Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations

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Spanish conquest of the Chibchan Nations refers to the conquest by the Spanish monarchy of the Chibchan speaking nations, mainly the Muiscas and Taironas that inhabited present-day Colombia, beginning the Spanish colonization of the Americas.[1]


The first inhabitants of Colombia were migrating members of the Mesoamericans who established themselves in the area c. 1200 BC followed by two other waves c. 500 BC and a third one between 400 and 300 BC. Later on the group of Arawaks coming from southern South America made presence in the area, and a third wave of migrating groups, the warring Caribs established in the lower lands and pushed the Mesoamericans to the mountains. The southern areas of present-day Colombia were also part of the Inca Empire.[2]

There were two main tribes that were socially and economically developed at the time of the Spanish arrival: the Muiscas, and the Taironas. Both were within the Chibchan Nations.

By the 16th century, the Chibchas, were divided into two main groups: the Muisca, located in the plateaus of Cundinamarca and Boyacá, and the Tairona, who settled along the northern spur of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the present-day La Guajira Department.


Main article: Muisca

The Muiscas inhabited the area of what is now the Departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca high plateau mainly (Altiplano Cundiboyacense). The Muiscas were also divided into two confederations: Hunza, whose sovereign was the Zaque and Bacatá, whose sovereign was the Zipa. They farmed maize, potato, quinoa and cotton, among others. Skilled in goldsmiths, bartered emeralds, blankets, ceramic handicrafts, coca and salt actively trading these with neighboring nations.


Main article: Tairona

The Taironas inhabited in northern Colombia in the Andes isolated mountain range of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The Taironas were divided into two groups the coastal Taironas by the Caribbean sea and the mountain Tairona in the higher lands of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The lowlands Tairona fished and produced salt, which they traded for cotton cloth and blankets with their highlands counterparts. Both groups lived in numerous, well-organized towns connected by stone roads.

Spanish arrival[edit]

The territory was discovered by Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda in 1499,[3] though he never landed. A short time later, Juan de la Cosa, another Spanish explorer, landed on what is today called Cabo de la Vela (Cape of Sails) in the Guajira Peninsula.[4]

In 1502, on another coast of present-day Colombia near the Gulf of Urabá, Spanish explorers led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa explored and conquered the area near the Atrato River. There they founded Santa María la Antigua del Darién (c. 1509) and the now-vanished town of San Sebastian de Urabá (c. 1508-1510), the first two European settlements on the mainland of the Americas.[5]

See also[edit]