Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations

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Map of Chibcha-speaking peoples, conquered by the Spanish conquistadors between 1502 and 1550 Chibchan languages distribution.png
Map of Chibcha-speaking peoples, conquered by the Spanish conquistadors between 1502 and 1550
First contact with Chibcha speakers was made on Columbus's fourth and last voyage Columbus fourth voyage.jpg
First contact with Chibcha speakers was made on Columbus's fourth and last voyage
Exploration & conquest of Colombia

Alonso de Ojeda (1499-1502 & 1509-10)
Francisco Pizarro (1509-10)
Vasco Nunez de Balboa (1513)
Francisco Pizarro
Pedro Arias Davila (1513-1519)
Francisco Pizarro
Diego de Almagro
Sebastian de Belalcazar
Francisco Pizarro (1515-1529)
Diego de Almagro
Jorge Robledo
Pedro de Heredia (1532-1538)
Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada (1536-1539)
Hernan Perez de Quesada (1539-1541)
Nikolaus Federmann (1537-1539)
Georg von Speyer

* Leader Conquest of Colombia.png
Exploration & conquest of Colombia

Alonso de Ojeda (1499-1502 & 1509-10)
  Francisco Pizarro (1509-10)
Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1513)
  Francisco Pizarro
Pedro Arias Dávila (1513-1519)
  Francisco Pizarro
  Diego de Almagro
  Sebastián de Belalcázar
Francisco Pizarro (1515-1529)
  Diego de Almagro
  Jorge Robledo
Pedro de Heredia (1532-1538)
Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (1536-1539)
Hernán Pérez de Quesada (1539-1541)
Nikolaus Federmann (1537-1539)
  Georg von Speyer

Map of exploration routes of
Sebastian de Belalcazar (1514-1539) Ruta Belalcazar 200.png
Map of exploration routes of
Sebastián de Belalcázar (1514-1539)

Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations refers to the conquest by the Spanish monarchy of the Chibcha language-speaking nations, mainly the Muisca and Tairona that inhabited present-day Colombia, beginning the Spanish colonization of the Americas. [1]

Chibcha language Extinct language of Colombia, spoken by the Muisca, one of the four advanced indigenous civilizations of the Americas

Chibcha is an extinct language of Colombia, spoken by the Muisca, one of the four advanced indigenous civilizations of the Americas. The Muisca inhabited the central highlands of what today is the country of Colombia.

Tairona Former family of ethnic and linguistic groups

Tairona was a Pre-Columbian culture of Colombia, which consisted in a group of chiefdoms in the region of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in present-day Cesar, Magdalena and La Guajira Departments of Colombia, South America, which goes back at least to the 1st century AD and had significant demographic growth around the 11th century.

Colombia Country in South America

Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia, is a country largely situated in the north of South America, with land and territories in North America. Colombia is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, the northwest by Panama, the south by both Ecuador and Peru, the east by Venezuela, the southeast by Brazil, and the west by the Pacific. It comprises thirty-two departments, with the capital in Bogotá.



The first inhabitants of Colombia were migrating members of the Mesoamericans who established themselves in the area c. 1200 BC followed by two other waves c. 500 BC and a third one between 400 and 300 BC. Later on the group of Arawak coming from southern South America made presence in the area, and a third wave of migrating groups, the warring Caribs established in the lower lands and pushed the Mesoamericans to the mountains. The southern areas of present-day Colombia were also part of the Inca Empire. [2]

Mesoamerica Cultural area in the Americas

Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America. It extends from approximately central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica, and within this region pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas. In the 16th century, European diseases like smallpox and measles caused the deaths of upwards of 90% of the indigenous people. It is one of five areas in the world where ancient civilization arose independently, and the second in the Americas along with Norte Chico (Caral-Supe) in present-day Peru, in the northern coastal region.

South America A continent in the Western Hemisphere, and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere

South America is a continent in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. It may also be considered a subcontinent of the Americas, which is how it is viewed in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking regions of the Americas. The reference to South America instead of other regions has increased in the last decades due to changing geopolitical dynamics.

Kalina people indigenous people native to the northern coastal areas of South America

The Kalina, also known as the Caribs, mainland Caribs and several other names, are an indigenous people native to the northern coastal areas of South America. Today, the Kalina live largely in villages on the rivers and coasts of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Brazil. They speak a Cariban language known as Carib. They may be related to the Island Caribs of the Caribbean, though their languages are unrelated.

