Ambrosius Ehinger, also (Ambrosio Alfínger in Spanish) Dalfinger, Thalfinger, (ca. 1500 in Thalfingen near Ulm, Bavaria – 31 May 1533 near Chinácota Colombia) was a German conquistador and the first governor of the Welser concession, also known as “Little Venice” (Klein-Venedig), in New Granada, now Venezuela and Colombia.
Ehinger was a factor in Madrid for the Welser banking family when they began planning for the colonization of New Granada. The Welsers appointed him as the first governor, and sent as his deputy the Spaniard Luis González de Leyva. They arrived in Coro in 1529 with 281 colonists and called the new colony “Little Venice” (Klein-Venedig). Almost immediately Ehinger replaced González de Leyva with Nicolaus Federmann.
In August 1529 Ehinger made his first expedition to Lake Maracaibo which was bitterly opposed by the indigenous people, the Coquivacoa. After winning a series of bloody battles, he founded the settlement at Maracaibo on September 8, 1529. Ehinger named the city Neu Nürnberg (New Nuremberg) and the lake after the valiant chieftain Mara of the Coquivacoa, who had died in the fighting. The city was renamed Maracaibo after the Spanish took possession.
Ehinger came down with malaria and decided to recuperate in the relatively civilized comforts of Hispaniola, so he handed temporary authority over to Federmann on July 30, 1530.
Upon his return, Ehinger, with 40 horse and 130 foot soldiers and an uncounted number of allied Indians, set off from Coro on September 1, 1531 on his second expedition to the alleged gold country to the west. They crossed the Oca mountains, came over to Valledupar, along the Cesar River, and finally to the Zapatosa marsh. There the expedition rested about 3 months, then it continued south, where they met fierce resistance from the indigenous tribes, so they turned east, along the Lebrija River. During this expedition they were forced to eat their horses and dogs, and lost most of their Indian allies, many dying from the cold as they crossed the mountains. As they made their way home, they were attacked by the Chitareros on May 27, 1533. Ehinger and Captain Estéban Martín fled into a low-lying ravine, where they were pinned down by Indians shooting arrows. Ehinger received a poisoned arrow in the neck. Despite the attentions of Augustine father Vicente de Requejada, Ehinger died on May 31, 1533, and was buried under a tree. The expedition returned without him to Coro.
- Chapman, Walker The Golden Dream: Seekers of El Dorado. Bobbs-Merrill, Indianapolis 1967.
- Richter, Erich Die Welser landen in Venezuela W. Goldmann 1938.