In a relatively short period of time the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the three most powerful cultures in the Western Hemisphere. They defeated empires in Mexico, Peru, and Bogota, Columbia without a great deal of resistance. Most historians attribute this to the advantages of Spanish steel and Spanish horses. However, one culture, the Araucanians of Chile put up a fierce resistance like no other, and they were never conquered.
The Spanish started their conquest of Araucanian, Chile, when Pedro de Valdavia and his men built a fort in 1550 in the heart of their ancestoral lands. The Spanish named the town Concepcion, and soon afterward they began finding gold nuggets the size of almond nuts. At this point, Valdavia who was excited about the gold discovery, laid claim to the finest lands in the area. He also laid claim to all of the people that lived within the boundaries of his new princely estate. Valdavia was only interested in the immediate expansion of his mining operations. He elected to do this with forced slave labor and the enslavement of the people that lived within the boundaries of his new estate. It didn't take long for the Araucanians and their friends to tire of Pedro de Valdavia. The Araucaniand decided to set a trap for him. Pedro was subsequently killed and eaten in a ritual celebration.
Soon, the Araucanians set traps everywhere, and they lured the Spanish into ambushes. At the same time, they chose battle sites where a horse would be difficult to manage. The Araucanians made snares, and dug pits and trenches that were lined in sharp stakes that would kill both rider and horse. They believed that if they were going to be successful then they needed to get the Spaniards off of their horses. The Araucanians knew that a Spanish horsemen who was loaded down in armor couldn't move very quickly, and in the thick forest undergrowth he didn't stand a chance on foot. Gradually, through the spoils of war and raids on Spanish ranches, the Araucanians began to assemble a vast supply of horses. Now the animal they all once feared was now their greatest asset.
During the summer harvests, and much of winter both sides stopped fighting. However, both sides utilized spies. At least 60 Spaniards deserted and went over to the Arauacanian side. These deserters taught them things like gun repair, gunpowder manufacturing, and military strategies. They were also were aided by alliances with other nearby tribes. The Araucanians hated the Spaniards so much that speaking about peace with the Spaniards was punished by immediate death.
It is believed that the Araucanians never ate human flesh until they were invaded by the Spaniards. After Pedro de Valdivia stole their lands and forced them into slavery they began eating the Spaniards on a regular basis during their religious ceremonies. Sometimes they crucified them on large crosses before roasting them and eating them. They did this largely because they knew that the Spanish Christians were disgusted by cannibalism. When the Spaniards replaced the deceased Governor Valdavia with Governor Garcia Hurtado de Mendoza, the great Araucanian Chief Caupolican told him that he had eaten the previous governor and he would do the same to him. Over 29,000 Spanish soldiers died during the next 190 years trying to subjugate the Araucanians.