Spanish war dogs

The Spanish use of dogs to hunt, kill and torture natives in the Indies is both attested to and illustrated by historians of the sixteenth century.  And, although I came across no written evidence that this practice made its way south to Chile, the fact that it might have does not stretch the imagination.  Hence, the Nuño Beltrán de Mendoza of my novel.

Most of my information having to do with Spanish war dogs and the dogging of natives derives from

Dogs of the Conquest, by John and Jeannette Varner.  51vAH8q8UYL._SL500_AA300_Nuño Beltrán de Mendoza is a slightly renamed version of the historical Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, about whom the authors write….

” …of noble blood, blond-haired, fair-skinned … in 1526 he assumed command in Pánuco, where he is said to have committed atrocities never before heard of in Nueva España.  Settlers who resisted him, he committed to death without trial; and on one occasion he nailed a Spaniard to a tree by his tongue because the man’s language had been impertinent….  

Readers of Arauco will recognize not only the general appearance of the dogger, but an inspiration for a scene in my novel….

Guzmán’s torture and execution of the native cacique, Tangaxoan, described by Pedro Gómez de San Benito in Arauco (slightly embelished, as was his wont), is depicted in an engraving from the time:

 And here, Balboa has natives accused of sodomy dogged:

Worse images exist, of meat markets where the cuts are human, which I will spare my reader.  But they are brought up by Pedro Gómez de San Benito in Arauco.

And, to conclude, here are some of they ways war dogs were armored….


The ruka of the Mapuche

In the sixteenth century, Mapuche lived in windowless thatched dwellings called ruka.  I doubt that these days any more Mapuche live in ruka than Lakota Sioux live in tipi, but they are still built here and there by Mapuche keeping ancient traditions alive.  Remarkably, these simple, quickly built dwellings, keep people dry in a very wet climate.

Here’s one from the lake district of Chile, erected at a place where indigenous crafts were sold….


And here’s another my wife and I came across by the side of the road, during our travels in southern Chile in 2007:

That same trip, we stayed in a campground run by Mapuche, where not only were we the only gringos … we were the only tent campers.  The other guests were Chilean; they were staying in a ruka.  And the Mapuche were in the process of building another ruka for future guests, so that we were fortunate enough to witness the process of construction.  Here’s the view from our tent….In the background is the ruka the chilenos were staying in.  In the foreground is the ruka being built.  And, in the immediate foreground, are some chickens.

Here are Mapuche at work, thatching the side:

And here’s the ruka, both sides thatched:


The roof structure:

Finally, some interiors…. First, one with a Mapuche loom.

A ruka roof (note the smoke hole).

And last, our young host at the Mapuche campground, Carlos, playing a trutruka for us.  Note the fire built in the middle of the ruka floor, by his feet.