History of Bogota

The original inhabitants of what is known today as Bogota were the people of the Muisca or Muisca Confederation. These people were part of Chibchan Culture and spoke Chibcha, a now extinct language that is only spoken today in some small areas outside of the city. Some experts state the extinct language of Chichba is older than Aramaic, the native language of Jesus. The city of Bacatá (Bogota) was a thriving area of commerce and civilization that comprised a total area in the region slightly larger than Swizerland prior to the Spanish conquest in 1537.

Click the photo of the Muisca Indian on the left and read about the legend of the gilded man.

The expedition of Gonzalo Jiménez de Queseda arrived with 166 men to the fertile land of Bacatá where crops of corn, potato, beans and yucca were plentiful. The original group of five hundred men started out from Santa Marta and encountered much resistance from the harsh terrain, suffering heavy casualties, deaths and losses along the way. It was only when two of the scouts brought Jiménez de Queseda cotton blankets and salt loaves that the group of men realized their expedition was to end in success. The land of the Muisca Indians was named Nuevo Reino de Granada and on August 6, 1538, Santa Fé de Bacatá was founded. Later, Bacatá was to be renamed Bogota and an important economic epicenter of trade and commerce was born.

The economic importance of Santa Fe de Bogota grew rapidly as abundant Indian labor, benevolent climate and fertile soils proved to be successful combination of factors that lead to the development of the city and territory.

During the 19th century the city was plagued with civil unrest and emancipation soon followed. Santa Fe de Bogota was declared the capital of Gran Colombia, and although this was dissolved in 1830, the city continued to be the capital through successful political changes until in 1886 it was named the capital of the Republic of Colombia.

The period of time that lasted from 1810 to 1830 marked one of the most influential and colorful in South American history. No other person stands out more during this time than Simon Bolivar, the Liberator. Known in some circles as the “George Washington of South America”, his direct military actions resulted in the independence of Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Click the photo of Bolívar to the left and read a brief history of his life and times.

At the dawn of the 20th century, during a political peaceful period, the city began a peaceful transformation into a modern city. The city survived a period of civil unrest and violence after the assassination of political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, although the center of the city was almost completely destroyed.