Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada y Rivera, also spelled as De Quezada and Ximénez, (Spanish: [gonˈθalo xiˈmeneθ ðe keˈsaða]; 1496[1] – other sources state 1506 or 1509[2][3] – Suesca, 16 February 1579 was a Spanish explorer and conquistador in northern South America, territories currently known as Colombia. He explored the northern part of South America. As a well-educated lawyer he was one of the intellectuals of the Spanish conquest. He was an effective organizer and leader, designed the first legislation for the government of the area, and was its historian. After 1569 he undertook explorations toward the east, searching for the elusive El Dorado, but returned to New Granada in 1573. He has been suggested as a possible model for Cervantes' Don Quixote.[4]

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada y Rivera
Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada
Oil portrait of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (unknown artist, Museo Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá)
Born1496[1] (or 1506 or 1509)[2]
Died16 February 1579 (aged ~70–85)
Other namesGonzalo Jiménez de Quezada
Gonzalo Ximénez de Quesada
OccupationConquistador, Explorer
Years active1536–1572
EmployerSpanish Crown
Known forSpanish conquest of the Muisca
Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations
Founder of Bogotá
First mayor of Bogotá
Quest for El Dorado
Notable work
Memoria de los descubridores, que entraron conmigo a descubrir y conquistar el Reino de Granada (1576)
  • Luis Ximenez de Quesada (father)
  • Isabel de Rivera Quesada (mother)
RelativesHernán Pérez de Quesada (brother)
Francisco Jiménez de Quesada (brother)
Melchor de Quesada (brother)
Catalina Magdalena de Quesada (sister)
Andrea Ximénez de Quesada (sister)
Isabel de Quesada (half-sister)
Mayor of Bogotá
In office
Preceded byposition established; zipa Sagipa)
Succeeded byJerónimo de Lainza
Conquest of Colombia
Routes of Spanish conquest
Green is De Quesada's approximate trajectory
Note: route around the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta incorrectly drawn
Rocas de Suesca 1
Suesca, Cundinamarca, place of death of De Quesada


His father, Luis Jiménez de Quesada,[5] was a hidalgo relative of Gonzalo Francisco de Cordoba, and he had two well-known distant cousins, the conquistadores of Mexico and Peru respectively: Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro. He had three younger brothers; Hernán and Francisco, who also were conquistadors, and Melchor, and a sister, Andrea.[6]

Conquest of the Muisca Confederation

De Quesada was an Andalusian lawyer, trained in Granada.[7] He was appointed chief magistrate in 1535 and second in command for an expedition to present-day Colombia, because in that period he was not in good standing with the people at home because he had just lost an important court case in which his mother's family was economically involved.[8] The commander of the expedition, Pedro Fernández de Lugo (governor of the Canary Islands), had bought the governorship of Colombia and had equipped a fleet and assembled over a thousand men. And so they set sail to Colombia, thinking they would find a very rich land, full of gold and pearls. But when, after two month of navigation, they reached the small coastal settlement of Santa Marta, all they found was a conglomeration of hovels and filthy, disease-ridden colonists who went about dressed in skins or roughly woven and padded cotton clothes made by the Indians. Soon food became scarce and tropical fevers began to smite down the strongest.

In 1536, De Quesada was chosen by De Lugo to command an expedition without any military experience to explore into the interior of New Granada, hoping to discover the dreamed El Dorado. A land party under De Quesada, with Hernán Pérez de Quesada (his brother), Juan San Martín, Juan del Junco (as second in command) Lázaro Fonte and Sergio Bustillo, struck south from Santa Marta, crossed the Cesar River, and arrived at Tamalameque on the Magdalena River. A support fleet of 6 (or 5) ships had also sailed from Santa Marta with 900 men to navigate the Magdalena.[7] Only two of the vessels actually arrived at Tamalameque, and subsequently returned to Santa Marta with many of De Quesada's men. Continuing up the Magdalena as far as La Tora (Barrancabermeja), De Quesada and his men ascended the Opon River into the cordillera, reaching the Opon hills, Chipata (near Vélez) (March 1537) and the valley of the Suárez River. Passing Lake Fúquene and Lake Suesca, they reached Nemocón and Zipaquirá and finally entered the Muisca Confederation (ruled from Bacatá, present day Bogotá and Hunza, today known as Tunja).

