August 6, 1538: Bogotá, Colombia is founded (traditional date). In pre-Columbian times, the area was populated with Muiscas. The local people numbered about a half million and lived in the highlands. They enjoyed a mild climate between the mountains and farmed the fertile lands of the Bogotá high plains. The people were organized into two large federations, each with their own chief with Zipa being the stronger of the two. The Spanish invaders were looking for the fabled El Dorado. Originally, this term referred to a Muisca chief who during the initiation rite would cover himself with gold dust and then dive into Lake Guatavita. Later, it was thought to be a city and then a kingdom or empire of the legendary king.
Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada was a lawyer in Spain but lost favor when he lost an important case. He was sent as second-in-command on an expedition to the New World, under Pedro Fernández de Lugo. They were hoping to find riches in South America, but were unsuccessful in their attempt. De Lugo put Quesada in charge of an expedition to explore the interior, even though he had no military experience. The goal was to discover the elusive El Dorado. They left with 500 men and eventually split into two groups and planned to join up again later. Quesada heard of locals making large salt cakes in order to trade and abandoned his original plan and instead crossed the mountains in search of the salt villages.
He found the salt village along with several more filled with successful locals. The travel was difficult and by the time they reached Grita Valley, there were only 70 men left. They had collected gold and emeralds along the way. They sacked local villages and destroyed the Sun temple of Zaque Quemuenchatocha. They pressed on and entered Chibcha territory where they found good roads. As they came close to the Bogotá Kingdom, the chief unsuccessfully tried to block their entry. Quesada decided to settle in and built an urban settlement as the conquerors motto was to found and populate.
Today, Bogotá is the capital city of Colombia. The population is close to 8 million and the city covers 613 square miles. The entire metropolitan area includes several other municipalities and has a population of about 13.5 million. The climate is subtropical highland and there are about 220 mornings a year that begin with foggy conditions. Bogotá is the main economic and industrial center of the country. Although there were many problems in the country, tourism has started to rebound in the early 21st century. The improvements in safety and infrastructure are behind the increased tourist trade. If you are still looking for the Spanish gold, you might fly into El Dorado International Airport and visit Bogotá.
We came to serve God and to get rich, as all men wish to do. – Bernal Diaz del Castillo, conquistador
The explorer seeks the undiscovered, the traveler that which has been discovered by the mind working in history, the tourist that which has been discovered by entrepreneurship and prepared for him by the arts of mass publicity. – Paul Fussell
Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit. – Frank Borman
Explorers have to be ready to die lost. – Russell Hoban
Also on this day: Fat Man’s Predecessor – In 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Humane? – In 1890, the first execution by electric chair took place.
Gertrude Ederle – In 1926, Gertrude became the first woman to swim the English Channel.
Lost – In 1930, Judge Force Crater disappeared.
Francis II – In 1806, the king abdicated and ended the Holy Roman Empire.