There were two main tribes that were socially and economically developed at the time of the Spanish arrival: the Muisca, and the Tairona. Both were within the Chibchan Nations.

By the 16th century, the Chibchas, were divided into two main groups: the Muisca, located in the plateaus of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, and the Tairona, who settled along the northern spur of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in present-day Magdalena, Cesar and La Guajira departments.

Spanish conquest

The territory was first sighted by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda in 1499, [3] though he never landed. A short time later, Juan de la Cosa, another Spanish explorer, landed on what is today called Cabo de la Vela (Cape of Sails) in the Guajira Peninsula. [4]

Alonso de Ojeda Spanish conquistador, navigator and governor

Alonso de Ojeda was a Spanish navigator, governor and conquistador. He travelled through Guyana, Venezuela, Trinidad, Tobago, Curaçao, Aruba and Colombia. He is famous for having named Venezuela, which he explored during his first two expeditions, for having been the first European to visit Guyana, Colombia, and Lake Maracaibo, and later for founding Santa Cruz.

Juan de la Cosa Spanish navigator

Juan de la Cosa was a Castilian navigator and cartographer, known for designing the earliest European world map that incorporated the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century. De la Cosa played an important role in the first and second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the West Indies, since he was the owner and captain of the Santa María.

Cabo de la Vela cape

Cabo de la Vela is a headland in the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia with an adjacent small fishing village. It is a popular ecotourism destination of the Caribbean Region of Colombia

In 1502, on another coast of present-day Colombia, near the Gulf of Urabá, Spanish explorers led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa explored and conquered the area near the Atrato River. There they founded Santa María la Antigua del Darién (c. 1509) and the now-vanished town of San Sebastian de Urabá (c. 1508-1510), the first two European settlements on the mainland of the Americas. [5]

Gulf of Urabá Northern coast of Colombia

The Gulf of Urabá is a gulf on the northern coast of Colombia. It is part of the Caribbean Sea. It is a long, wide inlet located on the coast of Colombia, close to the connection of the continent to the Isthmus of Panama.The town of Turbo, Colombia, lies at the mid eastern side naturally sheltered by the Turbo Bay part of the Gulf. The Atrato River flows into the Gulf of Urabá.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador

Vasco Núñez de Balboa was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador. He is best known for having crossed the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean in 1513, becoming the first European to lead an expedition to have seen or reached the Pacific from the New World.

Atrato River river in Colombia

The Atrato River is a river of northwestern Colombia. It rises in the slopes of the Western Cordillera and flows almost due north to the Gulf of Urabá, where it forms a large, swampy delta. Its course crosses the Chocó Department, forming that department's border with neighboring Antioquia in two places. Its total length is about 650 km (400 mi), and it is navigable as far as Quibdó.

On July 29, 1525, the city of Santa Marta was founded in the northern coast of Colombia by the Spanish conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas.

Santa Marta City in Caribbean Region, Colombia

Santa Marta, officially Distrito Turístico, Cultural e Histórico de Santa Marta, is a city in Colombia. It is the capital of Departamento del Magdalena and the fourth-largest urban city of the Caribbean Region of Colombia, after Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Soledad. Founded on July 29, 1525, by the Spanish conqueror Rodrigo de Bastidas, it was the first Spanish settlement in Colombia, its oldest surviving city, and second oldest in South America. This city is situated on a bay by the same name and as such, it is a prime tourist destination in the Caribbean region.

Rodrigo de Bastidas Spanish conquistador

Rodrigo de Bastidas was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who mapped the northern coast of South America, discovered Panama, and founded the city of Santa Marta.

In April 1536 the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada led the main expedition into the heart of the Andes, where the Muisca Confederation was located, with around 800 Spanish soldiers and 85 horses. Around the settlements of Suesca and Nemocón the De Quesada expedition faced the first attempt of Muisca active resistance in March 1537: the Muisca zipa Tisquesusa made a failed effort to oust the invaders who then gave the first demonstration of their superior weaponry.

