While historians of the frontier experience in northern New Spain and the Spanish Borderlands have made numerous contributions to knowledge over the past eight decades, they have devoted little attention to Spain’s southern frontier in Chile and Argentina. Indeed, scholars have lamented the relative lack of published works pertaining to this South American frontier in both the colonial and national periods of Latin American history.

This work addresses that very inadequacy—the Spanish and Chilean frontier in the region known as “La Araucania, ’’ southward from the Bío Bío River in the period from the expedition of Pedro de Valdivia in 1551 to the last uprisings of the Mapuche Indians and civil organization of the pacified frontier by the Chilean government near the end of the nineteenth century. Its author, Ricardo Ferrando Keun, has studied and had a distinguished career in Chilean education and public service, and he is thoroughly familiar with La Araucania and its literature. However, his research also encompasses primary materials in Chile at the Biblioteca Nacional, Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional, and Museo Nacional. The text includes some documents published for the first time. While this enhances the importance of the work, it could have been even more valuable had the author consulted materials from Spanish archives.

Ferrando Keun’s thesis is that “La Araucania was a burning subject in the life of Chile” and a unifying force “not only in a territorial sense but in its people” (pp. 308-309). His observation that the people of this region became accustomed to a special way of life revolving around Indian uprisings, warfare, insecurity, and constant reconstructing is thought provoking and reminiscent of the people in northern New Spain. This, he concludes, molded a Chilean frontiersman who had a “certain stoicism, together with an envious faith in his future” (p. 31).

Although the author feels that La Araucania and the frontier represent “our Chilean Far West” (p. xxiii), their history really compares more closely to that of the Spanish Borderlands. For example, the fuertes of Chile strikingly resemble the presidios of northern New Spain, and ten major Mapuche uprisings parallel those of Tepehuanes, Tarahumaras, and the Pueblos in North America. Also, the frequent use of Indian auxiliaries and the establishment of “reducciones” and fortified lines of garrisons along the Bío Bío and elsewhere within the “tierra de guerra” are remarkably similar to those policies on the frontera septentrional of New Spain.

Perhaps the title should have said “se desarrolló” instead of “nació” to reflect the continued development of the Chilean frontier over the course of three and one-half centuries. Nevertheless, the book should interest Chilean historians, those from the United States who focus on the Spanish frontier experience, and others in the general fields of colonial and national Latin American history. Well researched, carefully written, and thorough, Y así nació la frontera offers a rare glimpse of the Chilean southern frontier.