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History of Bogotá

Bogotá, originally Bacatá, was the capital city of one of the region’s most advanced pre-Columbian civilizations, the Muisca. Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada reached Bacatá in the 16th century. Struck by its location near several rivers and the allure of rumored gold–the Muisca were master goldsmiths–Quesada attacked, defeating the tribe and re-christening the location Santa Fe de Bogotá.

With the flow of riches moving from present-day Ecuador and Peru up through Colombia, Bogotá grew rapidly as an important administrative center. In 1740 the city was declared the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, an area that includes present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama. In the following years, Bogotá first welcomed the arrival of South America’s Liberator Simón Bolívar, then reportedly shunned him from the city limits. The city came to be defined by its remarkable and ornate Republican architecture, which can be observed in and around the Plaza de Bolívar.

Despite considerable growth, Bogotá still only had a population of about 100,000 at the turn of the 20th century. It wasn’t until the middle of the century that, in a drive to industrialize, the city began to thrive.

In a turn of events that has resulted in the socially fractured Colombia we know today, Liberal leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán was assassinated on April 9, 1948, in Bogotá. What ensued is known as the Bogotazo, a period of mayhem when the city was under attack from within. A tenuously organized mob took control, sacking and burning churches, public offices and buildings and killing thousands. Since, Bogotá has been regaining its confidence and evolving into a vibrant capital city

By Richard McColl
With over five years travelling and working in Latin America, Richard feels most at home here in the big Continent. From the former Scottish...
07 Sep 2011

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