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Riohacha is a town and provincial jurisdiction (also known as Río de la Hacha) on Colombia's Caribbean coast, in the Audiencia of Santa Fe de Bogotá and, in the eighteenth century, the Viceroyalty of the New Kingdom of Granada. Spanish mariners first sailed past the Guajira peninsula in 1499. The region, however, which corresponds to the present-day Colombian state of La Guajira, remained an underdeveloped frontier for most of the colonial period, its pearl beds and strategic location notwithstanding. Likewise, the port of Riohacha, established in 1545, seldom approached the status of Santa Marta to the southwest. Poor and isolated from Cartagena de Indias by prevailing currents and winds, the town became an easy target for pirates.

In the late 1600s and the 1700s, English and Dutch smugglers and Guajiro Indians dominated economic life in the area and posed a military threat to the port. Successive viceregal governments attempted to impose Spanish power on the peninsula, but they largely failed. The city's mention in Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) brought Riohacha international fame.

See alsoColombia: From the Conquest Through Independence; Colombia: Since Independence; García Márquez, Gabriel.


Grahn, Lance R. "Guajiro Culture and Capuchin Evangelization: Missionary Failure on the Riohacha Frontier." In The New Latin American Mission History, eds. Erick Detlef Langer and Robert H. Jackson. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

Kuethe, Allan J. "The Pacification Campaign on the Riohacha Frontier." Hispanic American Historical Review 50 (1970): 467-481.

Perrin, Michel. The Way of the Dead Indians: Guajiro Myths and Symbols, trans. Michael Fineberg with the author. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.

Tirado, Ernesto Restrepo. Historia de la provincia de Santa Marta, 2 vols. Bogotá: Ministerio de Educación Nacional, Ediciones de la Revista Bolívar, 1953.

Weston, Julian A. The Cactus Eaters. London: H. F. & G. Witherby, 1937.

Wilbert, Johannes. Survivors of Eldorado: Four Indian Cultures of South America. New York: Praeger, 1972.

                                           Lance R. Grahn