AMERINDIAN HISTORY OF COLOMBIA




Dynasties of Musica (-1450-1590)

Zipa and zaque were the titles given to these rulers of the ancient confederation. Neither exercised absolute power, not rigid or strict control over those to whom they owed their power

 
 
 
 
 
Muisca rulers of Tundama  
cacique is a leader of an indigenous group, derived from the Taíno word kasikɛ for the pre-Colombian tribal chiefs  
Muisca rulers of Sugamuxi  
Iraca: name given to the ruler and high priest of Sugamuxi in the confederation of the Muisca who inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense; the central highlands of the Colombian Andes


 
 

Organization
Zipa and zaque were the titles given to these rulers of the ancient confederation. Neither exercised absolute power, not rigid or strict control over those to whom they owed their power, so that they can be considered kings. However, these positions of power were of great honor and were surrounded by a rather elaborate ceremony. The position of the zipa was such that not even the members of the nobility dared to look him in the face, and it is said if the zipa needed to spit, someone would hold out a piece of rich cloth for him to spit on, because it would be sacrilegious for anything so precious as his saliva to touch the ground. Whoever held the cloth (all the while carefully looking the other way) then carried it off to be reverently disposed of.

The zipa was also given the responsibility of offering gold to the gods. He would cover himself with gold and float out on a royal barge to the middle of the sacred Lake Guatavita, where he would offer up golden trinkets. This is widely believed to be how the legend of El Dorado started.

When Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada arrived in the Muisca territories the ruling zipa was Tisquesusa and the zaque was Quemuenchatocha.

Non-patrilineal heritage of rule
The position of the ruler was inherited, but the line of succession was not patrilineal. Instead, the king was succeeded by his nephew, the oldest son of his oldest sister. There were exceptions, and the ruler's subjects, apparently, had some say in the matter, if only to confirm the successor in his post.

Map of the Muisca territory
Rule of zaques in yellow, zipas in green
When the Spanish arrived in the central Colombian highlands, the region was organized into the Muisca Confederation, which had two rulers; the zipa was the ruler of the southern part and based in Bacatá, now known as Bogotá. The zaque was the ruler of the northern area and based in Hunza, known today as Tunja.

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