Happy Birthday Bogotá

Happy Birthday Bogotá

On August 6th, Paola’s home city of Bogotá celebrated its 480th birthday. Not one to let a Monday get in the way of a good celebration we raised a glass to wish Colombia’s capital Feliz Cumpleaños and thought this would be the perfect occasion to share a little of the city’s story with our Cornish audience.

Bogotá sits on a high plateau in the Eastern Andes, surrounded by mountains, and is home to over 10 million people. It was founded when the Spanish explorer and conquistador Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada travelled to the centre of Colombia in his quest for the mythical treasure of El Dorado, the “city of gold”. De Quesada and his soldiers defeated the Muisca, the local indigenous population, and set their prisoners to work building twelve wooden huts and a chapel in what is now believed to be Chorro de Quevedo in La Candelaria. On August 6th 1538 the first mass was held in the chapel, signifying the formal establishment of Santafé de Bogotá – originally called simply Santafé, but with the addition of the local name “Bacatá”, or Bogotá. In 1550, Santafé de Bogotá became the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada and it was only when independence from Spain was won in the early 19th Century that the city became simply Bogotá. The influence of Spanish colonists is still clear in Bogotá, particularly in the city’s architecture (especially in La Candelaria), the numerous churches and the layout of the streets with avenues leading from a large central square.

Through the later half of the 1800s Colombia endured a string of growing pains as an independent federation and then republic, the most destructive of which was the Thousand Days’ War from 1899 until 1902. During the 1800s the population of Bogotá swelled by almost 100,000 people, many of who moved to the city from the Eastern Highlands in the years following 1870. Political unrest and numerous civil wars continued to blight the young country through the mid twentieth century, but with the country now at peace Bogotá has been allowed to flourish; between 2000 and 2015 tourist arrivals grew by 70%, attracted by the city’s vibrant music scene and cultural attractions and institutions. The city boasts numerous museums, galleries and theatres, with the Colombian National Museum dating back to 1823 (it’s one of the oldest museums in the Americas). Lonely Planet describes Bogotá as the city where “cosmopolitan meets colonial”; it’s a beautiful, vibrant and energetic city and one that we hope you’ll get to enjoy the spirit of some day.

Salud!