Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, also written as Ximénez de Quesada (Granada or Córdoba, Spain, 1509-Mariquita, Province of Mariquita, New Kingdom of Granada, February 16, 1579) was a Spanish lawyer, adelantado and conquistador with the rank of Lieutenant General who conquered the territory he called the New Kingdom of Granada, in the present-day Republic of Colombia.
He founded, among others, the city of Santafé de Bogotá, the current capital of Colombia, on August 6, 1538. He governed Cartagena between 1556 and 1557, and his last expedition was between 1569 and 1572 in search of El Dorado, which ended disastrously.
There is no clear consensus on the place of his birth; some chroniclers place him in Cordoba and others in Granada in 1509, both cities in Andalusia. His father (named Luis or Gonzalo) arrived in Granada to practice law, and it is believed that this city is the most likely to have been the birthplace of Jiménez de Quesada, since, as the chronicler Juan Rodríguez Freyle says, he named the territory he conquered the New Kingdom of Granada because of the similarity he found between the Cundiboyacense plateau “with the fields and meadows of Granada, the General”s homeland”. There has also been speculation as to whether its origin could have been from Judeo-converts, although there is no conclusive data on this matter.
Most sources agree on the origin of Jiménez de Quesada, among them Juan de Castellanos, Juan Rodríguez Freyle and Lucas Fernández de Piedrahíta, while those who defended his Cordovan origin were Fray Pedro Simón and Marcos Jiménez de la Espada. The latter give him a Cordovan origin because, apparently, his father, Luis (or Gonzalo) Jiménez and his mother, Isabel de Rivera, were both from Cordoba.
He was the eldest of six brothers, of whom Hernán Pérez de Quesada was the one who accompanied him as second in command in the expedition of the Magdalena River; Francisco de Quesada was one of the conquerors of Quito, and both died when, while passing Cape de la Vela, they were killed by lightning that struck the ship in which they were traveling. Another brother, named Melchor, was a priest, and his two sisters were named Andrea and Magdalena.
After his adolescence he studied law at the University of Salamanca and returned to Granada, already a lawyer, around 1533, according to some documents that accredit him as Gonzalo Jiménez “el mozo” to differentiate him from his father. It is also known that he practiced as a lawyer in the Royal Court of Granada.
The family of Jiménez de Quesada, belonging to a tradition of lawyers and lawyers, had a small industry of elaboration and dyeing of linen and wool fabrics, but a lawsuit around the dyes caused an economic crisis in the family industry, which prompted several of its members, among them Gonzalo and his brother Hernán, to leave the Peninsula. After working in the Royal Court of Granada, Gonzalo would have gone to Italy in 1534 to enlist in the recently founded Spanish tercios, a position he held for a short time before leaving for America.
There is in the General Archive of the Indies, a document from 1535, recommended to the governor Pedro de Heredia, a certain Gonzalo Jimenez, to go to Cartagena from Spain. It is not clear if it is the same Jiménez de Quesada, but it is possible, since no Gonzalo Jiménez ended up reaching that governorship.
When the death of Garcia de Lerma, governor of Santa Marta, was known in the Peninsula, notice of the vacancy was given to Don Pedro Fernandez de Lugo, a very wealthy gentleman on the island of Tenerife. Fernandez de Lugo was aware of the news of the province of Santa Marta by reports from Francisco Lorenzo, a soldier who had been in that province and who was in Tenerife.
Fernandez de Lugo sent his son, Don Alonso Luis Fernandez de Lugo, to go to the Court and to advance in his name the necessary diligences to acquire the governorship. When Alonso Luis arrived at the court at the beginning of 1535, he obtained the appointment for his father with the title of Adelantado of the provinces and kingdoms that he conquered. The Council of the Indies signed capitulations with Don Pedro Fernandez de Lugo imposing him the conditions of law. Don Alonso, his son, who was in Sanlúcar arranging the necessary for the voyage, set sail and arrived at the port of Tenerife.
In mid-1535, Jiménez de Quesada embarked as part of the retinue of the newly appointed governor. Before embarking, on November 10, he was appointed in the Port of Santa Cruz as Lieutenant Governor to administer justice, a position that was also known as Justicia Mayor.
In January 1536 (or at the end of 1535 according to some versions) Fernández de Lugo disembarked in Santa Marta with 1500 men, among them Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, Pedro Fernández de Valenzuela, Antonio Ruiz de Orjuela, Gonzalo Suárez Rendón, Martín Galeano and Lázaro Fonte, among many others. The deplorable state in which the new governor found the Spanish population established in Santa Marta impressed him greatly, since Santa Marta was then reduced to a few straw huts that could not provide sufficient lodging for the number of men and animals that had just disembarked, so many had to pitch tents. Until that moment, Antonio Bezos had been in command of the city on a provisional basis.
The Spaniards in Santa Marta, besides living in deplorable huts and wearing worn shirts and espadrilles, were mostly sick and exhausted by the difficult weather conditions, in addition to the continuous attacks by the Tayrona and Bonda tribes, despite the alliance of the Gaira and Taganga Indians, who helped the Spaniards to defend themselves against the enemy tribes.
With the arrival of Fernández de Lugo”s retinue, an epidemic of dysentery broke out and many people died. This made it even more difficult for the new governor, who was trying to meet the needs of the population.
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Expedition
To occupy the men and avoid an uprising, Governor Fernandez de Lugo prepared an expedition to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in which Jimenez de Quesada participated as Justicia Mayor, but the expedition returned without having found anything noteworthy. Then Fernandez de Lugo commissioned his son, Alonso Luis, to lead a new expedition to the Tairona region. Alonso Luis Fernandez de Lugo, in his expedition, took a great booty with which he embarked secretly to Spain, without his father”s knowledge.
Jiménez de Quesada, in view of Alonso Luis” robbery of his father, sent a representative to the Court of Madrid to have him captured and tried, but in Spain the fugitive was acquitted and some time later returned to Santa Marta to take over his father”s position.
Three months after his arrival to Santa Marta, in 1536, and due to the precariousness that was lived in that city, Jiménez de Quesada organized from that city an excursion towards the interior of the territory following the course of the Magdalena River (called this way for having been discovered the day of Santa María Magdalena), which divided the provinces of Santa Marta and Cartagena, with the intention of reaching the source of the river, which was supposed to be in Peru, a territory already known to have been conquered by Francisco Pizarro in 1532.
Before this expedition, several governors and captains from Santa Marta and Cartagena had already tried to go up the Magdalena River without success, because its excessive flow and the thick jungles that surrounded it made the expedition very difficult. The maximum they had reached was 50 or 60 leagues upriver, to the province of Sompallón. Through “Indian tongues” (interpreters) the governors of Santa Marta and Cartagena had learned that upriver there were many towns and riches and great provinces and lords of them, but no expedition had been successful, mostly because the river was so swollen by the rains to the point that the land around the river silted up, making passage impossible.
Not only the governorships of Santa Marta and Cartagena were interested in this expedition, but also the governorate of Venezuela, which was controlled by German explorers after Emperor Charles V leased the province of Venezuela for a time to the German banker family Welser, from Augsburg. Also of interest in this expedition were the explorers of the Urapari (Orinoco) lands, who already had news of a rich province called Meta, which according to information from the indigenous interpreters was the source of the Orinoco River. In the instructions of the expedition that Jiménez de Quesada was to undertake, it was stipulated that the contingent, on its route to Peru (which at that time belonged to the jurisdiction of the Governorate of Nueva Castilla), should seek peace with the indigenous people it encountered along the way. The expedition was authorized by Governor Pedro Fernández de Lugo.
