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Santa Marta

Santa Marta

Santa Marta, a city and province in northern New Granada (Audiencia of Santa Fe de Bogotá and, in the eighteenth century, the Viceroyalty of the New Kingdom of Granada). Founded by Rodrigo de Bastidas in 1525, twenty-five years after Spanish mariners first sighted its location, the town of Santa Marta played an important role in the history of New Granada during the Conquest. For a short time it was the capital of Tierra Firme and the port of call for the galleons. It was also the first bishopric see established in present-day Colombia (1531) and the location from which Gonzalo Jiménez De Quesada launched his conquest of the Chibcha Indians.

The prominence of the port faded with the founding of Cartagena de Indias in 1533. Political, commercial, ecclesiastical, and military focus shifted westward, leaving Santa Marta relatively undeveloped and thus more susceptible to political corruption, repeated foreign attacks, and Indian hostilities throughout the eighteenth century. Santa Marta province extended from the Magdalena River to the Sierra de Perijá and from the Caribbean southward to Ocaña.

See alsoJiménez de Quesada, Gonzalo; New Granada, Viceroyalty of.


A straightforward history of Santa Marta can be found in Ernesto Restrepo Tirado, Historia de la Provincia de Santa Marta, 2 vols. (1953). A useful, though biased, contemporary description of the region is Antonio Julián, La perla de la América: Provincia de Santa Marta (1951). For the military and architectural history of the port of Santa Marta see Juan Manuel Zapatero, Historia de las fortalezas de Santa Marta y estudio asesor para su restauración (1980). For an overview of the province see also James R. Krogzemis, A Historical Geography of the Santa Marta Area, Colombia (1967).

Additional Bibliography

Colajanni, A. El pueblo de la montaña sagrada: Tradición y cambio. Santa Marta: Organización Indigena Gonawindúa Tayrona: Ricerca e Cooperazione de Colombia: Comisión de Asuntos Indígenas, 1997.

Ospino Valiente, Alvaro. El drama urbano de Santa Marta durante la dominación española: Cartografía e historia en tres actos. Bogotá: Ministerio de Cultura, 2002.

Posada Carbó, Eduardo. The Colombian Caribbean: A Regional History, 1870–1950. New York: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Romero Jaramillo, Dolcey. Esclavitud en la provincia de Santa Marta, 1791–1851. Santa Marta: Fondo de Publicaciones de Autores Magdalenenses, Instituto de Cultura y Turismo del Magdalena, 1997.

Viloria de la Hoz, Joaquín. Empresas y empresarios de Santa Marta durante el siglo XIX: El caso de la familia de Mier. Bogotá: Publicaciones-Facultad de Administración, Universidad de los Andes, 2002.

                                          Lance R. Grahn

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