Only 166 men out of 900 survived, suffering terribly in the jungle: they were forced to eat snakes, lizards, frogs, and even the leather torn from their harnesses and the scabbards of their swords. In Bogotá, Quesada resigned and called for an election; he was elected captain-general, and threw off the last link that held him to the governor. The Muisca had two rulers. The zipa Tisquesusa, ruled in Bogotá; the other, the zaque Quemuenchatocha, ruled in Tunja. Taking advantage of a war between the two chiefdoms, Quesada's force subdued Bogotá and then successfully attacked Tunja. At this point it was time to establish a colony so that the earth itself might properly belong to De Quesada and his men. They chose a spot next to the towering peaks of the east, where the land was high and the rains would quickly run off, where the mountains would protect them from attackers and the jungles below. Quesada placed his right foot on the bare earth and said simply, "I take possession of this land in the name of the most sovereign emperor, Charles V." The settlement was at first called New City of Granada, but later they changed it to Santa Fé de Bogotá, now known simply as Bogotá, from the Chibcha word Bacatá, the name of one of the two main cacicazgos of the Muisca Confederation.

Quesada remained in the region until the arrival of two expeditions at the end of 1538: Sebastián de Belalcázar from Quito, Ecuador, one of the captains of Pizarro who had mutinied against his leader; and Nikolaus Federmann, a German from Venezuela who had rebelled against another German named Hohermuth. The three captains met on the savanna of New Granada. All three wanted to claim New Granada for themselves. In order to resolve their dispute, De Quesada persuaded them to go back to Spain with him and to submit their rival territorial claims to the arbitration of the crown. In July 1539, they sailed for Spain from Cartagena. However, none of them obtained the governorship. De Quesada, after nearly a dozen years of wandering disconsolately through the gaming halls of Europe, returned to New Granada in 1550. Here, he settled down to live for nearly twenty years. He was a respected colonist, becoming the most influential man in the colony. He protected his fellow colonists from the severity of the officials and restrained the encomenderos (large landholders) greed. But his own desire for wealth and gold continued to live inside him.

Later expeditions

In 1569, at the age of 63, De Quesada received a commission to conquer the Llanos to the east of the Colombian cordillera. From Bogotá in April 1569 with 500 mounted soldiers, 1500 natives, 1100 horses and pack animals, 600 head of cattle, 800 pigs, a large number of negro slaves and 8 priests, he first descended to Mesetas on the upper Guejar River. There most of the livestock was destroyed by a grass fire. De Quesada's expedition then moved to nearby San Juan de los Llanos, where a course was set for east-southeast (by the guide Pedro Soleto), and maintained for the following two years. After a year or so some men returned with Juan Maldonado, reaching San Juan after six months with few survivors. De Quesada eventually reached (San Fernando de) Atabapo at the confluence of the Guaviare and the Orinoco (in December 1571), any further movement requiring the construction of ships. He therefore dejectedly returned to Bogotá, arriving in December 1572 with only 25 Spaniards, 4 natives, 18 horses and 2 priests. The expedition had been one of the most expensive disasters on record. After a brief period of service in a frontier command (during which he suppressed an indigenous uprising) De Quesada, afflicted with leprosy, overcome with despair at his debts, owing more than 60 thousand ducats, was forced to seek a milder climate and died quietly, aged 70 to 85, in Suesca, an important market town in the New Kingdom of Granada.

Death and legacy

After his death in, Mariquita where he was buried in the Santa Lucía Abbey. His remains were there until 1597 when they were exhumed and transferred to Bogotá, the city founded by him.