On April 1, 1536, Jiménez de Quesada received from Governor Fernández de Lugo, after agreement with the other captains, the appointment of Lieutenant General of the forces destined for the expedition, according to documents preserved in the Archive of the Indies:
“I hereby appoint as my Lieutenant General the licenciado Jiménez, of the people both on foot and on horseback who are ready to set out to discover the sources of the Rio Grande de la Magdalena, to whom the said licenciado I give full power as I have received and have from His Majesty.” (Unpublished documents from the Archive of the Indies. Vol. XLI. Manuel G . Hernández, 1879).
Jiménez de Quesada led the group going overland as Captain General along with his brother Hernán Pérez de Quesada and the following captains:
Setbacks with the brigantines
On April 5 or 6, 1536, the expedition set out from Santa Marta with the intention of going up the Magdalena River. Jiménez de Quesada was given full authority to lead the men at his discretion. The expedition consisted of two groups, one overland and the other up the river.
The land group was composed of 600 or 620 men distributed in 8 infantry companies and 70 or 85 men distributed in 10 cavalry companies; the number of men varies depending on the sources. The group that would go up the river to meet later with the commanded land men was composed of 200 men distributed in seven brigantines, but only two boats managed to enter the mouths of the Magdalena, under the command of Captain Juan Chamorro, while two or three more were lost and the rest returned to Cartagena and Santa Marta. In Santa Marta two of these brigantines were enabled and Licenciado Juan Gallegos was named as head of the flotilla and Gómez Corral and Juan Albarracín as Captains.
Arrival in Tamalameque
On the river, Captain Gallegos caught up with Captain Chamorro”s flotilla at Malambo and the two flotillas of four brigantines arrived safely in the domain of the cacique of Tamalameque, which was the meeting point with Jiménez de Quesada.
Those coming by land, under the command of Quesada, took the southern route, skirted the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, passing through Chimila territory. When they reached Valledupar, they passed through Chiriguaná and Tamalameque, the meeting point with those coming by river, and then headed for Sompallón. However, the difficulties were greater than for those who went overland, because horses were of no use in the abundant swampy marshes that covered the entire region, and on the contrary, transporting the horses there was an enormously difficult task.
First uprising attempt
In Tamalameque they met those who were going by land with those who were going by water. There Jiménez que Quesada had to impose his authority so that a group of men would not return to Santa Marta, frightened by the setbacks they had already suffered to get there, since the scorching weather and the abundance of mosquitoes and dangerous animals made them fearful of what might be ahead. The General then organized a company of the healthiest and strongest men under the orders of Jeronimo de Inza to go ahead, in the vanguard, opening a path through the virgin forest. Then he sent the sickest men back to Santa Marta by the river, and with things thus arranged, they set out to continue the march upriver.
Arrival at Barrancabermeja
The expedition continued its route down the Magdalena to San Pablo and Barranca. Later, those traveling by water discovered a town on the riverbank 150 leagues from the coast. They called this town Cuatro Brazos, but it was better known as La Tora de las Barrancas Bermejas (today”s Barrancabermeja), so called because of the reddish (bermejo) color of the riverbanks. When Jiménez de Quesada was informed of this discovery, the General embarked there in the company of Baltasar Maldonado, Fernán Vanegas and Antón de Olaya. Up to this point the expedition was very difficult due to the closed jungles and the strong flow of the river.
In Barrancabermeja, Jiménez de Quesada decided to wait for the men coming by land and then make them rest, since they were already very exhausted. While waiting, he had the surrounding lands and the river explored. Days later the explorers returned with the news that the surrounding lands were uninhabited and the river was so swollen that it had flooded much of the land around its course. The brigantines had managed to advance 20 leagues upriver, but they returned without news of having seen anything particular, except for having spotted a few Indians on some islets in the middle of the river.
Second uprising attempt
Before the little hope of finding anything, and due to the difficult health conditions in which most of them were, Captain Juan de San Martin and other men tried to revolt in Barrancabermeja. Captain San Martin, speaking on behalf of his companions, told the General that they intended to abandon the expedition and return to Santa Marta, but the General managed to calm the spirits with the help of the chaplain Fray Domingo de las Casas.
Discovery of the Opón river and Andean salt
In the hope of having better results, Jiménez de Quesada organized a second expedition, under the command of captains Cardoso and Albarracín, and this expedition gave better results, for the Opón River was discovered, and on its banks the explorers found a hut in which the Indians had a type of salt different from the sea salt they had consumed until then.
Until Barrancabermeja the Spaniards consumed salt in grain that was produced on the coasts of the Santa Marta Sea and that the Indians traded up to 70 leagues inland with other tribes. After 70 leagues, the Spaniards realized that this sea salt became very scarce and expensive, and only the caciques and other principal or noble Indians used it. The rest of the Indians consumed salt made from human urine and certain palms that were ground into a saline powder.
The people there consumed another type of salt that was not in grain form like sea salt, but came compactly in the form of loaves or large piles. The further they advanced into the mountains, the more common was the use of this salt among the natives. Thus the Spaniards deduced that just as salt in grain came up from the coast, salt in the form of bread came down from the mountains.
When they asked the natives about the origin of this new type of salt, they answered that it was brought by merchants who came from the land where the salt was produced, which was a large and rich land ruled by a powerful lord. With this news, the Spaniards continued exploring until they reached the Serranías del Opón, walking for about 50 leagues. Those lands were very difficult to walk and with scarce Indian population. Some time later it would be discovered that the origin of the salt in bread was the Muisca villages of Zipaquirá and Nemocón.
This news, upon arriving at Jiménez de Quesada”s camp, encouraged the men”s spirits. The General then sent Captain San Martin to verify the news and obtain more complete information. Going up the river, San Martin found a canoe abandoned by the natives in which he found fine red cotton blankets of excellent weaving, as well as some loaves of salt; advancing further, he found several huts that served as salt deposits, and near there a population of about 1000 inhabitants. There he returned to report what he found.
Jiménez de Quesada, faced with the impossibility of continuing along the Magdalena River, decided to enter along the Opón River since such important discoveries had been made. The river seemed to come from some great sierras and mountains that could be seen on the left hand side, which were the Serranías del Opón, which they would later explore. Climbing up the river bank, Jiménez de Quesada became seriously ill, so he ordered Céspedes and Olaya to go ahead, and they reached the top of a mountain range from where they could see in the distance extensive lands that must have been populated.
Expedition through the Opón Mountains
Jiménez de Quesada returned to Barrancabermeja and there he ordered Gallegos to return to Santa Marta with the brigantine flotilla and the sick soldiers. Afterwards, although he had not yet recovered from his illness, he set out on the road through the Atún (upper Opón) mountains.
Climbing through the jungles, the Spaniards were forced by hunger to eat, cooked in water, the hides of their armor, belts and the sheaths of their swords. On one occasion when they were camped on the banks of the river, a jaguar pulled the soldier Juan Serrano out of the hammock in which he was sleeping, and his companions came to him screaming. The jaguar, frightened, left Serrano and slipped away into the jungle. Later in the night the jaguar returned and took the soldier, whose screams this time could not be heard by his companions due to the noise of the torrential rain that was falling at that moment.
