La Araucana is considered the first epic Latin American poem, and recounts the wars between the Spanish and the Mapuche in Chile. The author, Alonso de Ercilla, was a soldier who participated in these wars and was a page in the court of Philip II, thus was better educated than many of the other conquerors. This therefore allowed him to recount the wars in a truly artistic style.
Alonso de Ercilla arrived in Chile on a strengthening expedition led by the new Governor García Hurtado de Mendoza.
The plot of the Araucana is structured in three parts published in Spain on three different dates, 1569, 1578 and 1589. The book mixes historical fact with fantasy, since the implementation of the conquistador Pedro de Valdivia to air travel undertaken by the author thanks an Indian wizard, thus allowing you to see from the air what happens in Europe, especially in the Battle of Lepanto.
One of the Araucana narratives recounts the search made by an Indian woman for the corpse of the man who died in battle. This shows praise for the warrior as well as the humanistic character of Ercilla.
Although it was preceded by other works that told the conquest of America and the battles against the Indians, for example Los Naufragios de Cabeza de Vaca and la Historia de la Conquista de Nueva España by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, La Araucana is unlike them in that author seeks a true poetic style. You can also see the influence of Ariosto's poem Orlando Furioso, and classic authors such as Julius Caesar and Sextus Pompey, who had recounted the events that occurred recently.
Ercilla’s objectives in this work were "...por el agravio que algunos españoles recibirían quedando sus hazañas en perpetuo silencio, faltando quien las escriba; no por ser ellas pequeñas, pero porque la tierra es tan remota y apartada y la postrera que los españoles han pisado por la parte del Perú, que no se puede tener della casi noticia, y por el mal aparejo y poco tiempo que para escribir hay con la ocupación de la guerra, que no da lugar a ello;…” (Alonso de Ercilla). But apart from this glorification of the Spanish soldier, there is also a hidden admiration for the Mapuche.
Miguel de Cervantes, in Don Quijote de la Mancha, through the mouthpiece of the priest shows his own admiration for La Araucana, which he is one of “los mejores (libros) que en verso heroyco en lengua castellana están escritos”. (Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, I, cap VI).