Named after Jiménez de Quesada



Jiménez de Quesada

Estatua Gonzalo Jimenez Quesada


Armas de Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada - AHG

Coat of arms

See also


  1. ^ a b (in Spanish) Antijovio
  2. ^ a b Graham (1922) p. 2
  3. ^ There is considerable disagreement about Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada's birth year and place.
  4. ^ E. C. Riley (March 1966), "Who's Who in Don Quixote? Or an Approach to the Problem of Identity" MLN 81(2) (Spanish Issue), 113–30
  5. ^ (in Spanish) Fundaciones antecedentes a la conquista de la aldea Chicamocha
  6. ^ (in Spanish) Biography Gonzalo Jiménez de QuesadaBanco de la República
  7. ^ a b "Jiménez de Quesada, Gonzalo." (2008). Encyclopædia Britannica Online School Edition. 20 Oct. 2008.
  8. ^ John A. Crow, The Epic of Latin America, 116–26


  • Cunningham Graham, R. B.. 1922. The Conquest of New Granada, Being the Life of Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. W. Heinemann.

Works by Jiménez de Quesada

Further reading

In Spanish

In English

  • Arciniegas, Germán. 1942. The Knight of El Dorado: The Tale of Don Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and His Conquest of New Granada, Now Called Colombia. The Viking Press.
  • Avellaneda Navas, José Ignacio. 1995. The Conquerors of the New Kingdom of Granada. University of New Mexico Press.
  • Crow, John A.. 1992 (1946). The Epic of Latin America (4th ed.), 116-126. University of California Press.
  • Francis, J. Michael. 2007. Invading Colombia: Spanish Accounts of the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Expedition of Conquest. University Park: Penn State Press.

External links

Bartolomé Camacho Zambrano

Bartolomé Camacho Zambrano (1510, Villafranca de los Barros, Extremadura, Castile - after 1583, Tunja, New Kingdom of Granada) was a Spanish conquistador who took part in the expedition of the Spanish conquest of the Muisca led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. He accompanied Gonzalo Suárez Rendón in the foundation of Tunja on August 6, 1539 and settled in the city. In 1583, Bartolomé Camacho Zambrano was mayor of Tunja together with Francisco de Avendaño.

Battle of Tocarema

The Battle of Tocarema (Spanish: Batalla de Tocarema) was a battle fought between an alliance of the troops of Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and zipa of the Muisca Sagipa of the southern Muisca Confederation and the indigenous Panche. The battle took place on the afternoon of August 19 and the morning of August 20, 1538 in the vereda Tocarema of Cachipay, Cundinamarca, Colombia and resulted in a victory for the Spanish and Muisca, when captains Juan de Céspedes and Juan de Sanct Martín commanded two flanks of the conquistadors.

The victory of the Spanish colonial powers over the Panche did not completely put down the resistance by the indigenous peoples from the western parts of Cundinamarca. Later conquest expeditions were needed to fully subdue the western neighbours of the Muisca, described by early Spanish chroniclers as Pedro de Aguado, Pedro Simón, Juan Freyle and Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita as bellicose and cannibalistic.

Conjunto Multifamiliar Torres Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

The Torres Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada ("Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Towers") is a residential complex composed of five towers of equal height in the centre of the Colombian capital Bogotá. The buildings are situated in the neighbourhood (barrio) Las Aguas, in the northeast of La Candelaria.

De Quesada

de Quesada is a Spanish surname. Individuals with this surname include:

Alfredo De Quesada (b. 1976) - actor of Cuban heritage born in Puerto Rico

Ernesto de Quesada (b. 1886 - d.195?) - Cuban-born impresario, primarily in Europe and Latin America

Gonzalo de Quesada y Aróstegui (1868–1915) - figure in the Cuban Independence Movement with José Martí

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (1509–1579) - conquistador in Colombia

Hernán Pérez de Quesada - conquistador, brother of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada (b. 1937) - president of National Assembly of People's Power of Cuba as of 1993

Fresno, Tolima

Fresno is a town and municipality in the Tolima department of Colombia. It is located 142 kilometres (88 mi) from Ibagué. It was founded in 1574 by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. The population of the municipality was 30,750 as of the 2005 census.