Upon arriving at the Valle de la Grita, already in Muisca territory, the host had been reduced to 180 men and 60 horses, plus an unknown number of indigenous companions and black slaves. The full names of some of the conquistadors are unknown. Six Spaniards died before the distribution of the booty, so at the end of the expedition, 174 expedition members remained alive.
Tour of the province of Velez
After such a difficult journey, they arrived at the site where the town of Vélez would later be founded, in the province of the same name, in the domain of the Muisca Confederation. From there the road became flatter and easier to travel. In addition, due to the altitude they were at, the climate became milder, which benefited the health of all the men, who recovered their good spirits.
The newly discovered land was heavily populated by Indians of a different appearance from those of the jungles and coasts, and whose language could no longer be translated by the interpreters they had brought from Santa Marta. Meanwhile, the Spaniards were pale and skinny because of the many hardships suffered on the journey, and almost completely naked, because their clothes had become rags, but fifteen days after entering the Cundiboyacense plateau, as reported by Fernández de Piedrahíta, They recovered their health due to the good air and the mild climate, as well as the horses, which recovered from their extreme weakness, and as the Indians offered them beautiful cotton blankets dyed in bright colors, the Spaniards dressed in the style of the Muiscas.
Celebration of the first mass
In January 1537, arriving at the Muisca village of Chipatá, after almost a year of having left Santa Marta, the Spaniards considered that the kind conditions of the climate, the terrain and the inhabitants of those provinces were favorable to celebrate a mass, which they had not attended since their departure from Santa Marta. It was then when the Dominican friar Domingo de las Casas, to satisfy the need expressed by the soldiers, ordered the construction of an altar, and with the small canvas of the crucifixion that the following year he would use in the foundation of Bogota, he celebrated the first mass in Muisca territory, also considered the first mass of the New Kingdom of Granada.
Reactions of indigenous people to horses
The Spaniards continued their march surrounded by more and more Indians, who were especially amazed to see the horses, because they did not know if man and horse were one and the same being. The chronicler Lucas Fernandez de Piedrahita reports that some Indians died of shock, others were stunned and completely paralyzed to see the horses run, and others closed their eyes in fear.
Near the domains of the cacique Guachetá, in the vicinity of a ravine, many Indians came out making a great noise and throwing at the Spaniards a large number of arrows, but not shot with a bow but with a device used by them to throw them. On the other side of the ravine, many others flaunted their spears and clubs with many shouts that lasted until midnight. At that hour the noise ceased and Quesada went out with some men, taking advantage of the light of the full moon, to find out the cause of the sudden silence. They then discovered that some horses had run after a mare that was in heat, and with their neighing they had frightened the Indians. In this regard, the chronicler Fernandez de Piedrahita says:
… and contemplating the event well, the Indians should not be considered cowards because of it, since it seems that ours and others of any nation in the world would do the same, if they had not seen such brutes or others similar in the greatness of the body: and it is certain that suddenly seeing themselves assaulted by such strange animals, never seen by them, nor heard of because they lacked deeds and contracting with other nations of the Kingdoms in which they were raised, it was not much that they fled. (…) the Indians of Velez should be justly excused, since their retreat should be attributed more to admiration, daughter of ignorance, than to fear born of pusillanimity.
Having calmed down the Indians, the Spaniards continued on their way until they came across the Saravita River. Captain Gonzalo Suárez Rendón fell into the river with his horse. The horse was carried away by the river, and the captain could be rescued by his companions, and from then on the Saravita River was known as the Suarez River.
They continued their march to the town of Ubazá, located near the Saravita River. This town of Ubazá was deserted by the Spaniards, since its inhabitants had fled in haste when they learned of the arrival of the foreigners. However, as they advanced, the fear of some of the natives diminished.
They then passed through the Muisca towns of Moniquirá, Susa and Tinjacá and Guachetá. They then continued on to Lenguazaque, Cucunubá and Suesca. In these last towns they were received by the population with abundant offerings of deer, rabbits and colorful fabrics.
Arrival at Guachetá
Guided by some Indians, the Spaniards arrived at Guachetá, a populous town which they called San Gregorio, for having arrived on the day of that saint. The inhabitants of Guachetá, aware of the arrival of the foreigners, had fled before they arrived, leaving the town abandoned, and thinking that the Spaniards were children of the sun and ate human flesh, they sent some emissaries with an old man tied up, whom they left next to a bonfire, to see if they would eat him. The Spaniards untied the old man and let him go, but then the Guachetaes, thinking that the foreigners wanted young meat, threw two or three suckling children from a rock. Before the shouts of the Indian Pericón, interpreter of the Spaniards, the Guachetaes stopped and did not throw more children.
Then the Indians sent them a woman and a man tied up together with a deer so that the Spaniards would eat them. The deer served as food for the troops and the two Indians were freed. This gesture, and the fact that the Spaniards had come to put out a house fire, established greater trust with the Guachetaes, who returned to the town and established peace with the Spaniards. In Guachetá there was a great temple consecrated to the sun, next to which the Spaniards erected a cross, and there they found emeralds for the first time.
Arrival at Suesca
On March 14, 1537, Jiménez de Quesada arrived in Suesca, whose inhabitants entertained the Spaniards in their camp with venison and rabbit meat, other corn-based preparations and brightly painted cotton blankets.
Meanwhile, the psihipqua called by the Spaniards as the Bogota, who had already learned of the arrival of the foreigners, sent spies to Suesca to find out how many they were, the weapons they brought and their intentions, to decide with these data what to do. The spies told the psihipqua about the horses, which they called “big deer” in their language. The Bogota already knew about the horses from previous information, but these last spies realized that a horse had died and that the Spaniards had buried it, so it was ruled out that they were immortal animals. They also described the weapons they had seen and the physical appearance of the foreigners.
On the occasion of Quesada”s visit to the cacique of Suesca, the conquistador witnessed that the cacique remained tied up in the middle of his enclosure, while his nine wives took turns to whip him; when Quesada asked the reason for the punishment, the interpreter informed him that the cacique had gone too far in a drunken binge and that is why his wives were punishing him. Quesada begged the women to forgive the cacique, who was already spilling blood from his back, but the women did not give in.
The trial of Juan Gordo
While the Spaniards were in Suesca, a Muisca man went to the Spanish camp with the intention of presenting his General with two cotton blankets. On the way he met the soldier Juan Gordo. Upon seeing the Spaniard, the man was frightened and ran away, leaving the blankets lying on the ground. Gordo picked up the blankets and, days later, the Muisca man complained to the General that the soldier had stolen the blankets.
Jiménez de Quesada put Juan Gordo on trial, who was found guilty and condemned to death. The sentence was executed mercilessly so that, according to the General, “the others would have restraint”.
Arrival at Nemocón
From Suesca the Spaniards headed to Nemocón, a town where the salt they had discovered near Barrancabermeja was extracted. From Nemocón the terrain looked more pleasant, with extensive plains and better laid out towns with colorfully painted houses, most of them circular in plan and a few square or rectangular.
The psihipqua Bogotá, lord of Muyquytá, to whose domains Nemocón belonged, was aware of the arrival of the foreigners by the news brought to him by his spies. Determined to expel the foreigners, he sent 500 of his best güechas (Muisca warriors) to confront the Spaniards. Many güechas carried on their backs the mummies of distinguished warriors who had died in battle.
