By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)
Back before Bogota became known as “The Athens of South America,” it was…well, The Athens of South America.
Bogota was a rich cultural and commercial center long before the Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada even arrived. The Muisca Confederation, one of the biggest and best organized confederations of tribes in South America, inhabited what was then known as Bacatá, meaning “planted fields.”
The Muisca Confederation was comprised of two sub-divisions: the northern Zaque whose capital was Hunza, and the southern Zipa, whose capital was the great city we now know as Bogota. The Muisca economy was primarily based on agriculture and ceramics, and sports were an important part of their culture. The Muisca people enjoyed two main sports: an early form of Tejo, which involves throwing a discus at a stationary target, and wrestling.
Gold was abundant in the region, and was a common part of everyday Muisca life. The Muisca would craft single-piece items, from jewelry to containers to religious offerings, using a lost-wax casting technique with a clay mold. A religious ceremony would take place at the sacred Guatavita Lagoon, where a young man sprayed in gold would be carried out by a raft to the center of the lake, marking his graduation to a new status within Muisca society. Little known fact: the myth of El Dorado, or land of gold, spawned from this ritual – it is said that the natives would provide misleading directions to the fictional city to throw off the settlers.
On August 6, 1538 (that’s exactly 472 years ago today!), the first mass was held in a straw hut in a village of Santa Fe. Although the mass was preceded by a series of Spanish invasions, and the establishment of an urban center was already well underway, this occasion marked the official birth of Bogota.
In the years since Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada’s conquest, Bogota has flourished into a mecca for arts and education in Colombia. The city of Bogota is one of contrast, with an architectural landscape that both celebrates the city’s colorful history, while thrusting it into a bright future. Its geographic location makes it the perfect hub for international markets to converge, and the city boasts a wealth of diverse, well-educated, and highly-trained talent.
And you can bet that I’ll be hopping a ride on Bogota’s sophisticated transportation system, the Transmilenio, to get me from landmark to landmark during my fast-approaching trip with the winner of our Tech Karaoke Digital Idol competition, Janifer Chang. Everyone who’s visited Bogota seems to fall in love with it – and I’m sure I’ll be no exception 🙂