Funza (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈfunsa]) is a municipality and town of Colombia in the Western Savanna Province, of the department of Cundinamarca. Funza is situated on the Bogotá savanna, the southwestern part of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense with the urban centre at an altitude of 2,548 metres (8,360 ft). In Funza the La Florida wetland, part of the wetlands of Bogotá, remains to exist, a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Humboldt. The town is part of the Metropolitan Area of Bogotá and borders Madrid and Tenjo in the north, Mosquera in the south, Madrid in the west and Cota and the locality Engativá of the capital Bogotá in the east. The eastern boundary is formed by the Bogotá River. Funza is the site of the former main settlement Bacatá of the Muisca Confederation. Modern Funza was founded by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada during the Spanish conquest of the Muisca on April 20, 1537.

Gonzalo Macías

Gonzalo Macías (c. 1509, Calamonte, Extremadura, Castile – ?, Tunja, New Kingdom of Granada) was a Spanish conquistador who participated in the expedition from Santa Marta into the Muisca Confederation that was led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada from 1536 to 1538. He settled in Tunja, formerly called Hunza, as seat of the zaque.

Gonzalo Suárez Rendón

Gonzalo Suárez Rendón (c.1503, Málaga, Castile – 1590 (or 1583), Tunja, New Kingdom of Granada) was a Spanish conquistador, known as the founder of the capital of Boyacá; Tunja. He took part in the Spanish conquest of the Muisca people led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, and later by his brother Hernán Pérez de Quesada. On August 6, 1539, he founded Tunja on the site of the former seat of the zaque (ruler) of the Hunza.Gonzalo Suárez Rendón is mentioned in the work of uncertain authorship Epítome de la conquista del Nuevo Reino de Granada as "Suarex".

Hernán Pérez de Quesada

Hernán Pérez de Quesada, sometimes spelled as De Quezada, (~1500 – 1544) was a Spanish conquistador. Second in command of the army of his elder brother, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, Hernán was part of the first European expedition towards the inner highlands of the Colombian Andes. The harsh journey, taking almost a year and many deaths, led through the departments Magdalena, Cesar, Santander, Boyacá, Cundinamarca and Huila of present-day Colombia between 1536 and 1539 and, without him, Meta, Caquetá and Putumayo of Colombia and northern Peru and Ecuador between 1540 and 1542.

Hernán founded Sutatausa, Cundinamarca, and aided in the conquest of various indigenous groups, such as the Chimila, Muisca, Panche, Lache, U'wa, Sutagao and others. Under the command of Hernán Pérez de Quesada the last Muisca ruler; zaque Aquiminzaque were publicly decapitated. As second in command under his brother, in the previous years zipas Tisquesusa and Sagipa and Tundama of Duitama had suffered a similar fate. After returning from his expeditions to the south reaching Quito, where he reunited with his younger brother Francisco, both De Quesadas went back to Bogotá. Hernán was tried and imprisoned there for the murders of the Muisca rulers by the governor of the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada. In 1544, en route back to Spain with his brother Francisco, their ship was hit by lightning off the coast of Cabo de la Vela in the Caribbean Sea killing Hernán and Francisco and wounding several other conquistadors who were returning to Spain.

Knowledge of the life and expeditions of Hernán Pérez de Quesada has been provided by his brother Gonzalo and scholars Pedro de Aguado, Juan Freyle, Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita, Joaquín Acosta and Liborio Zerda.

Juan de Céspedes Ruiz

Juan (Francisco) de Céspedes Ruiz (1501 or 1505 in Argamasilla de Calatrava, Castile – 1573 or 1576 in Bogotá, New Kingdom of Granada) was a Spanish conquistador who is known as the founder of the town of Pasca, Cundinamarca, in the south of the Bogotá savanna, Colombia. De Céspedes arrived in the Americas in 1521 and participated in the conquest of the Tairona and the foundation of Santa Marta under Rodrigo de Bastidas. From 1542 to 1543 and in 1546 he served as mayor of Bogotá and after that until 1570 as lieutenant general of the first president of Colombia. Juan de Céspedes married Isabel Romero, one of the first Spanish women who arrived at Colombian territories and had two legitimate sons and one daughter. His date of death is uncertain; in late 1573 or 1576.