The Güechas of Bogotá attacked the Spaniards from the rear when they were already on their way to the town of Zipaquirá, but the Spaniards won the victory without having to wait for the reinforcements that arrived shortly after.
Battle of Cajicá
The güechas that had been defeated in Nemocón fled quickly and took refuge in the military fortress of Busongote, in Cajicá. This was the main fortification that psihipqua de Muyquytá had. It was fortified with thick trunks of several meters high and with interwoven reeds covered by cotton fabrics of great length. The following day the Güechas came out of their entrenchment and were defeated by the Spaniards in a brief battle. The Spaniards then entered the fort of Busongote, where they found abundant provisions of food and blankets.
Arrival in Chía and Easter Week celebration
From Cajicá, the conquerors set out for Chía, a town of abundant population, extensive crops and large buildings. The largest construction they found there was the temple of the moon. A peculiarity of the constructions that they found in Chía was that some isolated houses of the population that were used by the main noble Indians as recreation houses, had each one a wide street or avenue that came out of its portal, five rods wide and half a league long, so straight that although they went up or down some hill they did not disagree of the straightness not even a single point.
In Chia the Spaniards celebrated Holy Week in April 1537, a year after leaving Santa Marta. They remained in good friendship with the inhabitants of that town and prepared to continue the march in the hope of meeting the psihipqua Bogotá, of whom they already had news. They knew that the psihipqua resided in the enclosure of Muyquytá, capital of the Cacicazgo de Muyquytá, three leagues from Chía, so they began to send him peace proposals with messengers to avoid having to go to arms, but the psihipqua distrusted and did not want to have any dealings or contact with the Spaniards due to a prophecy that warned him that he would die at the hands of foreigners from distant lands.
Arrival in Suba and discovery of the “Valle de los Alcázares”.
When they were preparing to leave, or when they were already on their way to Funza, the utatiba (cacique) of Suba, known as Subausaque, father-in-law of Bogota, came to the Spaniards and entertained them with deer meat, fine cotton blankets and other gifts, and even when they had left their village, the cacique continued sending them gifts. With this cacique the Spaniards made a general peace that was never broken. Some sources speak of another cacique, called Tuna, who arrived along with the one from Suba to entertain the foreigners.
After the Sunday of Quasimodo, the Spaniards left Chia, with whose utatiba they remained in good friendship, and they arrived to Suba, from whose hills they saw on the valley many populations with big enclosures and huts made of wood and arcabuco barazons. As from afar these buildings looked so well designed and built and of such a pleasant disposition, the adelantado Jiménez de Quesada called that savannah the “Valley of the Alcazars”, which later was called “Valley of the Alcazars of Bogotá” and, finally, “Savannah of Bogotá”; then, being Jiménez de Quesada a native of Granada, city of the province of Andalusia, he called the discovered region Nuevo Reino de Granada (New Kingdom of Granada). In Suba the Spaniards had to stay eight or fifteen days, because it was the rainy season and the Bogota River was very high and did not allow them to advance. They took advantage of this time to wait for a message of peace from the psihipqua, but this did not happen. In the meantime, they rested in lodgings well arranged by the utatiba of Suba, and after fifteen days, they left for Funza.
After the Spaniards went through the lands of Muyquytá and entered the lands of Tunja, where they had some battles, they returned to the Sabana of Bogotá, where the utatiba of Suba was waiting for them again with more gifts, which strengthened their friendship even more. Meanwhile, the psihipqua, who was son-in-law of the utatiba of Suba, learned that this one was in dealings and friendship with the foreigners, ordered to make him prisoner and made burn many of the enclosures of Suba, killing also many of his people.
Some time later, after the death of Bogota, the utatiba of Suba was released from the prison in which the psihipqua kept him and baptized shortly before his death by Fray Domingo de las Casas, chaplain of the expedition of Jimenez de Quesada; in this way, Subausaque was the first Muisca to be baptized. The baptism took place through the intermediary of an Indian that the Spaniards called Pericón, who was found on the road to Opón and became an interpreter and catechist. That same day all the vassals of the Utatiba, inhabitants of Suba, were also baptized. According to Fray Pedro Simón, the utatiba of Suba died before the Spaniards left for Funza for the first time.
Another version affirms that the utatiba of Suba died before the Spaniards left Suba, and that they regretted his death very much, because having established such a good friendship with him, he would have been an ideal intermediary between them and Tisquesusa.
Arrival at Muyquytá
Once the Suba camp was raised, the Spaniards headed for the Muyquytá encirclement, where the psihipqua, known by the Spaniards as the Bogota, resided. They arrived without encountering resistance, because the psihipqua, upon learning of the advance of the foreigners, ordered the eviction of the village and fled with his family, his court, his priests and his more than 400 wives to the palace of Facatativá.
The Spaniards stayed in the palace of Bogota in Funza, where they found no valuable objects of gold or any other precious material, as everything had been taken by the Indians.
Expedition against the Panches
As a group of Muiscas that accompanied the Spaniards from Chia and Suba had requested their help to defeat their perpetual enemies, the Panch peoples of the warm lands of the West of the current department of Cundinamarca, Jimenez de Quesada arranged the exploration of that western province, for which he designated the captains Cespedes and San Martin to command the troops. In a short time they subdued the Panches, guided by the Muiscas, who covered the Spaniards and their horses with cotton armor like those used by their güechas to cushion the poisoned darts thrown by the Panches.
Arrival at Chocontá
While Jiménez de Quesada awaited the arrival of the troops from the West, Tisquesusa sent several expeditions to fight with the Spaniards but, realizing the military inferiority of his men, he devised a stratagem to expel the foreigners from their lands. As Tisquesusa already knew of the Spaniards” interest in gold and precious stones, he sent ten or twelve of his men to divert the Spaniards from the road, telling them that they were on behalf of the Utatiba of Chocontá. Tisquesusa sent his men with food, blankets and emeralds from Somondoco, with the instruction to take the Spaniards to Chocontá, and from there to show them the way to the mines of Somondoco, which were four days from Chocontá. The zipa also warned that the men he sent should dress like the Chocontaes, whose costumes were different from those of the Bacataes; at the same time, he sent ahead a messenger to Chocontá to warn his utatiba of the plan.
Then Quesada, disappointed for not having been able to find the psihipqua, and intrigued to know the origin of the emeralds that were shown to him, decided then, once the troops from the West had returned, to leave for Chocontá, guided by the false emissaries sent by the zpsihipqua, to then continue on his way to the North, in search of the emerald mines of Somondoco, at the same time that he would take the opportunity to look for the hoa of Hunza, Eucaneme, of whom he already had news.
After leaving Funza, Quesada passed through Bojacá, whose utatiba did not want to comply with him, unlike the other caciques of the Sabana de Bogotá; then he passed through Engativá, Usaquén, Teusacá (present municipality of La Calera), Guasca and Guatavita, until arriving at the Valley of Chocontá, four days after leaving Funza, on June 9, 1537. In Chocontá, the Spaniards were welcomed with feasts and festivities, and on that day the Easter of Pentecost was commemorated with a mass celebrated by Father Domingo de las Casas, who gave the town the name of Pueblo del Espíritu Santo (Town of the Holy Spirit). The Spanish chroniclers recorded that, upon Quesada”s arrival in Chocontá, there were a large number of houses and an abundant population. The settlement was located right in front of the present one, on the other side of the Funza River (former name of the Bogotá River), in the place known today as Pueblo Viejo.
