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Seven cool facts you should know about the history of Bogotá

about the history of Bogotá
Joanna Ruiz

Joanna Ruiz

Journalist and migrant. I have a huge passion for writing and telling stories. I live in Bogotá since 2014. Instagram: joa_ruiz / Blog: leaquealgoqueda.blogspot.com

If you are in the Colombian capital as a tourist, you sure have visited its historical downtown and learned stories about the city. However, do you know all its secrets? Here I bring 7 cool facts about Bogotá history you probably didn’t know and to refresh the ones you have probably heard before.

1. Its original name was Bacatá:

The current land of Bogotá was first inhabited by the Muiscas, one of the multiple aboriginal groups that have lived in Colombia since the Precolumbian era until now. They called this territory Bacatá, which means “farm field,” a name that was modified until becoming our very well known Bogotá. Read our article about Bogotá’s origins to know more.

2. First place in America to look at the stars:

The first astronomical observatory of the Americas was built in Bogotá in 1802-1803. It was driven by Spanish botanist José Celestino Mutis and it became not just a meeting point for scientists and thinkers, but for those people involved in independence movements.

Bogotá History
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz (left) / Edgar Junca (right)

3. Colombian independence started here:

According to historians, everything started in 1810 with a flower vase. You might be thinking: whaaat? That’s probably what all tourists – including myself – think the first time they hear this story.

The events occurred as follows: there was a Spanish merchandiser called José González Llorente whose store was diagonal to one of the corners of the current Plaza de Bolívar (Bolivar Square), which was at the moment just the market square. Some criollos – descendants of Europeans born in America – who were involved with independence movements went to his store to borrow a flower vase they wanted to use during a very important dinner. They knew Llorente would refuse their unusual petition and he did so. After that, they started making a huge scandal denouncing the mistreatment of all Spanish people against the criollos. The closeness to the square – which was the most important social location at that time – helped them spread the flame of the upcoming fight for freedom.

The rest is, literally, history: that episode at Llorente’s store –which is now the Museo de la Independencia Casa del Florero (Museum of Independence Flower Vase House- was the first of many events that ended up with the independence of Colombia.

4. Simón Bolívar escaped death:

It was the 25th of September, 1828. Simón Bolívar – El Libertador (The Liberator) of Venezuela, Colombia, Perú, Ecuador and Bolivia- was at the San Carlos Palace, which was at the time the official residence of the presidents. A group of conspirators entered to the palace to make an attempt on his life and Bolivar, with the help of his lover Manuela Saenz – an Ecuadorian independence heroine – escaped through one of the windows and saved his life. Nowadays, there is a sign right below that window that serves as a reminder of that historical episode.

Bogotá History
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz (left) / Public domain (right)

5. It was the capital of a bigger country:

Everybody says that the Gran Colombia (Great Colombia) was the dream of Bolivar and this huge project, and that started in 1819 and ended with the death of El Libertador in 1830. It joined the territory of these current nations: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Panamá. It was then called Republic of Colombia and its capital was Bogotá.

6. Kennedy owes its name to John F.:

The eighth locality of Bogotá, Kennedy, has a close link with the president of the United States. John F. Kennedy visited the city in 1961 to boost the project Alliance for Progress, which was aimed to improve life conditions in Latin America. During his visit, he and Alberto Lleras Camargo – President of Colombia at the time – delivered 18.000 homes at the suburb called Ciudad Techo. After Kennedy´s murder in 1963, the name changed to Ciudad Kennedy.

Bogotá History
© Photograph by Shadowxfox (left) / Google Maps (right)

7. Trolebuses instead of Transmilenio:

From 1948 to 1991, the transport in Bogotá was with trolebuses. What were they?  They were vehicles similar to the current SITP that used the electricity of the light cables to work. They were managed by the Empresa Distrital de Transportes Urbanos (District Company of Urban Transports), which disappeared after trolebuses did.

Since I arrived to Bogotá, I’ve discovered that is a city with a lot of history (and stories) that are super interesting! Museums, guided tours, Google and Colture can help you out to find more information about its past. Also, read our article about other myths and stories of Bogotá to know more.

Do you know other fun facts of Bogotá history you’ve heard during your stay here? I would love to know them! Please leave your comments in the section below!

Keep visiting Colture for more information about Bogotá and its history!

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Are you a local business? Get in contact with us and check out our website! Sources: Alcaldía Mayor de Bogotá, Radio Nacional, Enciclopedia Británica.

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