Knowledge about Juan de Céspedes has been provided by chroniclers Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada in his memoirs (1576), Pedro Simón in 1626, Juan Rodríguez Freyle in his work El Carnero (written between 1636 and 1638) and Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita (1688).

Juan de Sanct Martín

Juan de Sanct Martín, also known as Juan de San Martín, was a Spanish conquistador. Little is known about De Sanct Martín, apart from a passage in El Carnero (1638) by Juan Rodríguez Freyle and Epítome de la conquista del Nuevo Reino de Granada, a work of uncertain authorship. He took part in the expedition from Santa Marta into the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and founded Cuítiva, Boyacá in 1550. Juan de Sanct Martín headed the left flank of the Spanish troops in the Battle of Tocarema against the Panche on August 20, 1538, while his fellow conquistador Juan de Céspedes commanded the right flank. In this battle, Juan de Sanct Martín killed the cacique of the Panche and was hurt himself. Juan de Sanct Martín had confronted the Panche the year before, when he was sent to the west while De Céspedes went south. Due to the resistance of the bellicose Panche, De Sanct Martín returned to the Spanish camp.

Juan del Junco

Juan de(l) Junco (1503 in Ribadesella, Asturias, Castile – ? in Santo Domingo) was a Spanish conquistador who participated in the Spanish conquest of the Muisca people. Del Junco started his career as a conquistador in the 1526 expedition led by Sebastian Cabot exploring the Río de la Plata in present-day Argentina. In 1535, he arrived in Santa Marta on the Colombian Caribbean coast from where the expedition in search of El Dorado set off in April 1536.

Del Junco played a role in the foundations of Bogotá (August 6, 1538), and Tunja (August 6, 1539). He was a senior captain under Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. Del Junco was named second in line of succession, after Gonzalo's brother Hernán, in the event of the death of the first governor of the New Kingdom of Granada. Del Junco was awarded the encomienda (mayoralty) of Cucaita, close to Tunja, for his efforts as a soldier. In 1541, Del Junco left South America for Santo Domingo, where he married and remained until his death.

Juan del Junco was named by several early chroniclers of the Spanish conquest of Colombia: Epítome de la conquista del Nuevo Reino de Granada (first published in 1889); Elegías de varones ilustres de Indias (De Castellanos, 1589); El Carnero (Freyle, 1638); and Historia general de las conquistas del Nuevo Reino de Granada (De Piedrahita, 1676).

List of conquistadors in Colombia

This is a list of conquistadors who were active in the conquest of terrains that presently belong to Colombia. The nationalities listed refer to the state the conquistador was born into; Granada and Castile are currently part of Spain, but were separate states at the time of birth of the early conquistadors. Important conquistadors and explorers were Alonso de Ojeda, who landed first at Colombian soil and founded the first settlement Santa Cruz, Rodrigo de Bastidas, who founded the oldest still remaining city Santa Marta, Pedro de Heredia, who founded the important city of Cartagena in 1533, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, who was the leader of the first and main expedition into the Andes (1536–1538), with his brother second in command and many other conquistadors, 80% of whom who didn't survive, and Nikolaus Federmann and Sebastián de Belalcázar who entered the Colombian interior from the northwest and south respectively.

Mariquita, Tolima

San Sebastián de Mariquita is a town and municipality in the Tolima department of Colombia, about 150 km (93 mi) northwest of Bogotá. This town and municipality contains several important Spanish settlements that were located here due to its vicinity to the Magdalena River. Today, Mariquita is frequented by tourists from the capital visiting attractions like the Medina Waterfalls (Cataratas de Medina) and the mint (Casa de la Moneda). The Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada is buried there. Today it is home to large hotels and haciendas, among them Villa de los Caballeros.

The population of the municipality was 32,642 as of the 2005 census.

Martín Galeano

Martín Galeano (?, Valencia del Mombuey, Badajoz, Spain - ?, Vélez, New Kingdom of Granada) was a Spanish conquistador of Genovese descent who is known as the founder of the towns of Vélez, Oiba and Charalá in Santander, Colombia. He took part in the expedition of the Spanish conquest of the Muisca led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada. After the foundation of Bogotá, he was sent northwards into Guane territories.

