Marcelo Sánchez Delgado is Professor of History at the University of Chile. He is also co-editor of El bulevar de los pobres: racismo científico, higiene and eugenesia en Chile e Iberoamérica, siglos XIX and XX.
This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.
The Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia arrived in the Mapocho River valley in 1541, and in view of the abundance of water and the auspiciousness of the large indigenous population, he decided to found the city of Santiago del Nuevo Extremo there. Since his ambition was to reach the Strait of Magellan, he established numerous forts to the south of the territory. In 1556, in the forts of Valdivia and Nueva Imperial, the first epidemic outbreak in the Captaincy General of Chile was recorded. The images left to us by the chronicler Alonso de Góngora y Marmolejo of that first epidemic are heartbreaking; “where there were a million Indians, there were not six thousand left”, he recounts.
Between that first epidemic and the current global COVID-19 pandemic, there is a tragic experience of suffering and death in Chile, as well as efforts to contain and overcome the ravages of the epidemic.
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