulation, and his social outlook. Later as president of the radical party he favored a liberal progressive policy rather than a radical one. A successful lawyer and man of business, proprietor of a considerable estate, and a skillful party leader, he was made president in 1938 by the Popular front. — FI, 186‑192.

[image ALT: A photograph of a man of about forty years old, with a pencil-style moustache. It is the Chilean politician Pedro Aguirre Cerda.]

Pedro Aguirre Cerda, present chief executive, important educational leader.

Courtesy Sr. Alberto Cabero, Ambassador of Chile to the United States.

Thayer's Note: In the print edition, this photo accompanies those of Arturo Alessandri and José Manuel Balmaceda; together the three photos are additionally captioned

Leading executives of the last six decades.

Manuel de Alday y Axpe (1712‑1788) was born in Concepción. He earlier studies were carried on in his native city at the seminary of San José. He obtained his doctorate in both theology and jurisprudence at the University of San Marcos in Lima in 1739. Nominated by the king as bishop of Santiago on September 8, 1753, he took possession of his office on August 24, 1755, amid universal expressions of satisfaction. He fulfilled his duties with "notable moderation, prudence, and virtue." He presided over a diocesan synod at Santiago in 1763, twice visited all portions of his province, and issued to the faithful therein notable pastoral letters. His most significant task was the rebuilding of the Cathedral of Santiago, to which he contributed from his private fortune. — M, pp43‑44; Vicente Carvallo y Goyeneche, Descripción histórico-jeográfica del reino de Chile, in "Colección de historiadores de Chile," Vol. IX, chap. xcii.

Juan de Dios Aldea (1853‑1879) was the son of a schoolmaster residing in Chillán. He received some education in the Franciscan school of his native city, entered the marine artillery when still very young, and by his industry and good conduct had become second sergeant at the time of his glorious death. He was buried along with his fellow heroes in Iquique, where their remains were later identified and transferred to Valparaiso. In that city a worthy monument commemorates their valor. — FI, 302‑304.

Jerónimo de Alderete y Mercado (1518‑1556) was a native of Olmedo. He arrived in Peru in 1535 and gained his first experience in fighting the Indians of Upper Peru. Joining Valdivia in northern Chile, he took part in the founding of Santiago and was selected as one of the first regidores of that city. His survey of the coast to the Biobío, his campaigns against the Indians and against Gonzalo Pizarro, and his part in the founding of cities led Valdivia to regard him as one of his best officers. He was given a substantial encomienda and was selected by that leader to report conditions in Chile at the Spanish court. Alderete had to journey to England, where Philip II was then sojourning with his wife, Queen Mary. His report, backed up a substantial supply of Chilean gold, produced a good impression on the Spanish ministers, and, when they learned of Valdivia's death, Alderete was appointed governor  p444 of Chile. He was destined never to fill the office, for while on his way back he died at the island of Tobago near Panama — of fever, according to one account; of injuries received from a fire on shipboard, which drove him insane, according to another. — EIV, 352; M, pp44‑49.

Arturo Alessandri Palma (1868‑ ) was born in Linares, educated in the colegio of the French fathers, and obtained his license as advocate in 1893. His law thesis dealt with a social subject. He became prominent among the young men of the liberal party, assisted in the candidacy of the younger Errázuriz, became deputy in 1897, and in the following year was minister of industry and public works. In 1918 he was in charge of the treasury and for a time in 1918 held the ministry of the interior, a position which enabled him to begin his own campaign for the presidency. Early recognized as an incomparable orator, he distinguished himself in the speech he pronounced before the Argentine congress at the centennial celebration of 1910 and again in 1915 at the inauguration of the railroad from Arica to La Paz. In addition, during these earlier years, he served as attorney for foreign and domestic corporations and was looked upon as a sort of liberal conservative, although displaying on occasion interest in measures of social welfare.

Urged on by his presidential aspirations, Alessandri, as the election year of 1920 approached, completely changed his political philosophy. Voicing popular discontent at existing economic and social conditions, he inaugurated a whirlwind campaign which at the close resulted in a disputed election. This election was resolved by the appointment of a tribunal of honor which determined that, while frauds were committed on both sides, fewer marked the course of Alessandri's followers, and hence they awarded him the presidency over his competitor, Luis Barros Borgoño. The events of his troubled administration are detailed in the text. His withdrawal from the presidency, his exile, and his triumphant return in 1925 paved the way for the constitution of that year, a document on which Alessandri exerted great influence. Failing to complete his term in office because of the dispute over his successor, Alessandri remained in the country for a time as a private but influential citizen, as was shown by his speech on the Tacna-Arica question in July, 1926. Suffering exile under Ibáñez, he returned after 1931 and in the following year was triumphantly reëlected president, an office which he held until the end of his constitutional period in 1938. — FI, 350‑365.

