My book Bowie Knife Fights, Fighters, and Fighting Techniques is available from Paladin Press. This blog contains additional information about the bowie knife, as well as the fighting knives of other nations.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chilean Corvo

A 19th-century corvo.

The corvo is a curved-bladed fighting knife peculiar to Chile. There follow a number of references to it I came across in my research. Please excuse the benighted generalizations made about the Chilean people.

From Working North From Patagonia (1921) by Harry Alverson Franck:
There is a saying in Chile that the population is made up of futres, bomberos, and rotos. The first are well-dressed street-corner loafers; the bomberos are volunteer firemen, and the rotos form the ragged working class that makes up the bulk of the population. The latter, said never to be without the corvo, an ugly curved knife, with which they are quick to tripear, to bring to light the "tripe," of an adversary by an upward slash at his abdomen, are not merely conspicuous, but omnipresent.
In the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society of New York (1884) we read:
In relative justice to the Peruvian whites and half-castes, however, I ought to add that I do not think that they are any more cruel than the Chileans. Bull-rings and cockpits, to be sure, are prohibited in Chile, but by the enlightened will of the Government, not by the humane desire of the people. The first intense ambition of a Chilean boy in the common walks of life is to own a corvo, or curved knife, and it becomes his inseparable companion through manhood. The statistics of the losses in the battlefields of the present war tell the story. The proportion of the dead to the wounded in many of them has been more than two to one, by butchery after victory.
A modern corvo with a pronounced hook blade.

The following is from Chile and Her People of Today (1912), by Nevin Otto Winter:
The Chileno as a rule has a fiery temper. He loves a fight. It is not a fist fight that he will indulge in, but it must be a fight with revolvers, or, better yet, with knives. The knife is an indispensable equipment with the roto. It used to be said that as many lives were lost in a Chilean fair as in a decent battle. It is a sad fact that murders are extremely frequent, and scarcely a day passes in Santiago or Valparaiso without some fatal affray. Aguardiente may be placed at the bottom of most of these, just as rum is the primary cause of most of the murders in the United States. It inflames the naturally hot temper of the race and brings out all the passions of envy, hatred and jealousy. The death penalty is seldom inflicted, although sentence is frequently imposed. The prisoners are kept in confinement, and their sentence commuted from time to time. If the convicted one belongs to a family of prominence, he will eventually be released; if of poorer origin, he may be sent to some remote section of the country and set to work. Among the rotos there is a general contempt for death, which also adds to the prevalence of murders, and sometimes of brigandage in the mountains. A little judicious weeding out of some of these criminals would not be a bad thing for the country.

Drinking in Chile has become a curse. Monday is said by employers of labour to be a very unsatisfactory day, because so many of their employees have not yet recovered from the dissipation of the previous day. This is likewise true after some national holiday, such as the 18th of September, for which occasion five days are set aside, as this is the Chilean 4th of July. The better element of the Chileans have long realized that the drunkenness incident to these celebrations is a serious menace to the country, for, on the day following, the hospitals are oftentimes filled with wounded. There are always several deaths by violence, because every Chilean peon does not consider himself properly dressed until he has a knife placed in his belt where it can be easily reached.
From the Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 75 (1920):
The uneducated native Chilean settles his disputes with the knife and inflicts ghastly wounds, which make the razor slashes of our nonvoting voters south of the Mason and Dixon line appear trivial in comparison. I was told by a Chilean surgeon that when the Roto takes out his knife, all South America squeals and runs. Any one seeing, some of the injuries he inflicts would certainly be inclined to lead in the running.
A military-style corvo.

Lastly, there is this from Progressive Chile, by Robert E. Mansfield:
The Roto Chilenos not only constitute the laboring class in Chile, but the army, navy and police force are largely recruited from their ranks. As soldiers they possess a reckless bravery that will stop at nothing. With a cry of "viva Chile" they will charge an enemy, never to return, unless victory makes it possible. They are fearless to foolhardiness. They will rush fortifications under fire, scale walls or steep bluffs, swim rivers, and if all are killed the loss is not considered. One single-handed will not fight against odds, but in numbers and in hand-to-hand conflicts the bravery of the Chileno is not excelled by any nationality. They do not fight intelligently, but desperately. Their favorite weapon is a knife, and every Roto Chileno goes armed with a "corvo," a knife with a long, curved blade, tapering to a sharp point, and usually ornamented with a heavy metal handle. It is encased in a leather sheath, and is carried in the belt or boot of the possessor. It is an article of common utility, as well as a weapon of offense and defense. When angered, or threatened with danger, the Chilean produces a corvo as naturally as the American negro does a razor, and he is exceedingly skillful in its use. It is not an uncommon thing for one peon to disembowel another with one sweep of the corvo, usually leaving a triangular shaped wound, a mark of this weapon that is peculiar to the people. As an evidence of their partiality for the knife as a fighting weapon, it is related that in many instances during the war between Peru and Chile, in time of battle, the Chilean soldiers threw away their rifles and rushed upon the enemy with corvos, fighting in hand-to-hand conflict.

8 comments:

  1. I would love to know more about the modern corvos pictured, those are pretty intriguing.

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    1. Today corvos are the knife for chilean special forces usually called "black beretts" or simply "commandos". Corvos were made for long time in the militar factory of the chilean army, called FAMAE. I heard that actually corvos are made in other country maybe Brazil or China.
      Corvos very curved are assigned to first class officer. Corvos less curved are for the sergeants and corporals.
      About chilean people, in 21th century are very proud of the army and navy, "always winners and never defeates" the motto of the chilean armed forces. And civilian are now very pacific people.

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    2. FROM 1999, FOR A POLITICAL DECISION, EL CORVO ONE ALREADY IT IS NOT MADE BY FAMAE, BUT BY CHINESE EITHER, NOW IT IS MADE OF SPAIN, BUT THE QUALITY HAS LOWLY MUCH.

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    3. I own a corvo of the chilean air force.

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  2. Today corvos are the knife for chilean special forces usually called "black beretts" or simply "commandos". Corvos were made for long time in the militar factory of the chilean army, called FAMAE. I heard that actually corvos are made in other country maybe Brazil or China.
    Corvos very curved are assigned to first class officer. Corvos less curved are for the sergeants and corporals.
    About chilean people, in 21th century are very proud of the army and navy, "always winners and never defeates" the motto of the chilean armed forces. And civilian are now very pacific people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. hi
    anyone knows if the model in the last picture is still being produced or for sale somewhere?
    help would be appreciated

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    Replies
    1. http://www.cuchilleriasami.com/?categories_id=31&url=1&lang=en

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