In April of the same year, De Quesada, was continuously attacked by Tisquesusa's subjects on the Bogotá savanna, but managed to take advantage of rivalries among various indigenous chiefs to go weakening the power of the zipa of Bacatá. The caciques of Chía and Suba were among the first to submit and collaborate with the Spanish, while men of Tisquesusa suffered defeat after defeat and failed to oppose the Spanish, who had horses, dogs and fireweapons, rather than primitive wooden weapons: spears, clubs and darts thrown with shuttles. Tisquesusa continued to harass and attack the Spanish, but in some obscure skirmish, late 1537, he died, without the Spanish know immediately and without knowing anything of his treasure. [6]

Tisquesusa's successor, his nephew Sagipa (also described as Saquesazipa), submitted soon to the conquistadors. Soon the relations between the Spanish and Sagipa deteriorated. Those eager to locate the lost treasure of the zipa apprehended Sagipa and subjected to trial, accusing him of rebellion against the Spaniards and refusing to reveal the site where the fabulous treasure was hidden.

Tundama was another cacique who had appeared ready to fight. This bellicose leader called his subjects and requested the assistance of neighboring caciques from Cerinza, so when Hernán Pérez de Quesada, brother of Gonzalo, came, he found the most ordered troops and more martial aspect to here they had been among Muisca, formed by steps in different bodies, all festooned with feathers of different colors. In this battle, called the Battle of Bonza, indigenous forces formed a desperate resistance. Hernán de Quesada was in danger of losing his life by falling from his horse in the midst of enemies, but at last, broke the indigenous people and trampled them by horses, staining the marshes of Bonza with indigenous blood. [7]

Finally on August 6, 1538 the city of Bogotá (named originally Santa Fé de Bogotá) was founded on the remains of the original southern Muisca capital Bacatá.

New Spain

Northernmost Chibcha

The Miskito Coast of NE Honduras and Nicaragua is the northernmost territory of Chibcha-speaking peoples Mapa Geografica de Honduras 33.PNG
The Miskito Coast of NE Honduras and Nicaragua is the northernmost territory of Chibcha-speaking peoples
Topography of Nicaragua Karibik 15.png
Topography of Nicaragua
Topography of Costa Rica, where votic and other versions of Chibcha are spoken Costa Rica Topography.png
Topography of Costa Rica, where votic and other versions of Chibcha are spoken


The Pech are an indigenous people in northeastern Honduras, previously known as the Paya. As of early 2005 their population had been reduced to 3,800. The Pech language is a member of the Chibchan family of languages, and, although it is still spoken by older people, it is in danger of extinction in the relatively near future. Social complexity began among the Pech or probable Pech speakers as long ago as 300 CE. The earlier Pech cultures may have developed independently of the Maya, their near neighbors, or they may have been influenced by Maya, a hypothesis that has been corroborated to some extent by the discovery of Mayan loan-words in the Pech language. [8] In archaeological reckoning, the Pech formed a number of chiefdoms, some of which left archaeological remains of some sophistication, and certainly by the time of the Spanish exploration of the region in the early sixteenth century, the coastal regions were dominated by substantial chiefdoms. Spanish records of the mid-sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries refer to a paramount chiefdom called Taguzgalpa which dominated the region. Spanish attempts to conquer it in the sixteenth century were unsuccessful.

The Pech suffered heavily from the emergence of the Miskito in the seventeenth century and their alliance with outsiders, especially British traders, and with the runaway slaves who made up the "Mosquitos zambos". The aggressive raids of the Miskito were in large manner responsible for the gradual withdrawal of the Pech into the mountainous regions and away from the coast. [9]



The Rama are descendants of a combination of indigenous communities that occupied the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua at the time of European contact. Following Spanish colonization of the region, British pirates formed an alliance with the Miskito in order to wield indirect control of the Caribbean coast. The Miskito assisted the British in pillaging Spanish ships and resisting Spanish control of the region in exchange for guns and other resources that allowed them to exert control over other indigenous groups like the Rama. According to Rama oral tradition, the Miskito gifted the island of Rama Cay to them in the 18th century in recognition of their help in fighting the Teribe people of Costa Rica. [10]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean coast came to rely upon private investment and enterprises for socio-economic stability. In adherence to socialist policies, the Sandinista-dominated Nicaraguan government in the 1980s sought to nationalize all private institutions, which resulted in a reduction of private investment on the Caribbean coast. Many indigenous groups resented the government for its interference in the indigenous economy and regional autonomy. The Rama were one of many indigenous groups to join the Contras, a group of anticommunist guerrillas, some of whom were backed by the CIA, dedicated to fighting the Sandinista regime. As a result of the Nicaraguan Revolution, many Rama were displaced from their homes and traditional lands. [11]



The Boruca are a tribe of Southern Pacific Costa Rica, close to the Panama border. The tribe is a composite group, made up of the group that identified as Boruca before the Spanish colonization, as well as many neighbors and former enemies, including the Coto people, Turrucaca, Borucac, Quepos, and the Abubaes.

