BOCHICA -- A FASCINATING STORY

Among the most widely known of the Chibcha myths is the story of BOCHICA -- also called NEMQUETEVA, SADIGUA, or XUÉ (which meant the SUN). Fray Pedro Simon reported that each one came at a different time and did something different. But, he thought it might have been the same man. Lucas Fernandez de Piedrahita states that they were all the same man.

Bochica was a man that appeared on the Altiplano Cundiboyacense riding a strange animal, that by description sounds like a camel. This man was definitely a stranger. He had white skin, white hair, and a long white beard. He carried a Macana (a wooden weapon with sharp flint sides) and he carried a cross. He wore a tunic and had long hair kept in the "style of a Nazarene" as the early Spanish priests identified it. (see footnote #2)

He was credited with bringing "civilization" to the Chibchas. He taught them to weave, paint and make ceramics. The blankets, clothing, and pots made by the Indians were considered their greatest treasures. In fact when Hernán Pérez de Quesada (the brutal brother of the Conquistador -- Gonzálo Jiménez de Quesada) requested that the natives bring him all of their treasure, he became enraged when they brought him blankets and ruanas -- but that is another story for another time.

Back to Bochica. In addition to teaching the Chibchas basic skills, Bochica also taught moral values and religious traditions, heretofore unknown or practiced by the natives. He taught that the Indians should worship one supreme God -- Chiminigagua. He taught that he was the representative of Chiminigagua. There was also a belief in a Trinity -- with three Gods being one in purpose -- that being the salvation of man. This was evidenced by statues found in Boyacá of Chiminigagua with one body and three heads. The Chibchas explained that it represented three persons that were united in heart and mind. (See footnote #1)

Bochica's main message was that people should love each other, that they should serve each other and fully repent of wrong doings. He also taught that every person had a body with an immortal soul and that every soul would some day be resurrected and then judged. The Chibchas had also learned about the importance of the 'cross' from Bochica, and as a result, graves were marked by a cross. (footnote #2)

The Spanish also reported that the Chibchas believed in a story that was remarkably like that found in the Old Testament. Apparently, the people were dying of bites from a poisonous snakes. However, when they looked to the snake placed on a pole, they would be healed.


Bochica spent many years among the Chibchas, going from village to village preaching his gospel. He also left red drawings on many rocks in the area that were to serve as reminders of his teachings, though by the time the Spanish arrived the Muiscas (who had no written language) could not recall what the drawings meant. (see footnote #3)


When finally it came time for him to depart, Bochica left a miracle to remind the Chibchas of his visit. He stamped his feet on a rock -- located in what is today Iza, in Boyacá -- leaving deep foot print indentations. For years the rock remained a site of pilgrimage, even after the arrival of the Spanish. However, with time, worship in and around the rock declined and today its whereabouts are unknown.


The striking similarities between many of the Muisca beliefs and Christianity made more than one early Spanish priest speculate that the Chibchas had actually been visited by one of Chirst's apostles. The most named was Bartholomew. They also agreed that the original teachings of the supposed apostle had been corrupted over time and the people had fallen into apostasy, though many of the original teachings could still be found.


As a result, Catholic priests found that Chibcha descendants were easier to transition into Catholicism than many of the other natives found in the Americas. Most embraced the new religion and over time all vestiges of previous worship disappeared.

Footnotes:
#1 -- Muiscas: representaciones, cartografías y etnopolíticas de la memoria By Ana María Gómez Londoño
#2 -- Historia General del Nuevo Reino de Granada by Lucas Fernandez de Piedrahita -- on line at http://www.lablaa.org/blaavirtual/historia/hisgral/hisgral5.htm
#3 The picture I used on my blog is of one of those drawings. The original is located in Fusugasugá.

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