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Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Jiménez de Quesada, Gonzalo (gōnthäˈlō hēmāˈnĕth dā kāsäˈħä) [key], c.1499–1579, Spanish conquistador in Colombia. Chief magistrate of Santa Marta, he was commissioned to explore the Magdalena in search of El Dorado. He set out in 1536, and after incredible hardships he defeated the Chibcha and founded (1538) Bogotá as capital of the New Kingdom of Granada (see New Granada). A hard taskmaster but an able leader, Quesada wavered between humane and brutal treatment of the native population. He obtained fabulous amounts of emeralds and gold. Meeting Federmann and Benalcázar, who claimed the same territory, Quesada persuaded them to return with him to Spain, where settlement could be made. There he was ignored until 1550, when he was appointed marshal of New Granada and councilor of Bogotá for life. In 1569, still seeking El Dorado, he led a lavishly equipped expedition to the confluence of the Guaviare and Orinoco; he and what remained of his company returned wasted and penniless after three years. Still later, suffering from a skin disease and carried on a litter, Quesada put down an indigenous revolt. Some think that he was the model for Cervantes's Don Quixote. His own account of his conquests has been lost, but excerpts copied by others from the original survive.

See studies by A. F. Bandelier (1893, repr. 1962), C. R. Markham (1912, repr. 1971), G. Arciniegas (tr. 1942, repr. 1968), and R. B. C. Graham (1922, repr. 1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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