The population of the tribe numbers around 2,000, most of whom live on the Reserva Boruca or the neighboring indigenous reserve of Reserva Rey Curre. The Reserva Boruca-Terraba was among the first indigenous reserves established in Costa Rica in 1956. The lands currently on the reservations were named baldíos (common lands) by the General Law of Common Lands, passed by the national government in 1939, making them the inalienable and exclusive property of the indigenous people. The subsequent law of the Institute of Lands and Colonization (ITCO), passed in 1961, transferred the baldíos to state ownership. Law No. 7316, the Indigenous Law of Costa Rica, passed in 1977, laid out the fundamental rights of the indigenous peoples. This law defined "indigenous", established that the reserves would be self-governing, and set limitations on land use within the reserves.



Mapa cabecar.png
Cabécar territories in Costa Rica
Cabecar house.JPG
Traditional Cabécar dwelling
Cabécar is one of sixteen remaining languages in the Chibchan language family of the Isthmo-Colombian Area

The Cabécar are an indigenous group of the remote Talamanca region of eastern Costa Rica. They speak Cabécar, a language belonging to the Chibchan language family of the Isthmo-Colombian Area of lower Central America and northwestern Colombia. According to census data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Costa Rica (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, INEC), the Cabécar are the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica with a population of nearly 17,000. [12]

The extensive geographic distribution of the Chibchan language family has sparked debate among scholars regarding the origin and diffusion of Chibchan languages. Two conceptual models have emerged to describe possible scenarios: the Theory of North Migration and the Centrifugal Expansion Theory . The former postulates Colombia as the historical epicenter from which Chibchan linguistic groups migrated northwestward into present-day Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. However, anthropological and archaeological evidence (see Cooke and Ranere 1992; Fonseca and Cooke 1993; Fonseca 1994), [13] [14] [15] combined with glottochronological studies (see Constenla 1981, 1985, 1989, 1991, 1995), [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] prefer the Centrifugal Expansion Theory suggesting that Chibchan-speaking groups developed in-situ over a long period of time from an origin at the Talamanca mountain range of present-day Costa Rica and Panama. From there, Chibchan linguistic groups migrated and settled as far north as eastern Honduras and as far south as Colombia.

Map of Bribri people Costa-rica bribri.png
Map of Bribri people


The Bribri were the autochthonous people of the Talamanca region, living in the mountains and Caribbean coastal areas of Costa Rica and northern Panama. The majority live with running water and a scarce amount of electricity, growing cacao, bananas, and plantain to sell as well as beans, rice, corn, and a variety of produce for their own consumption. Studies have shown that as a symbol of wealth and prosperity,

Many Bribri are isolated and have their own language. This has allowed them to maintain their indigenous culture, although it has also resulted in less access to education and health care. Although the group has the lowest income per capita in the country, they are able to raise much of their own produce, medicine, and housing materials, and earn cash to purchase what they can't grow themselves through tourism and by selling cacao, bananas, and plantains.


Naso people Nazo-Teribo.gif
Naso people

The Naso (Teribe or Térraba) a or people have traditionally occupied the mountainous jungle regions of western Bocas del Toro where they continue to identify with the lands along the river that became known in the Spanish speaking world as the Teribe or Tjër Di in Naso. ‘Di’ means ‘water’ and 'Tjër' is their mythical “Grand-Mother” who was endowed by God with the secrets of botanical medicine (Instituto de Estudios de las Tradiciones Sagradas de Abia Yala 2001:68). Until as recently as three or four generations ago the Naso people led a remarkably autonomous existence. Dispersed among their clans and homesteads, and geographically isolated from most of the world, the Naso developed and nurtured their cultural self-sufficiency through the idiom and the institution of the family. [21]

New Granada

Panama Panama Topography.png

Isolated Chibcha




The Ngäbe or Guaymí people are an indigenous group living mainly within the Ngäbe-Buglé comarca in the Western Panamanian provinces of Veraguas, Chiriquí and Bocas del Toro. The Ngäbe also have five indigenous territories in southwestern Costa Rica encompassing 23,600 hectares: Coto Brus, Abrojos Montezuma, Conte Burica, Altos de San Antonio and Guaymi de Osa. [22] There are approximately 200,000-250,000 speakers of Ngäbere today.

