Colombia has been the home of several indigenous peoples and cultures since 12,000 BC, with many flourishing tribal groups at the time of Spanish arrival in 1499. Sitting between Mesoamerica and the Caribbean through to the Andes and Amazon basin, the political system of cacicazgos was developed in the first millenium BC, with settlements being established. After regular explorations by Spanish groups in the early 1500s, several Spanish settlements were created, with the New Kingdom of Granada established in 1549, which was to survive until 1819. Spain’s approach to enslavement of indigenous peoples was slightly different to its imperial counterparts as it did not enslave the Colombian peoples owing to their status as subjects of the Spanish Crown. However, indigenous groups were exploited by the Spanish for labour. The indigenous leaders were essential to co-operation between the Spanish and the indigenous peoples to incorporate the regions into Spanish rule. As such, the continuance of caciques and cacicas led to further visibility as they were recorded in Spanish sources. Colombia became a republic after rebelling against Spanish rule in 1822, and though indigenous peoples continue to play a role in local societies, the head of state is now its President.
You can find out more about Neris, a contemporary indigenous leader, below!
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