Pedro de Villagra y Martínez (
Ávila Province ; 1513 -
Lima; September 11, 1577) was a
Spanish soldier who participated in the conquest of
Chile, being appointed its
Royal Governor between 1563 and 1565.
His father was Juan de Villagra, a minor civil official. In 1537 he moved from Spain to
Cartagena de Indias, then to
Santa Marta and later
Peru. He arrived in Chile with the expedition of
Pedro de Valdivia.
With the founding of
Santiago, Villagra held for 4 years the post of the city's mayor. Valdivia also granted him an
Tirúa. After the death of the governor, he moved back to Peru, where he married Beatriz de Figueroa.
He returned to Chile when his nephew (cousin?)
Francisco de Villagra was governor for the first time. He fought in the
Arauco War and took command of the southern forces when the governor became ill. In 1556 he commanded the forces that drove
Lautaro back from Santiago in the
Battle of Peteroa.
He again commanded forces under Francisco de Villagra when he became governor again in 1561. When Francisco de Villagra died on June 22, 1563, he left Pedro de Villagra as interim governor. This was later confirmed by the
Viceroy of Peru,
Diego López de Zúñiga y Velasco. His military strategy led him to concentrate his forces, vacating the fort
Arauco in order to reinforce
Concepción. Some of the worst
Mapuche defeats would be suffered through the attack on Angol, where the garrisoning forces led by
Lorenzo Bernal del Mercado inflicted over a thousand of casualties and killed the
Illangulién in the
Battle of Angol. Later he headed a new campaign in the south, relieving the
Siege of Concepcion and resulting in the victorious battles of
Tolmillán against the Mapuches north of the
Bio-Bio River. This series of defeats resulted in a few years of apparent peace between the Spanish and Mapuche.
With the death of the viceroy López de Zúñiga y Velasco in 1564 the political situation deteriorated for Villagra. In 1565, at the orders of the new viceroy
Lope García de Castro, he was replaced by
Rodrigo de Quiroga, arrested, and sent to Peru, where he managed to clear his name. After his absolution he petitioned the king for the reparations he believed himself due, but he never received a response.
He died in Lima on September 11, 1577.