Indigenous Communities Still Exist in Colombia
For more than 10,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in modern day Santa Marta, the indigenous people of Colombia built numerous thriving societies. Out of millions of people living in hundreds of groups, the Tairona and the Muisca societies were especially advanced.
Over 19 centuries, the Tairona developed thriving communities based around fishing and sophisticated agriculture. Their villages featured stone paths, bridges, sewers and tombs. They created ornate artwork, especially incredible works in gold. They followed a religion which accepted homosexuality and divorce. Visitors to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta can explore one of these fantastic ruins, "The Lost City," which takes 4-5 days to reach and is home to a settlement believed to be founded around 800 AD, 650 years before Machu Pichu.
The Muisca were linguistically similar to the Tairona, but even larger and more advanced. Really comprised of many tribes, the Muisca lived in a large area, coexisting independently except when faced with a common enemy. They mined salt, gold, copper, emeralds and coal. They produced fruits, quinoa and potatoes, as well as other foods, while also weaving remarkable textiles. They created tejo, the national sport of Colombia, and a sophisticated solar calendar.
The indigenous first fought off Spanish conquistadors, who often sought to take women and children as slaves and impose Christianity. However, by the middle of the 16th century, the Muisca civilization had been conquered. By the 17th century, the Tairona had also been swallowed up by the Spanish encomienda system, which compelled indigenous people into forced labor.