The night Quesada and his men arrived at Chocontá, a soldier named Cristóbal Ruiz went mad out of nowhere, showing all the signs of having lost his mind; he behaved strangely, shouted furiously and spoke incoherently; that same night, four other Spaniards experienced the same symptoms, and the next morning there were already more than forty of them. This caused great alarm among Quesada and the other men who had not been affected; however, on the night of the second day the sick began to recover. It was then discovered that the cause of the transient madness had been that some of the women of Chocontá, in order to escape from the Spaniards, had agreed to pour into their food a preparation made with a hallucinogenic plant that the Muisca called tyhyquy (brugmansia sanguinea, better known as “borrachera”), thanks to which many women escaped. After this, Quesada and his men left for Turmequé, on their way to Somondoco, guided by men from Chocontá. Before their departure, the utatiba of Chocontá was baptized and named after Pedro Rodríguez, who died 48 years later, in 1585.
As they did in every town they passed through, the Spaniards inquired about the whereabouts of the hoa Eucaneme; however, although the inhabitants of Chocontá were vassals of the psihipqua, and therefore had been at enmity with the Hunza chiefdom since ancient times, they did not want to give any information about the location of Hunza or the whereabouts of the hoa.
Discovery of the Somondoco and Llanos Orientales mines
From Chocontá the Spaniards went to Turmequé, Tenza and Garagoa. The utatiba of Chocontá sent with the Spaniards some guides who accompanied Captain Pedro Fernández de Valenzuela and some soldiers who went with him, and took them to the emerald mines of Somondoco, while Quesada and most of his men camped in Turmequé, for having been informed by their guides that Somondoco was a land lacking in resources, where they could not sustain for several days all the people they were carrying.
Captain Valenzuela”s commission returned with large samples of emeralds and the news of having seen from the immediate mountains the vast expanse of the Eastern Plains. With this notice an expedition was prepared in charge of Captain San Martin, who arrived as far as Iza, where he learned of the existence of a powerful cacique called Tundama; then he returned without having been able to explore the Llanos.
Jiménez de Quesada, together with some foot and horse soldiers, marched quickly towards Hunza (present-day Tunja), trying to arrive by daylight, since, as he knew, there resided the powerful hoa Eucaneme, who was equal in dignity to the psihipqua of Muyquytá, and even boasted of having preeminence and seniority over the psihipquas.
The hoa, on learning from his spies of the proximity of the foreigners, sent to meet them a retinue with gifts of cloth and food to entertain them, while he placed in safety the gold and emeralds, of which he knew already that they had great covetousness, but when the messengers were leaving Hunza, the Spaniards arrived at the same time on August 20, 1537.
When the Spaniards arrived in Hunza, they went to the enclosure of Quiminza, where the Eucaneme resided. On entering, they were greatly impressed at the sight of the royal palace, the walls of which were all covered with gold leaf, while at the doors hung curtains made of golden bells. The confusion and startlement of the crowd at that moment was considerable, for Hunza was full of people who were not ready for the unexpected arrival of the foreigners. The güechas warriors began to shout war cries, the population shouted in confusion and fear, and Jiménez de Quesada ordered his men to get into defensive position, foreseeing an imminent attack.
The horsemen rode ahead at some distance from the infantry to ensure a better defense, waiting for the orders of Captain Suárez Rendón. At that moment the Tunjanos closed the two gates of the palace enclosures, leaving the Spaniards with no option of escape, enclosed between enclosure and enclosure. These doors were, each one, in two different enclosures that surrounded the palace, and each enclosure was twelve paces apart.
Meanwhile, outside, the hoa”s servants threw, from hand to hand, all the gold objects they could, without the Spaniards noticing, because they were trying to break the ties of the fence gate that gave access to the palace.
Jiménez de Quesada got off his horse while Ensign Antón de Olaya finally cut the ties on the door. The two were the first to enter the palace, sword in hand, followed by the rest of the soldiers. They then headed for the largest and most colorful house in the palace, making their way cautiously through the crowd of frightened people. When they entered the large hut, they found the hoa in it.
Capture of the hoa Eucaneme
The Chronicles of the Indies describe the hoa Eucaneme as a rather old man, of great physical corpulence, robust limbs and sagacious intelligence. The hoa, seated in a golden armchair and surrounded by the nobles of his house who remained standing, remained impassive when he saw the Spaniards enter. Jiménez de Quesada and Olaya took a few steps and placed their hands on the hoa. The servants and vassals of Eucaneme launched such shouts of indignation and rage that the crowd outside wanted to enter, but they were restrained by the spears of the soldiers who were waiting at the door. Soon after, night came on.
After some discussion, through an interpreter, it was agreed that the hoa and their wives would remain under the custody of the Spaniards and that they would be guaranteed the security and consideration due to their rank.
Sacking of the Hunza palace
That same night the Spaniards went through the palace houses with torches, so they could see that most of the gold had been taken out of there. As they saw the walls covered with sheets of gold, the Spaniards exclaimed: “Pirú, Pirú, Pirú”, for Pirú was the name given at that time to Peru, which was already known for its great wealth in gold.
Jiménez de Quesada ordered an inventory of what was found. They found many fine fabrics of all colors, a great quantity of emeralds, gold plates and jewelry, and beautiful seashells trimmed with gold that served the Indians as bugles on their feast days and to announce battles. Each soldier hauled into the great courtyard of the palace as much as he could, and the chroniclers write that if they had been able to break down the gates earlier, they would have succeeded in collecting much more riches, and that nevertheless the heap of gold that managed to accumulate was so great that the horsemen who stood guard around it could not see each other.
In Hunza Jiménez de Quesada learned that in a town called Suamox (the present Sogamoso) there was an immense temple dedicated to the cult of the sun that was guarded with innumerable riches. The General then decided to go north in search of that town, leaving in Hunza the hoa taken prisoner, to whom, nevertheless, the Spanish soldiers continued treating with some respect and consideration due to their rank and to the fact that the General had ordered them to do so.
On their way to Sogamoso, the Spaniards passed through Paipa and entered the district of the cacique Tundama, who managed to escape in time and hide his treasures, leaving the Spaniards disappointed.
In the afternoon they arrived at the valley of Iraca, where the city of Suamox was erected, which was sacred land for the Muiscas. The Güechas of Sogamoso, warned of what had happened in Hunza, were ready and prepared for battle, but were defeated without difficulty by the Spaniards, who, late at night, were able to enter the already deserted town of Sogamoso, whose inhabitants had fled in terror.
In several houses they collected sheets and other objects of gold in good quantity. Soldiers Miguel Sanchez and Juan Rodríguez Parra were the first to enter with torches into the Temple of the Sun, where there were many mummies adorned with gold and colorful vestments. As the floor was covered with fine esparto matting and the walls of polished and interwoven reeds, the fire of the torches, handled clumsily by the soldiers who wanted to collect as much gold as they could between their hands, caused the place to ignite very quickly, being consumed and reduced to ashes.
