The Native Chilean Who Fought With Blades For Hands

By Aaron Short on Sunday, October 27, 2013
78048651
“Eddie. The guys and I were talking, we’d like want to invite you to our card game on Friday night. Would you like that? Only thing is, you can’t cut!” —George, Edward Scissorhands (1990)

In A Nutshell

Galvarino was a Mapuche tribesman from Chile who was captured by Spanish conquistadors and had his hands amputated to teach a lesson to his people. However, upon returning to the Mapuche, he instead rallied them to attack the Spanish and joined them in battle with lances lashed to his bloody stumps.

The Whole Bushel

Every country has its William Wallace, a legendary doomed hero who rallies its people to fight impossible odds. For the Mapuche people of Chile and Argentina, that hero was Galvarino. When the Spanish were staking their hold upon the New World, they came across the Mapuche tribe some time in the 1500s. The Mapuche were the indigenous natives of Argentina and Chile who banded together in the face of the threat.

When Galvarino was captured by the Spanish, his fellow men were spared death to instead act as a living message. The Spanish removed one hand from everybody else, but when it came to Galvarino they chopped off his first hand . . . and then his second. Galvarino was incensed that they would issue what was effectively a cruel death sentence on a man—survival in the Amazon rain forest with no hands was not a likely possibility. When the Spanish sent him off, he swore bloody vengeance.

When Galvarino returned to his people, he showed them his mangled stumps, not as a warning to stand down, but as a reminder of the cruelty their enemy was capable off. He drove home the point that if they were allowed to get away with it, this sort of horror would continue. The Spanish plan had backfired. Instead of cowing the Mapuche into submission, they goaded them to action, marching with Galvarino in their ranks. Galvarino knew that losing his hands meant death, but he no longer cared. He had a lance lashed to each arm so that he could fight. Unfortunately, the battle was a slaughter. Every Mapuche was killed to a man, cut down by Spanish guns. Galvarino was captured and hanged. But Galvarino’s legend lived on as a fiery, blade-handed symbol of resistance.

Show Me The Proof

Culture and Customs of Chile, Guillermo I. Castillo-Feliu
Conspiracy In Mendoza, Dolores Luna Guinot
Language of the Land: The Mapuche in Argentina and Chile, Leslie Ray