History in Bogota

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Bogota was originally inhabited by indigenous cultures that had migrated from Mesoamerica. They hunted and fished in addition to cultivating potatoes, squash, beans, yucca, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco. Although there really was no gold in the area, these cultures traded for it and made elaborately detailed pieces, which can be seen and appreciated even today in the Gold Museum of Bogota. The museum has the largest collection of goldwork by the pre-Hispanic cultures in the world. One of its main attractions is a large golden raft used in the aptly named "El Dorado Ceremony" of the Muiscas.

The Conquistadors

Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, in August of 1538, took over the capital of an indigenous group called the Chibcha. In the same place as their capital, Bacata, de Quesada founded a new community he called Santa Fe de Bacata. Due to the length of the name and continuous mispronunciation by the Spanish, it eventually came to be known as Bogota.

In 1717, it became the capital of New Granada. By 1819, Simon Bolivar had taken over Bogota and made it the capital of a new, independent nation, Gran Colombia, which spread through the areas we now know as Ecuador, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. Later, it would become the capital of Colombia itself.


Bogota was not quick to grow or modernize. The people of the city tried to hold onto their colonial traditions and old European heritage for as long as possible. They were proud of speaking the purest Spanish in the Americas, and proud of their flamboyant Spanish architecture. By the end of the 1800s, more roads and railways had been built to connect Bogota to the rest of Colombia.

Theaters, such as the Theater of Cristobal Colon (1892) and the Municipal Theater (1895), as well as artisan shops, began to pop up all over the city. From 1870 to 1883, four main banks opened up in Bogota. Since there were no major industries for a while, the Bavaria Brewery, built in 1889, was actually considered the prime industry in the city for some years.


During the hectic 1920s, union struggles in the oil fields and strikes by the banana zone workers caused the deaths of many people. By the 1940s, more people began moving to Bogota due to its economic opportunities. Today the city is the financial, educational, cultural and political center of Colombia. The population is still increasing dramatically, but there is a highly noticeable rift within the population. They are either high class or low class, with no middle class to be seen. 

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