Guatavita Lake

When I went to see Guatavita Lake I had no idea about it`s history other than it was where the gold raft from the Museo Del Oro went to throw offerings during the Muisca reign in the region. Little did I know that it has a deep and overwhelming scar from a darker time in history still clearly visible to the naked eye.

The Muisca would bring their new chief, a zipa, to the lake and hold a ceremony anointing him on that golden raft from Museo del Oro. This ceremony consisted of throwing emeralds, gold and the new zipa himself covered in gold dust into the lake. The Spanish eventually invaded and tried to force the Muisca to convert to Catholicism. Many Muisca took their own lives by throwing themselves from Juaica mountain or Tequendama falls, plunging to their imminent deaths instead of losing their identity.

At some point during the invasion the Spanish saw the ritual at the lake and brought the news back home, which spawned the legend of El Dorado, The Golden One. This can be attributed to the zipa being covered in gold before washing it off in Lake Guatavita. The Spanish came back with explosives and blew the side of the lagoon out which lowered the water levels thus making it easier to pick the treasures out with little effort (save for blowing the side of a mountain apart). The Spanish picked until they could pick no more. The only way to completely drain the lagoon to retrieve the rest of the loot was to tunnel underneath the surrounding mountain and let the water run out. This plan was abandoned in the early stages because as the gold arrived in Spain, it was found to be an indigenous mixture called tumbaga. Tumbaga was gold mixed with copper, and the Spanish did not have the technology to separate the two elements, so the golden treasure was found to be worthless and not worth the effort anymore as these gold expeditions in Lake Guatavita were very costly.

I`m not sure which is worse, going to great lengths to destroy a beautiful lagoon and steal from indigenous tribes or finding the artifacts to be “worthless” and literally abandoning Guatavita half beaten to death to what end. Luckily it survived but with lower water levels than previous years. It`s beauty and tranquility still stand but with a massive scar of greed. It`s purpose now hopefully serves as a warning to it`s visitors to respect the land we live on not as our own but on borrow until the next generations can come to experience it in our absence. I can honestly say I was horrified at seeing the blown apart mountain probably because of its size. No picture can ever really prepare you for the scale of the natural wonders of the world.

A large portion of golden indigenous artifacts can be viewed at the Museo Del Oro (Gold Museum). They boast a collection of 55,000+ items, the largest gold collection in the world, as well as the prized golden raft which was made by the Muisca to depict the ceremony at Guatavita Lagoon. The golden raft was actually found by farmers in a cave and has never left Colombian soil. A true treasure indeed. There are over 6000 gold items on display in the museum. Both the lagoon and museum together paint a vibrant picture of what transpired in the history of Colombia and it`s people. To see the artifacts up close and personal is to almost see them in their original environment.

There is also a town called Guatavita not too far from the lagoon. The town is very colonial with an old bullring, little shops and restaurants. There is a law that requires all buildings to be traditional so every building is white which looks stunning against the natural stone paths and roads.Worth the stop if only just to look and snap a few photos.

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Jenny Sine

Canadian living in Bogotá, Colombia giving private tours to share the natural beauty of South America, studying philosophy and growing food 3000 meters above sea level.

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(1) Comment

  1. Larry

    Awesome article. Thnx ~S~

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