STATUE OF BERNARDO O’HIGGINS
There is a small statue of Bernardo O'Higgins (1778–1842) here on the lake. No other person had a bigger impact on the history of Chile than O'Higgins. His unusual name is due to the fact that he was the illegitimate son of an Irishman. His father, Ambrose Higgins, was born in Sligo Ireland and was a military commander for Spain. What is known as Chile was a frontier colony at the time and O’Higgins Sr. was a powerful man in territory disputed by the Spanish crown and the local Mapuche Indians.
Ambrose defeated the Mapuche and was made Viceroy of Peru. Unfortunately having an illegitimate son was an embarrassment and young Bernardo was sent to Europe. Its is here that he first heard theories of Enlightenment and began to think about the future liberation of his native Chile.
He returned to Chile a few years later as the beginnings of Independence had begun. He was pressed into military service and was named as the revolutionary leader in 1813. Setbacks on the battlefield sent him to Argentina until 1817. He returned to Chile with a new army and at the Battle of Chacabuco he defeated the Spanish. Independence was now real. O’Higgins was named Supreme Director of Chile after independence on Feb. 12, 1818.
He had lots of egalitarian ideas about political and land reform and helping the poor. This did not go down well with powerful land owners and he was forced into exile in Peru in 1823. He was granted permission to return in 1842, but died before boarding the ship to take him home. He is buried in the Cementerio General de Santiago in the capital – Santiago.