Bogota’s birthday celebrations and a bit of history

This month on the 6th of August, was the 475th birthday of Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.  To celebrate its birthday the local government has organised various events around the city that will last until next Sunday 11th of August. The celebrations are part of the Summer Festival held in Bogota since 1997.

These are some of the pictures from some of the celebrations in the city centre of Bogota:

Storytellers in the Chorro de Quevedo, in La Candelaria.

Storytellers in the Chorro de Quevedo, in La Candelaria

Fireworks and lights show at Colpatria Buiding, the tallest building in Bogota

Fireworks and lights show at Colpatria Buiding, the tallest building in Bogota

But, what exactly happened on that 6th of August 475 years ago?  in case one day you find yourself doing a tour in Bogota, this short account may help you understand more about the history of the city.

The founding of Bogota

The founding of Bogota has two key moments.  The first one happened on  August 6th, 1538 when the Spanish explorer and conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada established a camp called Our Lady of Hope, in what today is known as the Chorro de Quevedo in the neighbourhood La Candelaria. The second one, 8 months later on April 27th, 1539, when the Spanish authorities legally recognised the foundation of the city. During this legal establishment, the name of the city was changed to Santafe.

La Candelaria - Chorro de Quevedo, which may have been the point where Bogotá was founded in 1538.

La Candelaria – Chorro de Quevedo, which may have been the point where Bogotá was founded in 1538.

Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada arrived to this region of Colombia with the royal command to find the mythical treasure of El Dorado. He travelled from Santa Marta (in the Caribbean coast) to the centre of the country with approximately 500 men, only few of these men survived the long journey. When they arrived to what today is Bogota, they confronted one of the large confederations of indigenous Muiscas inhabiting the area, killed the chief commander called the “Zipa” and other natives who opposed them. The surviving Muiscas were captured by the Spaniards and, ordered to build a new camp or villa in the conquered land.

Callejon de la brujas near the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

Callejon de la brujas near the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

The new villa started with 12 cabins and a modest chapel. Although there is no record of the city’s creation on August 6th, 1538, the accepted version of the story says that on this day, Fray Domingo de las Casas celebrated the first mass in the chapel erected in the centre of the villa, formally founding the city.

The name of Bogota (or Santa Fe de Bogota) was not official during the colonial era, but its use became common by the need to distinguish this Santafe from other cities with the same name, being Bogota the Indian name of the region, they decided to call it Santafe de Bogota.

Only until 1819, when the Republic of Colombia was created, the name of the city is replaced by Bogota.

Ermita de San Miguel del Príncipe (Hermitage of St Michael) in the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

Ermita de San Miguel del Príncipe (Hermitage of St Michael of the Prince) in the Plaza Chorro de Quevedo

As we said before this is just a very short summary of only one part of the history of Bogota. We hope you want to discover more about this amazing city and decide to come. An if you happen to be in Bogota this week, we hope you enjoy the celebrations.

We look forward to reading your comments below.

Happy travels,

The Uncover Colombia team

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