Muisca mythology

This article describes the Muisca mythology; the mythology of the Muisca. Mythology is different from religion in the sense that myths are usually the combination of real events and/or people with a legendary twist, while religion is purely transcedental. The religion of the Muisca is described in Muisca religion; their deities, rituals and sacred sites.

Main contributors to the knowledge of the mythology of the Muisca have been Muisca scholars Javier Ocampo López, Pedro Simón, Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita, Juan de Castellanos and conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada who was the European making first contact with the Muisca in the 1530s.

Pedro Fernández de Valenzuela (conquistador)

Pedro Fernández de Valenzuela (?, Córdoba, Andalusia - ?, Córdoba) was a Spanish conquistador who took part in the expedition of the Spanish conquest of the Muisca led by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada from 1536 to 1538. He was the cousin of Hernán Venegas Carrillo and after his journey in the New World returned to Córdoba. He was buried in the church of the former Hospital San Bartolomé de las Bubas in Córdoba.

Spanish conquest of the Muisca

The Spanish conquest of the Muisca took place from 1537 to 1540. The Muisca were the inhabitants of the central Andean highlands of Colombia before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. They were organised in a loose confederation of different rulers; the zipa of Bacatá, with his headquarters in Funza, the zaque of [[Boyacá

Department | Boyacá]], with his headquarters in Hunza, the iraca of the sacred City of the Sun Sugamuxi, the Tundama of Tundama, and several independent caciques. The leaders of the Confederation at the time of conquest were zipa Tisquesusa, zaque Quemuenchatocha, iraca Sugamuxi and Tundama in the northernmost portion of their territories. The Muisca were organised in small communities of circular enclosures (ca in their language Muysccubbun; literally "language of the people"), with a central square where the bohío of the cacique was located. They were called "Salt People" because of their extraction of salt in various locations throughout their territories, mainly in Zipaquirá, Nemocón and Tausa. For the main part self-sufficient in their well-organised economy, the Muisca traded with the European conquistadors valuable products as gold, tumbaga (a copper-silver-gold alloy) and emeralds with their neighbouring indigenous groups. In the Tenza Valley, to the east of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense where the majority of the Muisca lived, they extracted emeralds in Chivor and Somondoco. The economy of the Muisca was rooted in their agriculture with main products maize, yuca, potatoes and various other cultivations elaborated on elevated fields (in their language called tá). Agriculture had started around 3000 BCE on the Altiplano, following the preceramic Herrera Period and a long epoch of hunter-gatherers since the late Pleistocene. The earliest archaeological evidence of inhabitation in Colombia, and one of the oldest in South America, has been found in El Abra, dating to around 12,500 years BP.

The main part of the Muisca civilisation was concentrated on the Bogotá savanna, a flat high plain in the Eastern Ranges of the Andes, far away from the Caribbean coast. The savanna was an ancient lake, that existed until the latest Pleistocene and formed a highly fertile soil for their agriculture. The Muisca were a deeply religious civilisation with a polytheistic society and an advanced astronomical knowledge, which was represented in their complex lunisolar calendar. Men and women had specific and different tasks in their relatively egalitarian society; while the women took care of the sowing, preparation of food, the extraction of salt, and the elaboration of mantles and pottery, the men were assigned to harvesting, warfare and hunting. The guecha warriors were tasked with the defence of the Muisca territories, mainly against their western neighbours; the Muzo ("Emerald People") and the bellicose Panche. To impress their enemies, the Muisca warriors wore mummies of important ancestors on their backs, while fighting. In their battles, the men used spears, poisoned arrows and golden knives.

Although gold deposits were not abundant on the Altiplano, through trading the Muisca obtained large amounts of the precious metal which they elaborated into fine art, of which the Muisca raft and the many tunjos (offer pieces) were the most important. The Muisca raft pictures the initiation ritual of the new zipa, that took place in Lake Guatavita. When the Spanish who resided in the coastal city of Santa Marta, founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1525, were informed about this legend, a large expedition in the quest for this El Dorado (city or man of gold) was organised in the spring of 1536.