Guaymí is an outdated name derived from the Buglere term for them (guaymiri). Local newspapers and other media often alternatively spell the name Ngäbe as Ngobe or Ngöbe because Spanish does not contain the sound represented by ä, a low-back rounded a, slightly higher than the English aw in the word saw and Spanish speakers hear ä as either an o or an a. Ngäbe means people in their native language- Ngäbere. A sizable number of Ngäbe have migrated to Costa Rica in search of work on the coffee fincas. Ngäbere and Buglere are distinct languages in the Chibchan language family. They are mutually unintelligible.


The Bokota people, also called Bogotá, [23] or Buglere, are an Amerindian ethnical group in Panama. They live in Bocas del Toro and north of Veraguas. [24] Bokota Indians live in the same region as the Teribe or Naso Indians.

As of 2000, there were 993 Bogota living in Panama. They are the smallest tribe in Panama and live in the west of the country. [24]


Surrounding the triangular highest mountain range in Colombia; the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, various Chibcha-speaking indigenous groups existed and still exist in isolated communities
This region was the first explored when Santa Marta was founded in 1525 Map of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.png
Surrounding the triangular highest mountain range in Colombia; the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, various Chibcha-speaking indigenous groups existed and still exist in isolated communities
This region was the first explored when Santa Marta was founded in 1525


  • Main explorers and conquistadors
  1. Rodrigo de Bastidas (1524–25), Juan de Céspedes (1524–29, 1543–46)
  2. Ambrosius Ehinger (1529–33)
  3. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, Hernán Pérez de Quesada, 800 more (1536)
  4. Pedro de Ursúa (1545–61)

The Tairona inhabit the northern and central parts of the isolated mountain range of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Tairona were divided into two groups the coastal Tairona by the Caribbean sea, and the mountain Tairona in higher altitude cloud forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The lowland Tairona fished and produced salt, which they traded for cotton cloth and blankets with the Andes civilisation of the Muisca, the Guane and Chimila and other neighbouring groups. Both Tairona populations lived in numerous small and well-organized towns, connected by stone roads.


Of the four indigenous groups living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the Kankuamo are the least contacted and still retained their independency.



The Arhuacos live in the upper valleys of the Piedras River, San Sebastian River, Chichicua River, Ariguani River, and Guatapuri River, in an indigenous territory in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Their traditional territory before the Spanish colonization, was larger than today's boundaries which exclude many of their sacred sites that they continue to visit today, to pay offerings. These lost territories are the lower parts by the steps of the mountains, lost to colonization and farming.


Cesar Topographic 2.png
Norte de Santander Topographic 2.png
Norte de Santander
The Chimila inhabit the lowlands on the eastern bank of the Magdalena in Cesar
The Chitarero inhabit the northern flank of the Andes in the Maracaibo Basin, Norte de Santander
  • Main explorers and conquistadors
  1. Ambrosius Ehinger (1529–33)
  2. Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, Hernán Pérez de Quesada, and others (1536)


  • Main explorers and conquistadors
  1. Ambrosius Ehinger (1529–33)
  2. Georg von Speyer (1535–38), Nikolaus Federmann, Miguel Holguín y Figueroa (1535–39)
  3. Hernán Pérez de Quesada (1541)
  4. Juan Maldonado (1543–72)
  5. Pedro de Ursúa (1545–61)


Antioquia, home to the Kuna in the northwest and Nutabe in the centre Antioquia Topographic 2.png
Antioquia, home to the Kuna in the northwest and Nutabe in the centre


  • Main explorers and conquistadors
  1. Columbus (1502)
  2. Alonso de Heredia, Francisco Pizarro (1509–10)
  3. Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Francisco Pizarro, Pedro Arias Dávila (1513)
  4. Francisco Pizarro, Pascual de Andagoya, Diego de Almagro, Bartolomé Ruiz (1515–29)

Nutabe [25]

  • Main conquistadors
  1. Juan de Ampudia (1535–41), Jorge Robledo (1535–46)
  2. Gaspar de Rodas (1539–81)

The Nutabe traded with neighboring tribes, for which they used a strategic bridge over the San Andreas River.

Their society was organized into small hereditary chiefdoms, individually scattered and lacking any central power. However, faced with the Spanish conquest (and against other situations overall incidence), these tribes used to work together in confederations. Mainly a peaceful group, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they defended their territories When the Spanish arrived, the leadership of the tribe was exercised by a cacique named Guarcama.


