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BOCHICA was a major deity of the Muisca (Chibcha) Indians of the highlands around Bogotá, Colombia, at the time of the Spanish conquest, in the sixteenth century. Early Spanish chroniclers report varying mythical dates for Bochica's appearance in Muisca territory. He was called by several names or titles, one of which means "sun," another "disappearing one." Said to be a foreigner from the east (i.e., present-day Venezuela), he appeared as an old man with a waist-length beard, long hair, and a mantle. He preached and taught virtuous behavior, religious ritual, and crafts, particularly spinning, weaving, and cloth painting. Traveling to the west through the Muisca region, then eastward again, he arrived at Sogamoso, on the eastern Muisca border. There, according to different accounts, he died, disappeared, or became the Sun. At the time of the Conquest, there was an important Temple of the Sun at Sogamoso. One Muisca myth tells that the world was created there, and one of Bochica's titles was "messenger of the creator."

Bochica combines the culture hero, sun, and transformation aspects characteristic of many New World gods. He was the patron of chieftains and goldsmiths, the latter perhaps because of his association both with the sun and with craft. Worked gold was offered to him. When an angry local god once caused a destructive flood, so a tale relates, the Muisca people appealed to Bochica, who appeared on a rainbow to strike and shatter a rock with his golden staff, releasing the floodwaters from the Bogotá plateau and creating the great Tequendama waterfall, one of the wonders of the South American landscape.

According to one set of mythical stories, a beautiful goddess taught the people promiscuity, pleasure, and dancingthe opposite of Bochica's instructions. In some accounts, she was the Moon, or was changed by Bochica into the Moon; because she was evil, she was permitted to shine only at night. She was sometimes called the wife of the Sun (presumably Bochica). In one tale, the goddess was turned by Bochica into an owl.


The best summary in English of early source material on Bochica is A. L. Kroeber's "The Chibcha," in the Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian H. Steward, vol. 2 (Washington, D.C., 1946). In Spanish, José Pérez de Barradas's Los Muiscas antes de la Conquista, vol. 2 (Madrid, 1951), quotes the chroniclers, with references. Harold Osborne's South American Mythology (London, 1968) publishes material taken largely from Kroeber, without citation of early sources; it is the most comprehensive recent discussion.

New Sources

Arango Cano, Jesús. Mitiología en América Precolombina: MéxicoAztecas, ColombiaChibchas, PerúIncas. Bogotá, 1989.

Elizabeth P. Benson (1987)

Revised Bibliography