Explore Colombia Panche Tribe Ancient Heritage
Indigenous people of Colombia are the ethnic groups who have inhabited Colombia since before European colonization, in the early 16th century. According to the last census, they comprise 4.4% of the country’s population, belonging to nearly one hundred different tribes.
Colombia’s first human inhabitants were probably concentrated along the Caribbean coast and on the Andean highland slopes. By that time, these regions were forested and had a climate resembling that of today.
Panche civilization is thought to have originated in 300 AD. Around this time, 1,000 people emigrated from the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Panche was an indigenous tribe of Carib origin, who spoke a language about the Caribbean family. Their lands extended from the western portions of Cundinamarca to the valley of the Magdalena River.
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They were created through the union of various other indigenous tribes, such as the Tocaima, Anapuima, Suitama, and Síquima. When the first Spanish conquistadores reached these lands, more than 30,000 people were living on the sides of the Magdalena River.
They lived in small villages, all dependent on the one where the cacique (chief) lived. The villages were not easily reached and there was always only a single pathway for access. Along the way to their villages, deep trenches were dug as a way of protection from enemies.
The Panche lived in the lower elevations of the southwestern province of Cundinamarca near the Magdalena River.
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Today, Panche people live in several small villages and towns throughout the southwestern parts of the department of Cundinamarca and the northeastern areas of the department of Tolima. Their villages are typically located near rivers.
The Panche language is now extinct. The last fluent speakers of the language died in the early 20th century. However, some Panche communities are working to revive the language. They have established bi-lingual schools and they are publishing materials in the Panche language.
Panche was a powerful band of warriors who fought many battles with the neighboring Muisca. The word Panche in their language means cruel or murderer.
Their skin was reddish and they did not generally wear clothes. Going about half-naked, they wore earrings, feathers, and dazzling gold ornaments, which the Spanish ruthlessly pursued.
Their weapons primarily were maces, bows, arrows, and darts. They prepared poisonous mixtures using venom from snakes and spiders, which they applied to their arrows.
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Panches were known for their advanced societies, which featured complex social structures and agricultural economies.
Thus their highly developed societal and military skills enabled Panches to defeat the first wave of conquistadors, among them Juan de Céspedes and Alonso de San Martín. Later, the founder of Bogotá, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, allied with the Muisca of the high plains region around Bogotá to ensure their near extermination, which was concluded in 1550 by Antón de Olalla and Juan Ruiz Orjuela. The few survivors of the genocide were enslaved and sent to gold mines where they worked at the point of the lash.
After the Spanish conquest and the founding of the New Kingdom of Granada, Panches quickly further declined due to their continued resistance to the Spanish conquistadors.
Today, there are only a few thousand Panche people left, living in scattered communities throughout the Cundinamarca and Tolima departments.
After Colombia gained independence from Spain in 1819, the Panche people began to rebuild their lives.
However, they continued to face discrimination and persecution from the Colombian government and society.
Panches created ceramics for their use. They also knew how to create clothing through rudimentary sewing techniques.
Their music had artistic and sometimes religious connotations. Performances were with a selection of instruments including ratchets, sea shells, bells and drums.
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Panche petroglyphs have been found at different sites including Civaqui, Viota, and Catipai among others.
Rock paintings have been discovered in Chibakui.
Most of the relics found in excavations have been entrusted to the Bogotá Gold Museum, including 2,000 priceless gold and ceramic pieces, including the artifact known as the Treasure of the Lord of Lumbí. With this addition, the Museum now boasts the most important collection of Panche art in Colombia, if not the world.
The Panche people are resilient people who have overcome many challenges throughout their history. They are proud people who are committed to preserving their culture and way of life.
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