  • Main conquistadors
  1. Ambrosius Ehinger (1529–33)
  2. Georg von Speyer (1535–38), Nikolaus Federmann, Miguel Holguín y Figueroa (1535–39)
The Lache inhabited the northeastern parts of Boyaca
Their western neighbours were the Guane, southern the Muisca, northwest the Chitarero, and north and east the U'wa Boyaca Topographic 2.png
The Lache inhabited the northeastern parts of Boyacá
Their western neighbours were the Guane, southern the Muisca, northwest the Chitarero, and north and east the U'wa


  • Main conquistadors
  1. Nikolaus Federmann, Miguel Holguín y Figueroa (1535–39)


  • Main conquistadors
  1. Nikolaus Federmann, Miguel Holguín y Figueroa (1535–39)
  2. Hernán Pérez de Quesada (1541)
Settlement Department Year exploredNote(s)Map
Jericó Boyacá 1541 [26]
Colombia - Boyaca - Jerico.svg
Guacamayas Boyacá1541 [27]
Colombia - Boyaca - Guacamayas.svg
Chiscas Boyacá1541 [28]
Colombia - Boyaca - Chiscas.svg
Chita Boyacá1541 [27]
Colombia - Boyaca - Chita.svg
Panqueba Boyacá1541 [27]
Colombia - Boyaca - Panqueba.svg
Güicán Boyacá1541 [29]
Colombia - Boyaca - Guican.svg
El Cocuy Boyacá1541 [27] [30]
Colombia - Boyaca - El Cocuy.svg


Santander, home of the Guane Santander Topographic 2.png
Santander, home of the Guane
bold is founded
Department DateYearNote(s)Map
Vélez Santander 14 September1539 [31]
Colombia - Santander - Velez.svg
Oiba Santander28 February1540 [32]
Colombia - Santander - Oiba.svg
Charalá Santander23 July1540 [33]
Colombia - Santander - Charala.svg
Simacota Santander1551
Colombia - Santander - Simacota.svg


Altiplano Cundiboyacense.png
Feb 1537First contact @ Chipatá
Mar-Apr 1537Expedition into Muisca Confederation
20 Apr 1537Conquest of Funza upon zipa Tisquesusa
May-Aug 1537Expedition & conquest in Tenza Valley
20 Aug 1537Conquest Hunza , zaque Quemuenchatocha
Early Sep 1537Conquest Sugamuxi , iraca Sugamuxi
Mapa del Territorio Muisca.svg
Oct 1537-Feb 1538Other foundations on Altiplano & valleys
6 Aug 1538Foundation Santafé de Bogotá , by Gonzalo
20 Aug 1538B. of Tocarema; Spanish & zipa beat Panche
6 Aug 1539Foundation Tunja, by Gonzalo Suárez
15 Dec 1539Conquest Tundama , by Baltasar Maldonado
Early 1540Decapitation last zaque Aquiminzaque , Hernán
The Muisca established on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense one of the four grand civilisations of the pre-Columbian Americas
54 - Bogota - Decembre 2008.JPG
Templo del sol.jpg
Muisca Tunjo Animal - Museo del Oro - Bogota.jpg
Infiernito big falica.JPG
El DoradoSun TempletunjoEl Infiernito
Their southwestern neighbours, inhabiting the highest parts under páramo conditions; the Sutagao were the southernmost Chibcha speakers

In the centuries before the Spanish conquest of the Muisca in 1537, the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, high plateau of the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes, was inhabited by the Muisca people. They were an advanced civilisation of mainly farmers and traders. [34]

The Muisca did not construct stone architecture, as the Maya, Aztec and Inca did; their houses, temples and shrines were built with wood and clay. They were called "Salt People" because of their extraction of halite from various salt mines on the Altiplano, predominantly in Zipaquirá, Nemocón and Tausa.

The Muisca were polytheistic and their religion and mythology was closely connected with the natural area they were inhabiting. They had a thorough understanding of astronomical parameters and developed a complex luni-solar calendar; the Muisca calendar. According to the calendar they had specific times for sowing, harvest and the organisation of festivals where they sang, danced and played music and drank their national drink chicha in great quantities.

The most respected members of the community were mummified and the mummies were not buried, yet displayed in their temples, in natural locations such as caves and even carried on their backs during warfare to impress their enemies.