When the Spaniards dammed Tunja after the sack of Sogamoso, they left Quemuenchatocha in freedom and they undertook the road toward the Valley of Neiva, encouraged by the news of great riches that there was there. On the way, when they passed through the plain of Bonza, they engaged in a bloody battle against the Saymoso cacique, whom the Spaniards called Tundama, in which Jiménez de Quesada almost died, as Tundama had summoned an immense army of Indians armed with poisoned arrows. However, the Spaniards managed to win with difficulty.
Then they continued the march to Suesca, a favorite place of Jiménez de Quesada because of the good climate and good treatment he received from the natives. In Suesca he established a headquarters and from there he continued the march, crossing the Bogotá Savannah in a hurry, descended to the town of Pasca and reached the fiery regions of the Magdalena cundinamarqués.
The expedition was disastrous and with difficulty they reached the Neiva valley. Almost all the men fell ill and some died. Having found nothing, they were forced to return to the Altiplano Cundiboyacense, which is why Jiménez de Quesada called the Neiva Valley the Valley of Sorrows.
Murder of the psihipqua Tisquesusa
Upon returning to the Sabana de Bogotá, the General met with his brother, Hernán Pérez de Quesada, who informed him that he had discovered the whereabouts of the psihipqua Tisquesusa, who was in his palace in Facatativá.
Quesada left at night for Facatativá, accompanied by his best men. Finally, they found the psihipqua”s palace and immediately launched the attack. The güechas of Tisquesusa, surprised by the unexpected attack, launched flaming arrows against the Spaniards to try to give the psihipqua time to flee, but, due to the confusion of the moment, Tisquesusa ran away in the middle of the darkness, among the bushes, until a Spanish soldier, without knowing that it was the psihipqua, pierced his chest with a sword. Seeing the rich clothes and accessories he was wearing, the Spanish soldier stripped him of everything, leaving him naked and dying.
The following day, some of Tisquesusa”s vassals found his body after seeing chickens flying in the area. They immediately picked him up and took him away with great caution, burying him in an unknown place.
In the meantime, the Spaniards, irritated for not having found the treasure of Tisquesusa, who had made him hide it, but only some jewelry for daily clothing, a gold vessel in which the zipa washed his hands and many food supplies, returned disappointed to Funza, and only a few days later they found out that the zipa had died that night.
Faced with the weakness of Chiayzaque, chieftain of Chía and legitimate successor of Tisquesusa, Sagipa, brother of Tisquesusa, took command of the Zipazgo of Bacatá.
Sagipa ascends to the throne of Muyquytá
Tensions among the Muiscas intensified after the death of Tisquesusa, since the legitimate heir, Chiayzaque, nephew of the psihipqua and cacique of Chía, was in favor of reaching a peace agreement with the Spaniards, but did not receive the majority support of his people, although he had the support of the royal family, and especially of the uzaques (blood nobles) Quixinimegua and Quixinimpaba.
Chiayzaque denounced before Jiménez de Quesada his uncle Sagipa as usurper of the throne, because he had not respected the rules of matrilineal succession that were obligatory among the Muiscas.
Meanwhile, Sagipa did not have the support of the court or the royal family, but he did have the support of the majority of the Muisca people and was determined to fight against the Spaniards until victory, despite the fact that the Uzaque nobles were doing everything possible to hinder his work.
Despite all the difficulties, Sagipa was named psihipqua and immediately led numerous troops against the Spaniards, causing them some important losses. However, the new psihipqua did not count on the fact that the Panches, traditional enemies of the Muisca, were preparing a new attack on his territory, which would make his maneuvers very difficult. This forced him to make a temporary peace with the Spaniards.
Quartering in Bosa and meeting with Sagipa
While the succession of the Zipazgo was being decided, Jimémez de Quesada, realizing that tensions were increasing, decided to garrison in the Muisca town of Bosa, on the banks of the Tunjuelo River, because the terrain in this place was flat and barren, with no forests, lagoons or swamps around it, which would allow the cavalry to maneuver in case of any attack.
While in Bosa, Jiménez de Quesada received the messengers of the new psihipqua, who arrived with the offer to make peace, in addition to bringing with them numerous gifts including servants offered by the psihipqua to the Spanish General and many blankets, gold and emeralds. Shortly after, Sagipa arrived in Bosa to meet with Jiménez de Quesada.
Sagipa arrived at Bosa loaded with gold by his servants and surrounded by his relatives and men of war, while some servants went ahead sweeping the land where the retinue was going to pass so that there would be no stones or other obstacles. The Indians were deeply impressed that Jiménez de Quesada dared to look their lord in the eyes, since it was forbidden for them to do so. In turn, the Spaniards were impressed that even when the psihipqua was going to spit his servants put a precious cotton blanket to collect his saliva as something sacred. They also noticed that Sagipa”s language was different in some respects from that of his subjects, perhaps because it was more refined, which they also noticed in his manners.
Battle of Tocarema
Zaquesazipa asked Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada for his help to fight the Panches, implacable enemies of the Muiscas, who had just assaulted the town of Zipacón, taking many captives and destroying the fields and crops. Quesada agreed to lend his help, and so 12,000 Muisca güechas and 40 Spanish soldiers set out for the Panche territory of Anolaima, where, after several battles and bloody combats, the Panches were subdued in the Battle of Tocarema. Several Panches who had been taken captive were handed over to the Zipa, and other Panches came to Jiménez de Quesada with offerings of guamas, avocados and gold.
Torture and death of Sagipa
After the resounding defeat of the Panches by the joint army of the Spaniards and the Muiscas, the Zipa and the Spaniards went to Bojacá to celebrate the triumph with great rejoicing and festivities. An event occurred there that was reproached by the Spaniards themselves, who attributed the General”s infamous attitude to excessive greed. Jiménez de Quesada ordered, in the middle of the party, that Sagipa was captured and taken prisoner, with the idea of making him confess about the whereabouts of the treasures of Bogota, because someone had told him that the new psihipqua was aware of the hiding place of the treasure.
Hernán Pérez de Quesada, to whom the chroniclers attribute a greater greed than to his brother, urged the General to put in writing the order of arrest of the cacique, appealing to the right of conquest granted by the King of Spain. The psihipqua was arrested and taken prisoner, which generated great scandal and astonishment among the Muiscas, who could not understand the reason.
Sagipa was taken prisoner to Funza, where the conquistador demanded that he hand over the treasure of Bogota and gave him a deadline to fill a hut with gold up to the roof in exchange for his freedom. Sagipa replied that he would ask his vassals for the gold, and that in four days he expected to obtain it. When the deadline expired, the bohío still had not been filled with gold, so Jiménez de Quesada ordered the torture of two uzaques who, out of enmity with the psihipqua, did not want to hand over even one piece of gold. The two uzaques, refusing even after the torture to hand over anything, were condemned to death by hanging.
Sagipa became melancholic and no longer responded to the Spaniards” questions, keeping silent at all times. Jiménez de Quesada then organized a trial, putting his brother Hernán as the cacique”s defense lawyer. In the process they resorted to torture to try to make Sagipa talk, but such were the damages that he received, that a few days later he died.
Jiménez de Quesada thought of going soon to the Court of Madrid to give an account of what he had discovered and thus obtain the government of those lands, but he realized that he could not leave without formalizing the Conquest with greater ceremonies. Then he decided to lay the foundations of a town in which the Spaniards would remain safe while he went to and from Spain.
