Bogotá’s Gold Museum – Museo del Oro

This world class museum is worth the visit. Fort Knox has more gold but the Museo del Oro in Bogotá has artistic beautiful gold that tells a story.

01 man in uniformOriginally published in the Clawson Patch newspaper April 2013.

Michael:  More than just looking at historical and valuable objects a visit to Museo del Oro is an education. All the signs are in both Spanish and English. The visitor learns such things as the various tribes and areas of Colombia, why gold was used to make certain items, how they made the gold objects, why many of the animal figures are distorted, why some vases look like pregnant women, how objects identified members in the societies, why the Indians used coca, why shamans rhythmically rattled palm leaves and much more.

Graciela:  Michael and I visit the museum more than once a year. The displays of over 20,000 gold pieces dating back to before the birth of Christ helps provide an in depth understanding of my people before the Europeans arrived. Knowledge found in the museum provides clues to some of our cultural traits.

Michael: The Trip Advisor website allows travelers to rate museums. The Museo Del Oro has one of the highest ratings with 93% of over 800 international travelers checking very good to excellent, the vast majority giving the nod to the later.09 baskets

Imagine the look in the eyes of those early Spanish Conquistadores and priests when they saw people not just wearing gold jewelry but using baskets of woven gold and fishing with hooks of gold.

Consider this note from Friar Pedro Simon when he wrote in the 1600’s, “No Indian woman was without … jewels, earrings, necklaces, crowns, rings for the lower lip …, fine well-cut gems, strings of beads. All the girls had four or six gold jewels around their neck…”17 earrings

Graciela:  Hernán Cortes and Francisco Pizarro devastated the Incan empire of its gold sending over 14 tons back to Spain. It was Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada who tried the same thing with the Muisca Indians who lived around present day Bogotá. Fortunately for visitors today the conquistador did not find as much because the Indians hid much of the gold before his arrival.

The Conquistadors and priests of the 1500’s and 1600’s liked to tell people of my land they came to free us and bring us religion, but in reality they were little more than thieves. They paid for their trips with our gold.

Michael:  Rumors exist to this day about where all that gold is located. Graciela and I use to live near a mountain called UFO Mountain where one legend has the gold buried.

Today there is a black market for these Colombian ancestral pieces. Perhaps someone has found a hidden spot, but more likely the sellers are grave robbers. Buying from them and removing it out of the country is against the law. In addition much of what is being sold is fake. Generally you can purchase the same faux piece for less money at a legitimate jewelry shop.

Graciela:  In the museum is not just gold from the Muiscas but from tribes in all the areas of Colombia. While touring the cases you can see both the similarities and differences between the groups. Colombia has mountains, flatlands and coastlines. The people and their gold adapted accordingly.

03 caseMichael:  For all that gold at the museum the cost to see it is very inexpensive, about $3 USD. If you go on Sunday the admission is free.

Many people have raved about the museum’s restaurant. Indeed it is good, but my wife and I always find places nearby with excellent food at a significant savings.

Graciela:  The museum gift shop carries a selection of quality and unique Colombian items. For the more normal tourist things there are places near the museum as well as artisan shops.

Michael:  The photos included with this article are only a small sampling of what is available for view. In my opinion, the Museo del Oro is such a magnificent place of knowledge and learning that it is worth the trip to Bogotá just to see it. Now, when you throw in all the other wonderful sites in the area then all reasons to not visit Bogotá disappear.14 moveable piece