[image ALT: A photograph of a man in his late middle age, with a beard and a moustache, and wearing glasses. It is the Chilean politician Arturo Alessandri.]

Arturo Alessandri, president, 1920‑1925, 1932‑1938, popular leader, and later restorer of presidential power.

Courtesy Instituto de Cinematografía Educativa, Universidad de Chile.

Thayer's Note: In the print edition, this photo accompanies those of Pedro Aguirre Cerda and José Manuel Balmaceda; together the three photos are additionally captioned

Leading executives of the last six decades.

Diego de Almagro (1475‑1538) was supposedly an abandoned infant found in Almagro, a small town near Ciudad Real. He is reported to have passed some time in the Spanish army and then to have fled from Spain because he had killed a man. In Panama he became so intimate with Pizarro that the historian Oviedo characterizes the twain as "one  p445 soul with two bodies." If so, it was an unlettered friendship in which Almagro's more trustful nature was no match for the other. He lost an eye in the first attempt of the two against Peru and drew only the position of commandant at Túmbez, with a modest salary, in the grant which Pizarro obtained at court. It needed all the tact and persuasion of Fernando de Luque to keep these untutored soul mates from blows. Nor did the presence of Pizarro's half brothers, particularly Hernando, prove agreeable to the overreached Almagro. For the time being they patched up their friendship. Almagro shared in the spoil guilefully won from Atahualpa, although taking no part in the Inca's capture and betrayal, and later helped in persuading Alvarado to desist from his projected conquest of Quito and leave the field to the Pizarros and himself. Almagro's part in the first expedition to Chile and in the bloody strife around Cuzco is described in the text. He left a son, child of an Indian woman of Panama, who avenged his father's death by devising the assassination of Francisco Pizarro. Later, after being defeated at Chupas, the younger Almagro met death at the hands of the hangman who had executed his father. — Manuel de Mendiburu, Diccionario histórico-biográfico del Perú (8 vols. Lima, 1874‑1890), I, 102‑166; EIV, 787.

Luis Altamirano Aracena (1836‑1905) was born in San Felipe, educated in the National Institute, and obtained his degree as advocate in 1860. After acquiring prestige as a lawyer, he entered politics. In 1870 he became minister of justice, worship, and public instruction under Pérez and continued in office under Errázuriz as minister of the interior — a post held by him during the entire administration. He held other cabinet posts during succeeding administrations and was also a deputy or senator from Concepción, serving likewise on the comisión conservadora as counselor of state and as intendant of Vaparaiso. During the War of the Pacific, he was special envoy in the conferences at Arica (see p333) and later fought in the battles before Lima. He opposed the administration of Balmaceda and in his later years held subordinate judicial positions. — EIV, 953, FI, 401‑403.

Luis Altamirano Talavera (?‑?) had a military career dating from the Civil War of 1891 upon which he entered as a captain. Afterward he passed through the usual military grades and took part in various commissions to Europe and other American countries and was lieutenant general at the beginning of the revolutionary movement in 1924. Elevated by the discontented militarists to the junta which replaced President Alessandri, he headed that body until the following January when a second military overturn sent him into private life. Altamirano was supposedly becoming too partial to the aristocratic element and unmindful of his duty to the group that had brought him to political  p446 distinction. His high character and patriotic action together with his long and honorable service saved him from becoming a sacrifice to the second military revolution. — FI, 403‑406.

Manuel de Amat y Junient (1704‑1790) was the second son of the Marqués de Castebell, member of a family of considerable repute for learning. After lengthy military service in Spain, Italy, and Africa, during which he gained knighthood in the Order of St. John and the rank of field marshal, he was appointed governor and captain-general of Chile in 1754. Intelligent and energetic in fulfilling his duties, he affected to believe the appointment below his merits and displayed little sympathy toward those he governed. Nevertheless his career in Chile led to promotion in 1761 to the viceroyalty of Peru. The creation of a police force for Santiago was due to a mutiny among the city prisoners which he in person repressed with severity. — BVI, 195‑218; M, pp73‑74.

