When the Spanish arrived on the plains of Bogotá, 1536, they found a great nation. In fact, it was the third largest group of indigenous inhabitants in America. They called themselves the Muiscas, which meant ‘the people’. Their language was called Chibcha. The Muiscas were not a united group, but rather a collection of city states. The majority of the power was held by two main cities – what today are called Bogotá and Tunja (in Boyacá). These two cities were mortal enemies and each enlisted the loyalty and help of near by cities in the many battles they had between them.
When the Spanish arrived, the leader of Tunja (Zaque) was Quemuenchatocha. He was an older man. He was described as very fat, very tall, and very ugly by the Spanish writers. Unfortunately, the Spanish took him prisoner and he later died. He was replaced by his 19 year old nephew, Aquimín, who upon taking the throne was called Aquiminzaque, in 1538.
Shortly after ascending to the throne, Aquiminzaque was converted to Catholicism and baptized. In 1541, he decided to marry the daughter of the Chief of the nearby city of Gámeza. He was married in a Catholic ceremony.
In celebration of his nuptials, the Zaque of Tunja invited the Caciques (leaders) of all the nearby cities to a party. The then leader of the Spanish, Captain Hernán Pérez de Quesada, took Aquiminzaque’s actions as an affront to his authority. He felt that all the support that was shown to Aquiminzaque was really Aquiminzaque’s way of sending the message that he was still powerful. Despite Aquiminzaque’s protests to the contrary, Hernán Pérez de Quesada was unyielding in his assertions. He declared that Aquiminzaque and all the Cacique leaders be imprisoned. The following morning, he sentenced all of them to death.
Aquiminzaque knew that he had done nothing wrong. So, in response to his impending death, Aquiminzaque showed his understanding of the Christian doctrines he had been taught when he stated the following, “Tell the Captain...that I became a Christian when he took my temporal kingdom away from me, and that he should not be in such a hurry to kill me, lest he lose his eternal kingdom.”
The interesting fact is that shortly thereafter Hernán Pérez de Quesada boarded a ship to return to Spain and was struck by lightening and killed. He died having never enjoyed the riches that he stole from the Muisca Indians.