Valdivia, Pedro de [key], c.1500–1554, Spanish conquistador, conqueror of Chile. One of Francisco Pizarro's best officers in the conquest of Peru, educated, energetic, somewhat less cruel and avaricious than his fellow conquerors, Valdivia obtained permission from Pizarro to subdue Chile. In Jan., 1540, he began his march south through the Atacama Desert, following the route used by his unfortunate predecessor, Diego de Almagro. Although Santiago was founded in 1541 and other settlements in the next few years, the colony was not prosperous; gold was scarce and the Araucanians warlike. To secure additional aid and confirm his claims to the conquered territory, Valdivia returned in 1547 to Peru, where he supported the viceroy, Pedro de la Gasca, against the rebellion of Gonzalo Pizarro. He received the title of governor of Chile and returned to his domain in 1549, continuing his march S to the Biobío River, where he founded Concepción, and farther S to Valdivia (1552). Ostensibly the conquest was complete. Toward the end of 1553, however, the Araucanians under Lautaro revolted. Valdivia, sallying forth with 40 men to stamp out the rebellion, was ambushed. As each successive wave of attackers was wiped out or beaten off, Lautaro sent another, until the entire company, including Valdivia, was massacred.
See biographies by R. B. C. Graham (1926, repr. 1973) and I. W. Vernon (1969); study by H. R. Pocock (1968).
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