Their art is the most famous remnant of their culture, as living spaces, temples and other existing structures have been destroyed by the Spanish who colonised the Muisca territories. A primary example of their fine goldworking is the Muisca raft, together with more objects made of gold, tumbaga, ceramics and cotton displayed in the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, the ancient capital of the southern Muisca.

The Muisca were a predominantly agricultural society with small-scale farmfields, part of more extensive terrains. To diversify their diet, they traded mantles, gold, emeralds and salt for fruits, vegetables, coca, yopo and cotton cultivated in lower altitude warmer terrains populated by their neighbours, the Muzo, Panche, Yarigui, Guane, Guayupe, Achagua, Tegua, Lache, Sutagao and U'wa. Trade of products grown farther away happened with the Calima, Pijao and Caribbean coastal communities around the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

The people used a decimal counting system and counted with their fingers. Their system went from 1 to 10 and for higher numerations they used the prefix quihicha or qhicha, which means "foot" in their Chibcha language Muysccubun. Eleven became thus "foot one", twelve "foot two", etc. As in the other pre-Columbian civilizations, the number 20 was special. It was the total number of all body extremities; fingers and toes. The Muisca used two forms to express twenty: "foot ten"; quihícha ubchihica or their exclusive word gueta, derived from gue, which means "house". Numbers between 20 and 30 were counted gueta asaqui ata ("twenty plus one"; 21), gueta asaqui ubchihica ("twenty plus ten"; 30). Larger numbers were counted as multiples of twenty; gue-bosa ("20 times 2"; 40), gue-hisca ("20 times 5"; 100). The Muisca script consisted of hieroglyphs, only used for numerals. [35]

The conquest of the Muisca was the heaviest of all four Spanish expeditions to the great civilisations of the Americas. [36] More than 80 percent of the soldiers and horses that started the journey of a year to the northern Muisca Confederation didn't make it. [37] [38] [39] Various settlements were founded by the Spanish between 1537 and 1539. [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49]

Sutagao IndigenaFusa.JPG


The Sutagao are the Chibcha-speaking [50] indigenous people from the region of Fusagasugá, Bogotá savanna, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Knowledge about the Sutagao has been provided by scholar Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita. [51]

Before the Spanish conquest, the Sutagao were in conflict with the Muisca to the northeast. Zipa Saguamanchica conquered the Sutagao around 1470 when the cacique of the Sutagao lost the Battle of Pasca. Conquistador Juan de Céspedes, under command of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada submitted the Sutagao to the new rule of the New Kingdom of Granada. [50] [52]

The Sutagao inhabited the region until a new town was founded by Bernardino Albornoz between 5 and 13 February in 1592. During the visit of Miguel de Ibarra there were 759 indigenous people residing in Fusagasugá.
When Aróstequi arrived in February 1760, the indigenous population had dwindled to 85, and there were 644 new settlers divided among 109 families.

See also

Non-Chibcha neighbours

Related Research Articles

Chibchan languages language family

The Chibchan languages make up a language family indigenous to the Isthmo-Colombian Area, which extends from eastern Honduras to northern Colombia and includes populations of these countries as well as Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The name is derived from the name of an extinct language called Chibcha or Muysccubun, once spoken by the people who lived on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense of which the city of Bogotá was the southern capital at the time of the Spanish Conquista. However, genetic and linguistic data now indicate that the original heart of Chibchan languages and Chibchan-speaking peoples may not have been in Colombia at all, but in the area of the Costa Rica-Panama border, where one finds the greatest variety of Chibchan languages.

Muisca ethnic group

The Muisca are an indigenous people and culture of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, Colombia, that formed the Muisca Confederation before the Spanish conquest. The people spoke Muysccubun, a language of the Chibchan language family, also called Muysca and Mosca. As one out of four advanced civilizations of the Americas, they were encountered by conquistadors ordered by the Spanish Empire in 1537 at the time of the conquest. Subgroupings of the Muisca were mostly identified by their allegiances to three great rulers: the zaque, centered in Hunza, ruling a territory roughly covering modern southern and northeastern Boyacá and southern Santander; the zipa, centered in Bacatá and encompassing most of modern Cundinamarca, the western Llanos; and the iraca, religious ruler of Suamox and modern northeastern Boyacá and southwestern Santander.

Isthmo-Colombian Area

The Isthmo-Colombian Area is defined as a cultural area encompassing those territories occupied predominantly by speakers of the Chibchan languages at the time of European contact. It includes portions of the Central American isthmus like eastern El Salvador, eastern Honduras, Caribbean Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and northern Colombia.