To choose the appropriate place, he had the countryside explored and decided on the one that the Spaniards advised him, in an elevated place next to the Eastern Hills, near the recreational palace of Teusaquillo, which belonged to the cacique. The soil there was firm, without previous population, and fertile, the waters came down from the hills in numerous streams and there were enough forests and stone in the surroundings to undertake the construction of the first buildings. In addition, the eastern mountains offered a natural defense against attack by any enemy.
The foundations were laid and the settlement was given the name of Santa Fe, in memory of Santa Fe de Granada. The traditional procedure required the following ceremonies and procedures:
Being all together, Gonzalo Jimenez got off his horse and pulling some weeds and walking, he said that he was taking possession of that place and land in the name of the most invincible emperor Charles V, his lord, to found there a city in his own name; And then getting on his horse, he drew his sword, saying that if there was anyone who contradicted him, he would found it; there being no one who came out to defend him, he sheathed his sword and ordered the scribe of the army to draw up a public instrument that would give testimony of this, with witnesses. The foundations of the new city were twelve straw houses, a number he considered sufficient to house the troops. The site for the construction of the ranchos or bohíos was traced, and the Indians began the construction, which was soon completed, due to the abundance of materials and the number of workers. The bohíos, according to Fray Pedro Simón, were capable “and well finished in their own way; of sticks that in stretches are driven into the ground, filling the gaps between one and another with reeds and mud, and the thatched roofs on strong and well arranged poles; and I have heard that after I set foot on this land, that the intention with which they founded only these twelve houses was to correspond to the number of the twelve Apostles”.
The intention with which the twelve houses were built has been speculated with different interpretations. For Fray Pedro Simón they corresponded to the twelve Apostles. Juan de Castellanos, in his History of the New Kingdom of Granada, says the following:
And so they founded twelve haystacks, which at that time were enough to gather all the people, to equal the twelve tribes of the Hebrews and the springs of the land of Elin through which they passed, and the number of the dozen stones that were taken out of the Jordan River and placed on the ground of Galgatha for the memory of their descendants.
For his part, Father Alonso de Zamora affirms that the Spaniards ordered the foundation of the town “with twelve large and capable houses among those that the Indians had”. With the twelve straw houses, a small chapel was erected, which according to Fray Pedro Simón was a hut like the others, erected in the place where the Primate Cathedral of Colombia was later built.
On August 6, 1538, Father Fray Domingo de las Casas celebrated the first mass of Santa Fe de Bogotá in the chapel that had been built, in front of a small canvas with the image of Christ, and that day was taken as the day of the foundation of the city. However, on that day Santa Fe was not founded according to all the legal acts that had to be carried out, since the General kept the military government and did not appoint the Cabildo, which would have initiated the civil government.
Quesada and his men remained in the region until the arrival in 1539 of the expeditions of Sebastián de Belalcázar, who came from Ecuador, and the German Nicolás de Federmán, who came from Venezuela. The three expeditionary chiefs agreed to send their territorial claims to the arbitration of the Crown.
Jiménez de Quesada called the conquered lands the New Kingdom of Granada, in honor of the Andalusian city of Granada.
The economic result of the expedition was successful, contrasting with the human losses due to diseases and attacks by Indians and animals. The documents detailing the profits obtained, compiled by the historian Juan Friede, show the following data.
On June 6, 1538, the payment for services to the 178 survivors of Quesada”s army was verified.
The conflict with Lázaro Fonte
Jiménez de Quesada left his brother, Hernán Pérez de Quesada, as Lieutenant in Santa Fe, and with a few companions he set out north, thinking of going down to the Magdalena to leave for Spain. A few days after his departure he received on the way the news that Captain Lazaro Fonte was planning to denounce him after he reached the coast because, according to Fonte, the General had taken many hidden emeralds without having paid the royal fifth.
Jiménez de Quesada then returned to Santa Fe to try to clear up the matter. Once in the town, another soldier denounced Lázaro Fonte stating that he had seen him acquire from an Indian an emerald of great value, disobeying the orders of the General, who had forbidden this type of dealings to avoid fraud to the royal quintos.
Fonte was sentenced by Jiménez de Quesada to death, but the intervention of his companions made it possible to appeal the sentence. The General decided that he would take the appeal to the King in Spain, on condition that Fonte would remain until then in the town of Pasca, which at that time was at war with the Spaniards. This was fulfilled, and thanks to the intervention of a Muisca woman, Lazaro Fonte was welcomed in Pasca and befriended by his cacique.
The arrival of Nicolás Federmann
At the beginning of 1539, before Jiménez de Quesada left for Spain, he received a message from Lázaro Fonte, who had written to him from Pasca on a piece of deer hide with annatto. In the message Fonte told him that near Pasca a European expedition had passed through the Sumapaz moor to the savannah. This act of fidelity made Jiménez de Quesada immediately order the freedom of Lázaro Fonte, at the same time that he sent some captains of his confidence to find out what was happening.
The informants discovered that they were troops under the command of the German Nicolás Federmann, who came from the Eastern Plains. Federmann went up the páramo and then descended following the course of the Fusagasugá River, arriving in Pasca with his troops in terrible conditions of health and clothing, since they were half-naked, covered only by some animal skins and with rudimentary sandals that had been made to cover their feet.
When Jiménez de Quesada learned of the German”s arrival in Pasca, he prepared to go to meet him, accompanied by numerous caciques who led his troops of güechas.
When Jiménez de Quesada”s retinue was on its way to Bosa, Federmann”s troop arrived there. The reception was ceremonious, with drums and bugles. Both got off their horses, embraced each other and said words of friendship. Then they got on their horses and took the road to Santa Fe.
Jiménez de Quesada already had news that another unknown group of Europeans was already encamped in the Magdalena, so he hastened to make a pact with the German, to whom he offered 10,000 pesos in gold and the guarantee that his soldiers would enjoy the same privileges as those who were already in Santa Fe. Federmann accepted the pact, which was celebrated with the two generals putting on a cape called tudesco.
The Arrival of Sebastián de Belalcázar
Jiménez de Quesada sent his brother Hernán to the Magdalena camp where the unknown Europeans were staying, in order to inquire about their intentions and offer their chief gold and emeralds. Some sources maintain that Quesada learned of Belalcázar”s arrival before that of Federmann, although most maintain the opposite.
Hernán Pérez de Quesada found Sebastián de Belalcázar in the Magdalena Valley, who had set up camp at the confluence of the Sabandijas River, and who was already aware of Jiménez de Quesada”s expedition. Belalcázar came from Peru, in whose jurisdiction he had founded, among others, the city of San Francisco de Quito. There he had heard stories about the “golden man” who lived in the kingdom of Kuntur Marqa (“Condor”s Nest”), the present-day Cundinamarca, a region of Colombia where the Bogotá Savannah and the Guatavita Lagoon are located, where the ceremony that gave rise to the legend of El Dorado took place. These stories encouraged Belalcázar to go in search of that region.
Belalcázar received Hernán Pérez with courtesy, assuring him that he did not intend to oppose the rights of Jiménez de Quesada, and that he was only asking for free passage to continue on his way in search of El Dorado. He received the gift of gold and emeralds that Hernán Pérez brought him, and reciprocated with silverware.
