Martín García Óñez de Loyola

Martín García Óñez de Loyola
Martín García Óñez de Loyola
Royal Governor of Chile
In office
Monarch Philip II
Preceded by Pedro de Viscarra de la Barrera
Succeeded by Pedro de Viscarra de la Barrera
Personal details
Born c. 1549
Azpeitia, Guipuscoa, Spain
Died December 24, 1598
Curalava, Chile
Spouse(s) Beatriz Clara Coya
Religion Catholic

Don Martín García Óñez de Loyola (1549 in Azpeitia, Guipúzcoa – December 24, 1598 at Curalava) was a Spanish Basque soldier and Royal Governor of Chile.


Early life

When he was young, arrived in Peru in the year 1568, at the side of the new viceroy Francisco de Toledo, Count of Oropesa, in the capacity of captain of the guard. In 1572, during the military expedition against Tupac Amaru--the last descendant of the Incas who resisted foreign domination - Oñez de Loyola lead a brilliant action, leading an advance column which fell upon the camp of the Inca and captured him.

For this great feat, he gained the rank of corregidor in a number of Peruvian towns, entitling him to their goods and labor. He was also rewarded with a wife, a member of the royal Incan house and niece of Tupac Amaru. She was baptized with the Christian name Beatriz Clara Coya.

With these recommendations, the king named him governor of Paraguay in 1592. However, just before he was to assume this position, Philip II designated him Royal Governor of Chile, as he was considered the officer most apt to finish the War of Arauco.

Governor of Chile

Alonso de Ovalle's 1646 engraving of Quiñones, Oñez de Loyola and Viscarra

Oñez de Loyola arrived in Chile on September 23, 1592. He was determined to pacify the Arauco, and to further this end he immediately set out for Concepción at the head of 110 troops which he had met at the capital. However, he realized that such scarce resources he would not be able to achieve his objective, and he requested reinforcements from Peru.

The appearance of the British pirate Richard Hawkins, however, alarmed the authorities in Peru, and their reinforcements were recalled for the defense of Peru itself. Hawkins also attacked Chile during his campaigns, assaulting Valparaiso, for example. There, he captured a ship, but because of the limited capacity of his ship, he only took the things he needed and let the captured sailors go free.

The governor did not receive the requested soldiers, but members of the Jesuit and Augustinian orders did arrive. The first would have great importance for later events in the colonization of Chile, until they were eventually expelled.

The governor decided that he could not wait any more, and in 1594 he began a campaign to the south with the small contingent that he had put together. He founded a fort Santa Cruz de Oñez in May of 1594, near the confluence of the Bio-Bio and Laja Rivers in Catiray, where gold mines were located on the Rele River. The fort was elevated to the rank of city in 1595 giving it the name of Santa Cruz de Coya.

Three years later a group of 140 reinforcements arrived, but they were not enough. The lack of reinforcements was not the fault of the viceroy—who offered generous inducements to join the army—but rather the name of Chile, which had become so stained by the interminable conflict that no one wanted to risk their lives going to such a hell.


The governor was in La Imperial when the news arrived that the Mapuches had renewed their attacks against Angol. In order to reinforce this point, he set out with 50 men on December 21, 1598. On the second day of the march they arrived at a place called Curalava (the broken rock), on the banks of the Lumaco River, where they rested without taking any precautions against attack. In the nights of the 23rd and 24th the Indians approached the camp, and with shouts and the sound of horns they attacked the Spanish.

Oñez de Loyola and a pair of soldiers at his side fought very valiantly, but finally succumbed to the spears of the Indians. In the melee almost all the Spaniards died, save a cleric named Bartolomé Pérez, who was taken prisoner, and a soldier named Bernardo de Pereda, who received 23 wounds on his body and was left for dead, but who improbably survived.

The Mapuches then initiated a general rising which destroyed all the cities south of the Biobío River. They kept the head of Oñez de Loyola, giving it back years later to the governor Alonso García de Ramón.

Additional information

See also



Government offices
Preceded by
Pedro de Viscarra
Royal Governor of Chile
Succeeded by
Pedro de Viscarra

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