Miguel Luis Amunátegui Aldunate (1828‑1888) was born in Santiago and received his first instruction from his parents. The early death of his father forced him to help in the support of the family, while pursuing his course at the National Institute. Entering his alma mater at the age of fourteen, he distinguished himself as a student, tutored others for examinations, and at the age of nineteen, through special dispensation and the influence of his constant mentor, Andrés Bello, received the chair of humanities in the institute. The salary from this position, supplemented by his income from private classes, enabled him to support his mother and sister and educate his two borders. He was aided in these family tasks by Don Gregorio Víctor (1830‑1898), and this association in early privation and training made the two brothers inseparable companions. Don Miguel Luis entered journalism and public office in 1848 and at the same time joined the liberal party. In addition to their joint historical work, Miguel Luis essayed various biographies and in 1853 presented to the ministry an important memoir upon the right of Chile to the Strait of Magellan, to be followed shortly by La dictatura de O'Higgins. Thenceforward he continued his active political and administrative career, of which the pages of the present work bear frequent witness. The high spots of his career were his service as minister of the interior in 1868 and as unsuccessful candidate for the presidential nomination in 1875 (see pp313 and 320). In 1857 he published an important memoir on public instruction in Chile and as minister of public instruction under Pinto opened professional instruction in the University of Chile to women. Had he survived, his moderating tendencies might have made him the presidential candidate of 1891 and thus have prevented the civil strife of that year.

Miguel Luis was the more prominent of the two brothers, but Gregorio  p447 Víctor, modest and retiring, was his silent helper in many activities for which the other derives credit. The latter likewise engaged in newspaper work and after 1862 published important biographies and studies of the colonial period under his own name. From 1868 on, he devoted himself to a judicial career, including member­ship in the court of appeals in 1875 and in the supreme court in 1889. At the same time he collaborated with his brother until the latter's death. A statue to the two brothers in Santiago fittingly commemorates their public career. — FI, 478‑482. For a critical study of the elder Amunátegui's work see Cruz, Estudios sobre la literature chilena, I, 215‑285. See also C. Norla Vicuña, Don Luis Amunátegui (1828‑1888) (Paris, 1889?). Of the volumes mentioned (p353), El descubrimiento appeared in 1862; and Los precursores, in 1870‑1872.

[image ALT: A photograph of a statue of two men in their middle age: the one on the viewer's left stands with his left arm on the shoulder of the other man, who is seated. They are the Chilean historians Miguel Luis and Gregorio Victor Amunátegui.]

Miguel Luis Amunátegui (standing), prominent historian, minister of state, leading liberal politician and educator; Gregorio Victor Amunátegui, physician and writer, always associated with his brother.

Courtesy Instituto de Cinematografía Educativa, Universidad de Chile.

Thayer's Note: In the print edition, this photo accompanies those of José Toribio Medina, Diego Barros Arana, and Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna; together the four photos are additionally captioned

Chilean historians.

Domingo Amunátegui Solar (1860‑ ), born in Santiago, was the son of Don Miguel Luis Amunátegui. He was educated in the National Institute and the National University and became an advocate in 1881. In 1887 he became subsecretary of justice and in 1889, professor of constitutional law in the Pedagogical Institute, professor of history in the National Institute, and dean of the faculty of humanities. He has served in several ministries from 1907 to date, was twice rector of the university, and has been honored by member­ship in learned societies at home and abroad. In addition to numerous articles of a political and educational character, he has contributed important studies upon the literary, political, and social conditions of Chile, especially during the colonial epoch. His Historia de Chile, a school text, appeared in 1933. — FI, 490‑491.

George Anson (1697‑1762) entered the British navy in 1712. From June to November in 1741 he was on the coast of South America. In 1739 Anson was appointed commodore of a fleet to sail to the Pacific. Setting out on September 18, 1740 in six ill-fitted and ill-manned vessels, the expedition rounded Cape Horn. In spite of the loss of three of these ships, they captured the Philippine galleon. He returned in the Centurion by way of the Cape of Good Hope on June 15, 1744, bringing a treasure worth £500,000. He was then appointed a member of the admiralty and was influential in securing the passage of several naval construction bills in parliament. He became an admiral two years prior to his death. — Dictionary of National Biography (London, 1885‑ ), II, 31‑36. For an account of his expedition see the work written by his companion, Richard Walter, A Voyage Round the World (London, 1748). The latest biography was written by M. V. Anson, Life of Admiral Anson (London, 1912).

