Invading Colombia

Spanish Accounts of the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Expedition of Conquest

By (author) J. Michael Francis

Paperback - £17.95

Publication date:

15 January 2008

Length of book:

152 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271029368

In early April 1536, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada led a military expedition from the coastal city of Santa Marta deep into the interior of what is today modern Colombia. With roughly eight hundred Spaniards and numerous native carriers and black slaves, the Jiménez expedition was larger than the combined forces under Hernando Cortés and Francisco Pizarro. Over the course of the one-year campaign, nearly three-quarters of Jiménez’s men perished, most from illness and hunger. Yet, for the 179 survivors, the expedition proved to be one of the most profitable campaigns of the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the history of the Spanish conquest of Colombia remains virtually unknown.

Through a series of firsthand primary accounts, translated into English for the first time, Invading Colombia reconstructs the compelling tale of the Jiménez expedition, the early stages of the Spanish conquest of Muisca territory, and the foundation of the city of Santa Fé de Bogotá. We follow the expedition from the Canary Islands to Santa Marta, up the Magdalena River, and finally into Colombia’s eastern highlands. These highly engaging accounts not only challenge many current assumptions about the nature of Spanish conquests in the New World, but they also reveal a richly entertaining, yet tragic, tale that rivals the great conquest narratives of Mexico and Peru.

“To add to the tragic brutalities of Cortés’s conquest of Mexico and Pizarro’s conquest of Peru, J. Michael Francis now offers us an admirable reconstruction of the hitherto unexplored events that took place to the east of Peru. His Invading Colombia: Spanish Accounts of the Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada Expedition of Conquest is the result of an exhaustive exploration of Sevillian archives. Accompanied by a lively introduction, and by commentaries and annotations that are as reliable as they are readable, the book poses the intriguing question of why an exploration that led more Spaniards into Colombia than Cortés led into Mexico, or Pizarro into Peru, should have remained almost completely unknown.”

—Fernando Cervantes, Times Literary Supplement