Pasca Town and municipality in Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pasca is a town and municipality in the Cundinamarca department of Colombia located in the Andes. It belongs to the Sumapaz Province. Pasca is situated on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense at a distance of 71 kilometres (44 mi) from the capital Bogotá. It borders Fusagasugá, Sibaté and Soacha in the north, Bogotá D.C. in the north and east, Arbeláez in the south and Fusagasugá in the west. The urban center is located at an altitude of 2,180 metres (7,150 ft) and the altitude ranges from 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) to 3,500 metres (11,500 ft).

Sutagao people

The Sutagao are the Chibcha-speaking indigenous people from the region of Fusagasugá, Bogotá savanna, Cundinamarca, Colombia. Knowledge about the Sutagao has been provided by scholar Lucas Fernández de Piedrahita.

Zoratama Native Colombian lover of a conquistador

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.

Bribri language Language of Costa Rica

The Bribri language is language indigenous to Costa Rica. It is a tonal SOV language spoken by the Bribri people. It belongs to the Chibchan language family. Today there are about 11,000 speakers left.

Guaymí, or Ngäbere, also known as Movere, Chiriquí, and Valiente, is spoken by the indigenous Ngäbe people in Panama and Costa Rica. The people refer to themselves as Ngäbe and to their language as Ngäbere. The Ngäbes are the most populous of Panama's several indigenous peoples. The language is centered in Panama within the semi-autonomous indigenous reservation known as the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé. Beginning in the 1950s, Costa Rica began to receive Ngäbe immigrants, where they are found in several indigenous reservations: Abrojos Montezuma, Conteburica, Coto Brus, Guaymí de Alto Laguna de Osa, and Altos de San Antonio.

Costa Rica's official and predominant language is Spanish. The variety spoken there, Costa Rican Spanish, is a form of Central American Spanish.

The Cabécar language is an indigenous American language of the Chibchan language family which is spoken by the Cabécar people in Costa Rica. Specifically, it is spoken in the inland Turrialba Region of the Cartago Province. 80% of speakers are monolingual; as of 2007, it is the only indigenous language in Costa Rica with monolingual adults. The language is also known by its dialect names Chirripó, Estrella, Telire, and Ujarrás.

Cabécar people

The Cabécar are an indigenous group of the remote Talamanca region of eastern Costa Rica. They speak Cabécar, a language belonging to the Chibchan language family of the Isthmo-Colombian Area of lower Central America and northwestern Colombia. According to census data from the National Institute of Statistics and Census of Costa Rica, the Cabécar are the largest indigenous group in Costa Rica with a population of nearly 17,000.

Muisca Confederation Loose confederation of different Muisca rulers (zaques, zipas, iraca and tundama) in the central Andean highlands of present-day Colombia before the Spanish conquest of northern South America

The Muisca Confederation was a loose confederation of different Muisca rulers in the central Andean highlands of present-day Colombia before the Spanish conquest of northern South America. The area, presently called Altiplano Cundiboyacense, comprised the current departments of Boyacá, Cundinamarca and minor parts of Santander with a total surface area of approximately 25,000 square kilometres (9,700 sq mi).

Spanish conquest of the Muisca Part of the Spanish conquest of Colombia

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, 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, 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 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. 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.

Muisca warfare

This article describes the warfare of the Muisca. The Muisca inhabited the Tenza and Ubaque valleys and the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, the high plateau of the Colombian Eastern Ranges of the Andes in the time before the Spanish conquest. Their society was mainly egalitarian with little difference between the elite class (caciques) and the general people. The Muisca economy was based on agriculture and trading raw materials like cotton, coca, feathers, sea snails and gold with their neighbours. Called "Salt People", they extracted salt from brines in Zipaquirá, Nemocón and Tausa to use for their cuisine and as trading material.

Hernán Pérez de Quesada Spanish conquistador in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador

Hernán Pérez de Quesada, sometimes spelled as De Quezada, 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.

Juan (Francisco) de Céspedes Ruiz 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.

Battle of Tocarema 16th-century battle

The Battle of 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 Cabildo Mayor del Pueblo Muisca is an organisation of indigenous people, in particular the Muisca. It was established in September 2002 in Bosa, Bogotá, Colombia. The organisation, member of National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), focuses on defending the rights of the descendants of the Muisca, and the development of cultural and historical heritage, territory and health and the linguistics of the indigenous language, Muysccubun.


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Bibliography and further reading