José Gregorio Argomedo Montero (1767‑1830) was born in San  p448 Fernando. During the colonial period, he occupied minor municipal posts, and after the deposition of García Carrasco became secretary of the general government, minister of the court of appeals, councilor of state, member of congress, vice-president and president of the supreme court, and rector of the University of San Felipe. After joining the revolution of 1810, he proposed the calling of a general American congress in which all nations of the new world were to have representation. He edited the most important documents of the revolution. — FI, 573‑576.

Virginio Árias Cruz (1855‑ ) was born in Ranquil, near Concepción. Son of a modest farmer, who died when Virginio was eight years old, the future sculptor owed much of his inspiration to his mother and his early training to practical work in ornamenting and repairing churches. He later joined a class in sculpture at the University of Chile and accompanied his instructor, Nicanor Plaza, to Paris. In 1875 he was admitted to the salon of that city and to the School of Fine Arts. In 1882 he gained recognition with his statue "El roto chileno," and thereafter frequently received honorable mention or medals at Paris, at Buffalo, and in Chile. In 1900 he became director of the Escuela de bellas artes in Santiago, and during his term as director reorganized its curriculum. His list of works includes statues of the leading public men of Chile, some of whose figures ornament the plazas of Santiago, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the National Library. The monument to Baquedano is a notable example of his recent work. — FI, 578‑581.

Justo Arteaga Alemparte (1834‑1882) and Domingo Arteaga Alemparte (1835‑1880) were both born in Concepción, the sons of Justo Arteaga Cuevas, a notable Chilean general — FI, 626‑628. He pursued studies in the National Institute, where they came under the influence of the notable journalist, Manuel Blanco Cuartín, who was also their French teacher. Both derived from this early training many characteristics of style, which later appear in their writings — exact and striking phrasing, good taste, robust expression. They inherited the fighting instinct but they fought with the pen and not the sword and they fought fairly and with grace. Their daily contributions to the press form meritorious literary products and at the same time afford charming sketches of noteworthy contemporaries. — FI, 623‑625.

Justo Arteaga early entered journalism in a goodly company, speedily proving its most conspicuous exemplar. Prone to ally himself with the opposition, he accomplished more for liberal ideas by his sketches and editorials than did thousands of speeches uttered in congress yet he "never soiled his gloves, when he grasped the axe. He alone knew how to wound with courtesy." His brother was more of the poet  p449 than was Justo, but on occasion could himself wield a facile editorial pen. Often the two worked together and the careful critic frequently finds himself at a loss to determine the part of each in their joint productions.

The early works of Justo appeared in El País, La actualidad, and La discusión. Later during two considerable periods he wrote for El ferrocarril and still later for Los tiempos. His brother spent the years from 1851 to 1857 in exile with their father, learned through necessity something of business, wrote his early poems, and on his return to Chile joined his brother in publishing a short-lived but provocative paper, La semana. Domingo, for some years after 1860, headed a section of the foreign office. The two were also associated after 1866 in bringing out La libertad, a paper which just suited their genius. At the same time they published numerous political pamphlets and likewise held seats in congress. In 1870 appeared their most significant joint product, Los constituyentes chilenos de 1870. The edition edited by Robert Huneeus (Santiago, 1910) proved extremely useful for the notes of the present volume. Both died prematurely but left behind a flattering legacy of prose and poesy for the enrichment of Chilean literature. See the introductory sketch by Robert Huneeus in Los constituyentes chilenos de 1870, pp. vii‑lxii. See also FI, 623‑625.

Atahualpa (d. 1533), the fourteenth and last of the Inca rulers of Peru, was the illegitimate son of Huaina Capac, greatest of the Inca line. His father divided his conquests, leaving the southern portion to Huascar and the northern portion with headquarters at Quito to Atahualpa. Dissatisfied with this division, the latter had fought with and captured and imprisoned his half brother shortly before Pizarro landed to begin his conquest. The usual story that Atahualpa was betrayed and captured at the famous parley near Cajamarca, through the device of proffering a copy of the Bible for his consideration, is matched by another to the effect that Pizarro, foreseeing an attempt on the part of the Inca to entrap him, simply arranged a more successful trap for the unlucky Atahualpa. This pretext for the captive ruler's death is simply in keeping with the bloody and treacherous tale of this conquest. — Mendiburu, op. cit., I, 370‑404; EVI, 840‑842.

Thayer's Note:

a The year of his death is filled in here from the photoillustrated biographical sketch at Memoria Chilena.

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Page updated: 26 Dec 14