However, Belalcázar changed his mind later and wanted to ally with Federmann to strip Jiménez de Quesada of his right of conquest. To execute his project, he quickly set out on his way through Tena and located himself in Bosa, where he sent Captain Juan de Cabrera with a message to Jiménez de Quesada in which he demanded the surrender of the territory, since, according to Belalcázar, it was within the jurisdiction of Peru and of what had been conquered by Francisco Pizarro.
Agreement between the three conquerors
Faced with the message sent by Belalcázar, Jiménez de Quesada completely refused to accept the terms. At the same time, Federmann refused to ally himself with Belalcázar to betray Jiménez de Quesada, and after much discussion, the chaplains of each of the three groups reached a general agreement with the following terms:
Thus, with these conditions signed, peace was established, and although Jiménez de Quesada offered Belalcázar more gold, Belalcázar proudly refused so that it would not be said that he would betray Francisco Pizarro for money.
Encounter between the three conquerors
In February 1539 the three conquistadors entered Santa Fe, amidst the jubilation of their men for the agreement reached. For several days there were parties, hunts and horse races among the soldiers. Several chroniclers report that there were notable differences between the three troops, not only because of the vicissitudes that each one had gone through, but also because of their dress: Jiménez de Quesada”s men wore indigenous blankets, in the Muisca style; Federmann”s men wore the skins of wild animals, and Belalcázar”s men wore European suits of scarlet and silk.
Afterwards, the three generals prepared to leave for Spain, preparing boats in Guataquí, on the banks of the Magdalena River. Then, on the advice of Belalcázar, who had experience in the conquest and colonization of new territories, Jiménez de Quesada decided that Santa Fe should cease to be a military establishment for defense and departure for new explorations, and become a more formal settlement. To this end, he distributed the first plots of land among the soldiers so that they could settle in the city and acquire work habits, leaving behind the adventurous life.
Formal foundation of Santa Fe de Bogotá
Following the indications of Belalcázar, in April of 1539, being present the three conquerors, the juridical acts that were customary in the foundation of cities were verified with solemnity in Santa Fe. On this occasion Jiménez de Quesada did establish the civil government, as follows:
At the same time, Jiménez de Quesada gave commissions to Gonzalo Suárez Rendón and Martín Galeano to found new cities each.
In May of 1539 Jiménez de Quesada, Belalcázar and Federmann left Santa Fe on a trip to the Peninsula. When they were going down the Magdalena River, as they approached a stream formed by the waters at what was called the Honda waterfall, it was necessary to lower their luggage and carry it overland along the river bank. During the trip they were attacked several times by Indians who pursued them in canoes. At the beginning of June they arrived in Cartagena de Indias, where they were received with admiration.
The news of the riches and new lands reached the new governor of Santa Marta, Jerónimo Lebrón de Quiñones, who planned to go to Santa Fe de Bogotá to take possession of that city, since he considered that it belonged to his government. Jiménez de Quesada, from Cartagena, sent several agents protesting against such pretensions and told him that the New Kingdom of Granada did not belong to the jurisdiction of Santa Marta, so he would not recognize his authority.
In July 1539, the three conquistadors left Cartagena for Spain and arrived at the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Quesada presented his request to be governor, without success, while the governorship of Popayán was granted to Belalcázar. Quesada returned in 1549 with the honorary title of Governor of El Dorado.
With the idea of reaching the legendary and mythical lands of El Dorado, in 1568, at the age of 60, Jiménez de Quesada received a commission to conquer Los Llanos in the eastern Colombian Andes. He left Bogota in April 1569 with 400 Spaniards, 1500 natives, 1100 horses and 8 priests. Crossing the Páramo del Sumapaz by the route of Nicolás Federmann, he descended to Mesetas on the upper Guejar River. There most of the cattle were destroyed by the burning of the prairie. The expedition headed to San Juan de los Llanos, where the guide Pedro Soleto defined that the course to follow would be southeast and this direction was maintained for two years.
After a year or so, some men returned with Juan Maldonado and the expedition returned to San Juan after six months with few survivors. Finally it would reach San Fernando de Atabapo, at the confluence of the Guaviare and the Orinoco, in December 1571, but could not advance, as this required the construction of ships.
He therefore had to return defeated to Santa Fe in December 1572 with only 64 Spaniards, 4 natives, 18 horses and two priests. The expedition was one of the costliest disasters on record and after a brief period of service in command of the frontier, Quesada retired to Suesca with what he could salvage of his fortune.
The steps for the foundation of the University of Santo Tomás, the oldest university in Colombia today, began during the lifetime of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada at the initiative of the Dominican Order.
In 1563, twenty-five years after the foundation of the city, the Dominicans opened the first chair of grammar, and ten years later, in 1573, those of philosophy and theology. Jiménez de Quesada instituted a feast in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas to celebrate the start of classes and donated his personal library to the Dominican convent. This encouraged the monks to initiate proceedings before the Crown to found a university where complete studies could be given and where academic degrees could be conferred.
The Dominicans sent Father Juan Mendoza to the Court of Madrid, and after several years of study, the request was approved and it was ordered by Royal Decree of November 10, 1593, that the President and the entire Royal Audience of Santa Fe be informed about the convenience of granting the requested permission. As the permission took so long, Father Mendoza had to resort to the Holy See to try to expedite it. While these procedures were being carried out, new steps had already been taken to found more educational institutions by other religious orders.
The cause of death of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada is not clear. It has been affirmed that he died of leprosy in the town of San Sebastián de Mariquita, on February 14, 1579; but in the documents of the time, he frequently mentions suffering from asthma, to the point of not being able to live in Bogotá, and having to retire to the hot land. His remains were transferred to Santa Fe in July 1579, by disposition of the President of the Royal Audience, don Antonio González Manrique.
The Antijovio, written between June 29 and November 30, 1567, is the only work by Jiménez de Quesada that has been preserved in its entirety, and about whose authorship there is no doubt. Its full title is Apuntamientos y anotaciones sobre la historia de Paulo Jovio, Obispo de Nochera, in which he declares the truth of the things that happened in the time of Emperor Charles V, since he began to reign in Spain until the year MDXLIII with the discharge of the Spanish Nation.
The manuscript, after arriving in Spain, was lost for centuries, until it was recovered in 1927 in the library of the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Valladolid, and in 1952 the work was printed for the first time in Bogotá, thanks to the Caro y Cuervo Institute, with a preliminary study by the Spanish historian and anthropologist Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois (1911-2002).
Los ratos de Suesca, a work that would also have received the title of Compendio historial de las Conquistas del Nuevo Reino, is a lost work that Jiménez de Quesada would have written in the town of Suesca, which was his favorite place. In this work he would relate the succinct account of the expedition of conquest of the New Kingdom of Granada, with testimonial annotations on the customs of the Indians. On the existence of this work there are several testimonies, among others that of Juan de Castellanos and that of the New Granada bishop Lucas Fernández de Piedrahíta, who affirms that he had access to the manuscript in one of the bookstores of the Court, in Spain, and regrets that, after eighty years, in his time, since the manuscript was sent to the Peninsula, it still had not been taken to the printing press.
In Bogota, Jimenez Avenue, in the center of the city, and a statue donated by the Spanish government in 1960, and placed in the Plazoleta del Rosario in 1988, were named after the statue. During the protests in Colombia in 2021, on May 7, indigenous women from the Misak community tore down the statue.