Spain set out to conquer the world during the 16th century. Her ruthless, bloodthirsty troops ran roughshod over much of North, Central, and South America. The Spaniards toppled the Inca and Aztec empires, among others, then went after the Malpuche Indians of modern-day Chile. The Indians were fierce guerrilla fighters who gave the Spanish troops all they could handle on battlegrounds such as Lagunilla. Spain had too many men, and too many weapons, and killed or captured most of the opposition. Because the Malpuche put up such effective resistance, the Spaniards treated their captives in cruel, harsh ways as payback.
It was decreed that a certain ferocious Malpuche tribal war leader, Galvarino, and his men would each suffer the amputation of their right hand, and/or their nose. The Spanish plan was to return the men to their tribe and dissuade future resistance. They figured any warrior who lost a hand and a nose would also lose his fighting spirit, and that the resistance would crumble. The Spaniards did not know Galvarino, who vowed to keep his lands and his people free, no matter what.
Galvarino approached the chopping block in silence. The Spanish executioner brought down his sharp axe and amputated Galvarino’s right hand. Galvarino neither flinched nor cried out in pain. Instead, he placed his left hand on the block. The executioner complied, and cut off that hand, too. Galvarino next placed his head on the chopping block. He showed no emotion and his face registered no fear and no pain. The Spanish soldiers spared his head, and returned him to his tribe. Galvarino appeared to be a pitiful physical shell of his former fearsome self.
Appearances are deceiving. Instead of being cowed, intimidated, or discouraged by his fate, Galvarino became even more motivated to fight for freedom. Galvarino devised a way to affix short swords to his stumps and led a group of warriors in an attack against his former captors. According to tribal records, he led them into battle against the world’s greatest and best-quipped soldiers, in close-quarter hand-to-hand combat, but with no hands! His stumps whirred and whizzed in deadly arcs in a desperate fight against death. His warriors threw spears and wielded swords and the fight went on for 2 grueling, bloody hours.
Unfortunately for the Malpuche, the prowess and might of the Spanish troops, plus their armor, crossbows, and rifles, prevailed. One legend has it that Galvarino was captured, along with a majority of his men, and that he thrust himself into a Spanish sword in order to deny them the satisfaction of killing him. When his story filtered out to the Malpuche survivors, they grew incensed and steeled their resolve to continue the fight to remain free. It took many years and much additional bloodshed but the tribe was able to remain free from Spanish rule. Galvarino fought against impossible odds and served as an inspiration beyond his death. His fighting spirit and quest for freedom were assimilated into his tribe and lived on long after the death of his corporeal body.
From September 2010, http://raising-a-man.tumblr.com