Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada (1509–1579) was a Spanish explorer and conquistador in Colombia. While successful in many of his exploits, acquiring massive amounts of gold and emeralds, he ended his career disastrously; he has been suggested as a possible model for Cervantes' "Don Quixote". [Riley, E.C. (March 1966) "Who's Who in Don Quixote? Or an Approach to the Problem of Identity" "MLN" 81(2) (Spanish Issue) pp. 113-130]

He explored the northern part of South America. He is also a descendant of Henry the Navigator.

Conquest of the Muisca Confederation

He was a lawyer by training. He was appointed chief justice of Santa Marta colony (on the north coast of Colombia), where he arrived in 1535 with the fleet of Pedro Fernández de Lugo. In 1536 he was commissioned by de Lugo to command an expedition to explore southwards into the interior of Colombia. A land party under Quesada, with Hernán Pérez de Quesada (his brother), Juan San Martín, Juan del Junco (as second in command) Lázaro Fonte and Sergio Bustillo, struck south from Santa Marta, crossed the Cesar River, and arrived at Tamalameque on the Magdalena River. A support fleet of 6 (or 5) ships had also sailed from Santa Marta with 800 men to navigate the Magdalena. Only two of the vessels actually arrived at Tamalameque, and subsequently returned to Santa Marta with many of Quesada's men. Continuing up the Magdalena as far as La Tora (Barrancabermeja), Quesada and his men ascended the Opon River into the cordillera, reaching the Opon hills, Chipata (near Vélez) (March 1537) and the valley of the Suárez River. Passing Lake Fúquene and Lake Suesca, they reached Nemoncón and Zipaquirá, but with only 166 men left alive (600 had perished en route). From there they entered the lands of the Muisca (at the site of present day Bogotá). They renamed Bacata (the major city) as Santa Fé de Bogotá and the region as the New Kingdom of Granada. The Muisca had two rulers. One, the "Zipa" Tisquesusa, ruled in Bogotá; the other, the "Zaque" Nemequene, ruled in Tunja. Taking advantage of a war between the two chiefdoms, Quesada's force subduded Bogotá and then successfully attacked Tunja.

Quesada remained in the region until the arrival of the expeditions of Sebastián de Belalcázar from Ecuador and Nikolaus Federmann from Venezuela in 1539. The three generals then agreed on the refoundation of the capital and promptly decided to submit their rival territorial claims to the arbitration of the crown. From Cartagena they sailed for Spain, where Quesada pressed his claim as governor. In this he was unsuccessful, the governorship of Popayán being awarded to Belalcázar, but Quesada did return (in 1549) with the honorary title of Governor of El Dorado.

Later Expeditions

In 1568, at the age of 60, Quesada received a commission to conquer the Llanos to the east of the Colombian cordillera. From Bogotá in April 1569 with 400 Spaniards, 1500 natives, 1100 horses and 8 priests, he first descended to Mesetas on the upper Guejar River. There most of the livestock was destroyed by a grass fire. Quesada's expedition then moved to nearby San Juan de los Lllanos, where a course was set for east-southeast (by the guide Pedro Soleto), and maintained for the following two years. After a year or so some men returned with Juan Maldonado, reaching San Juan after six months with few survivors. Quesada eventually reached (San Fernando de) Atabapo at the confluence of the Guaviare and the Orinoco (in December 1571), any further movement requiring the construction of ships. He therefore dejectedly returned to Bogotá, arriving in December 1572 with only 64 Spaniards, 4 natives, 18 horses and 2 priests. The expedition had been one of the most expensive disasters on record, and after a brief period of service in a frontier command Quesada retired to Huesca (Spain) with what he could salvage of his fortune. He died in Mariquita in 1579, and his remains were taken to the cathedral at Bogotá.



In Spanish
* Friede, Juan (1960) "Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada a través de documentos históricos" Academia Colombiana de Historia, Bogotá.
* Friede, Juan (1979) "El adelantado don Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada" (2 vols.) Carlos Valencia editores, Bogotá.
* Jiménez de Quesada, Gonzalo (1952) "El Antijovio" Introduction by Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois. Instituto Caro y Cuervo, Bogotá.

In English
*Arciniegas, Germán. "The Knight of El Dorado: The Tale of Don Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada and His Conquest of New Granada, Now Called Colombia". New York: The Viking Press, 1942.
*Cunninghame Graham, R. B. "The Conquest of New Granada, Being the Life of Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada". London: W. Heinemann, 1922.
*Avellaneda Navas, José Ignacio. "The Conquerors of the New Kingdom of Granada". Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995.

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