Chile History During 16th-18th Centuries

By | December 1, 2021

The military situation was therefore certainly not such as to favor the peaceful flourishing of the colony. However, despite the continuous guerrillas and dangers, the colony prospered, although its budget was always a liability for Spain. The extraction of silver, which later assumed so much importance in the Chilean economy, was not taken care of by the conquerors, who were instead concerned with obtaining gold from the sands of the rivers: but it was an experiment carried out with difficulty. There were no arms for work: Indians were very scarce in Spanish territory; Negro slaves cost a lot. As early as 1628 the extraction of gold from rivers was abandoned. On the other hand, the extraction and export of copper became more profitable at the same time,

But the greatest wealth consisted of agriculture: hemp, cereals, wine, oil, fruit, which were also exported. Except that even in this field there was a lack of workforce: few Indians and Negroes, little white population, hence the commendations das, organized here as in the rest of Spanish America, they struggled to live. In 1630 the white population of Chile did not exceed 8000 souls: a small thing, due to an intense exploitation of the natural riches of that land. The population for the purposes of production was all the more scarce, as a considerable part was made up of ecclesiastics: out of the 8000 residents, about 950 belonged to the secular and regular clergy who then between inheritances, censuses and pensions increased their wealth, to the detriment of the economy general of the colony, causing the irritation of the laity. For Chile history, please check

Not that the clergy didn’t have his merits. The poor cultural life of the colony was the exclusive legacy of churchmen: from that Juan Blas, who had opened a school in 1578, where Latin grammar was taught, to the Dominicans, founders of another school of Latin (1591), to the Jesuits, who had raised the tone of teaching a little, with notions of philosophy and theology, to Father Luis de Valdivia, already mentioned, author of the Arte y gramática general de la lengua que corre en todo el reino de Chile. In addition to this the work of the missions for the conversion of the Indians: which, however, was, on the whole, poor in results, partly due to the permanent war, partly due to the scarce number of missionaries (and it was the case of the Jesuits), partly due to the lack of familiarity that others (the Franciscans) had of the indigenous language.

The social and racial differences in Chile were similar to those of the other South American colonies: on the one hand, that is, the immigrant Spaniards, the chapetones ; on the other the Creoles. Below, the Indians, the Mestizos and the Mulattos, although the latter were very rare. And how, like the other colonies, weighed heavily on the lower classes, especially the Indians, the yoke of the masters, of those encomenderos who, in order to make their land return, forgot any sense of humanity towards their subordinates, so also here was felt that contrast between Spaniards and Creoles that constituted the truest and most profound characteristic of Chilean life at that time. Having reserved the most important public offices for the former, the latter tried to step forward, to place themselves on the level of the others, buying titles from the Spanish Crown, while practically centralizing land ownership and thereby the fortune of the country in their own hands.

In such a colony, with the constant concern for the defense of the borders, it is well understood that the action of the government must have had very little repercussions in the development of civil life, even if they were not even negative. Organized as a governación, under the command of a governor, who was flanked, for judicial and administrative matters, by the audiencia, made up in turn of a regent and six judges; divided into the various municipalities, or cabildos, of the most important inhabited centers, Chile was subjected to the same general rules that applied to all the Spanish dominions (see Latin America: History). Hence, extremely restrictive rules for trade; and, as a backlash, the large-scale application of smuggling, sometimes favored by some governors eager to pledge their own cash.

However the colony progressed: more slowly in the first decades, with greater intensity from the end of the century. XVII. Some of it was the result of less harshness in relations with the Araucanians, of the succession of longer periods of respite; somewhat the result of general economic factors, such as, for example, the growing importance of livestock farming and the demand for Chilean wheat on the Peruvian squares, starting, it seems, from 1687.

Chile then became the Sicily of Peru: a French traveler observed that thirty ships loaded with grain had left the port of Valparaiso in the eight months of 1712-13; from Concepción also 8 to 10 vessels of 400-500 tons sailed annually, also of grain. Meanwhile, meats, fats and leathers were accumulated especially in the southern part of the colony, and from there they left for Peru and for distant regions. Commerce increased, and the population increased, reaching 100,000 souls in 1700, 120,000 in 1740, 260,000 in 1778; government revenues increased from 44,000 pesos in 1684 to 100,000 in the first half of the century. XVIII, to 500,000 in 1775, to 592,178 in 1788, almost equalizing, in the last year, the expenditure which amounted to 654,278 pesos. As you can see,

Even cultural life, although always contained within modest limits, given the prohibition systems that the government continued to impose, began a period of greatest flourishing. In 1747 it was decided to found a university in San Felipe, with chairs of grammar, philosophy, legislation, theology, canon law, mathematics and medicine: the courses, begun in 1756, were in the hands of the Jesuits until their expulsion from the country by the ministers of Charles III of Spain (1767).

Chile History During 16th-18th Centuries