A delegation of more than 900 men left the tropical city of Santa Marta and went on a harsh expedition through the heartlands of Colombia in search of El Dorado and the civilisation that produced all this precious gold. The leader of the first and main expedition under Spanish flag was Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, with his brother Hernán second in command. Several other soldiers were participating in the journey, who would later become encomenderos and take part in the conquest of other parts of Colombia. Other contemporaneous expeditions into the unknown interior of the Andes, all searching for the mythical land of gold, were starting from later Venezuela, led by Bavarian and other German conquistadors and from the south, starting in the previously founded Kingdom of Quito in what is now Ecuador.

The conquest of the Muisca started in March 1537, when the greatly reduced troops of De Quesada entered Muisca territories in Chipatá, the first settlement they founded on March 8. The expedition went further inland and up the slopes of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense into later Boyacá and Cundinamarca. The towns of Moniquirá (Boyacá) and Guachetá and Lenguazaque (Cundinamarca) were founded before the conquistadors arrived at the northern edge of the Bogotá savanna in Suesca. En route towards the domain of zipa Tisquesusa, the Spanish founded Cajicá and Chía. In April 1537 they arrived at Funza, where Tisquesusa was beaten by the Spanish. This formed the onset for further expeditions, starting a month later towards the eastern Tenza Valley and the northern territories of zaque Quemuenchatocha. On August 20, 1537, the zaque was submitted in his bohío in Hunza. The Spanish continued their journey northeastward into the Iraka Valley, where the iraca Sugamuxi fell to the Spanish troops and the Sun Temple was accidentally burned by two soldiers of the army of De Quesada in early September.

Meanwhile, other soldiers from the conquest expedition went south and conquered Pasca and other settlements. The Spanish leader returned with his men to the Bogotá savanna and planned new conquest expeditions executed in the second half of 1537 and first months of 1538. On August 6, 1538, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada founded Bogotá as the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada, named after his home region of Granada, Spain. That same month, on August 20, the zipa who succeeded his brother Tisquesusa upon his death; Sagipa, allied with the Spanish to fight the Panche, eternal enemies of the Muisca in the southwest. In the Battle of Tocarema, the allied forces claimed victory over the bellicose western neighbours. In late 1538, other conquest undertakings resulted in more founded settlements in the heart of the Andes. Two other expeditions that were taking place at the same time; of De Belalcázar from the south and Federmann from the east, reached the newly founded capital and the three leaders embarked in May 1539 on a ship on the Magdalena River that took them to Cartagena and from there back to Spain. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada had installed his younger brother Hernán as new governor of Bogotá and the latter organised new conquest campaigns in search of El Dorado during the second half of 1539 and 1540. His captain Gonzalo Suárez Rendón founded Tunja on August 6, 1539 and captain Baltasar Maldonado, who had served under De Belalcázar, defeated the cacique of Tundama at the end of 1539. The last zaque Aquiminzaque was decapitated in early 1540, establishing the new rule over the former Muisca Confederation.

Knowledge of the conquest expeditions in Muisca territories has been provided and compiled by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, main conquistador, and scholars Pedro de Aguado, Juan Rodríguez Freyle, Juan de Castellanos, Pedro Simón, Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita, Joaquín Acosta, Liborio Zerda and Jorge Gamboa Mendoza.


Zoratama, also spelled as Soratama, was a Muisca woman and the lover of Spanish conquistador Lázaro Fonte. Her story reminds of the North American indigenous Pocahontas who married John Rolfe after saving the life of John Smith.

Together with Lázaro Fonte, Zoratama was forced in exile and settled in Pasca, Cundinamarca, in the south of the Muisca territory. After informing conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada of the arrival of new conquistadors, they were taken back to the newly founded capital Bogotá of the New Kingdom of Granada.

According to legend, Zoratama committed suicide and infanticide by drowning herself and her son in sacred Lake Guatavita.

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