1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bogotá
BOGOTÁ, or Santa Fé de Bogotá, the capital of the republic of Colombia, and of the interior department of Cundinamarca, in 4° 6′ N. lat. and 78° 30′ W. long. Pop. about 125,000. The city is on the eastern margin of a large elevated plateau 8563 ft. above sea-level. The plateau may be described as a great bench or shelf on the western slope of the oriental Cordilleras, about 70 m. long and 30 m. wide, with a low rim on its western margin and backed by a high ridge on the east. The plain forming the plateau is well watered with numerous small lakes and streams. These several small streams, one of which, the San Francisco, passes through the city, unite near the south-western extremity of the plateau and form the Rio Funza, or Bogotá, which finally plunges over the edge at Tequendama in a beautiful, perpendicular fall of about 475 ft. The city is built upon a sloping plain at the base of two high mountains La Gaudalupe and Monserrate, upon whose crests stand two imposing churches. From a broad avenue on the upper side downward to the west slope the streets, through which run streams of cool, fresh water from the mountains above. The north and south streets cross these at right angles, and the blocks thus formed are like great terraces. A number of handsomely-laid-out plazas, or squares, ornamented with gardens and statuary, have been preserved; on these face the principal public buildings and churches. In Plaza Bolivar is a statue of Bolivar by Pietro Tenerani (1789–1869), a pupil of Canova, and in Plaza Santandér is one of General Francisco de Paula Santandér (1792–1840). Facing on Plaza de la Constitución are the capitol and cathedral. The streets are narrow and straight, but as a rule they are clean and well paved. Owing to the prevalence of earthquakes, private houses are usually of one storey only, and are built of sun-dried bricks, white-washed. But few of the public buildings are imposing in appearance, though good taste in style and decoration are often shown.
The city occupies an area of about 2½ × 1½ m. It has street cars, electric light and telephones. Short lines of railway connect it with Facatativa (24 m.) on the road to Honda, and with Zipaquira, where extensive salt mines are worked. A line of railway was also under construction in 1906 to Jirardot, at the head of navigation on the upper Magdalena. Bogotá is an archiepiscopal see, founded in 1561, and is one of the strongholds of medieval clericalism in South America. It has a cathedral, rebuilt in 1814, and some 30 other churches, together with many old conventual buildings now used for secular purposes, their religious communities having been dissolved by Mosquera and their revenues devoted in great measure to education. The capitol, which is occupied by the executive and legislative departments, is an elegant and spacious building, erected since 1875. The interest which Bogotá has always taken in education, and because of which she has been called the “Athens of South America,” is shown in the number and character of her institutions of learning—a university, three endowed colleges, a school of chemistry and mineralogy, a national academy, a military school, a public library with some 50,000 volumes, a national observatory, a natural history museum and a botanic garden. The city also possesses a well-equipped mint, little used in recent years. The plain surrounding the city is very fertile, and pastures cattle and produces cereals, vegetables and fruit in abundance. It was the centre of Chibcha civilization before the Spanish conquest and sustained a large population. The climate is mild and temperate, the average annual temperature being about 58° and the rainfall about 43½ in. The geographical location of the city is unfavourable to any great development in commerce and manufactures beyond local needs.
Bogotá was founded in 1538 by Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada and was named Santa Fé de Bogotá after his birthplace Santa Fe, and after the southern capital of the Chibchas, Bacata (or Funza). It was made the capital of the vice royalty of Nueva Granada, and soon became one of the centres of Spanish colonial power and civilization on the South American continent. In 1811 its citizens revolted against Spanish rule and set up a governme11t of their own, but in 1816 the city was occupied by Pablo Morillo (1777–1838), the Spanish general, who subjected it to a ruthless military government until 1819, when Bolivar’s victory at Boyaca compelled its evacuation. On the creation of the republic of Colombia, Bogotá became its capital, and when that republic was dissolved into its three constituent parts it remained the capital of Nueva Granada. It has been the scene of many important events in the chequered history of Colombia. (A. J. L.)