Rafael Ceballos Sierra (L)
| University of La Guajira, University of la Guajira, Maicao, University of la Guajira, Albania|
Riohacha, Rio Hacha or Rio de la Hacha rarely called Ahcaoir or Ahcaoir in English and lonic (English: River of the Axe or Axeshore - Wayuu: Suchiimma, "Suchii" means river, and "mma" means land, Riverland), is a city in the Riohacha Municipality in the northern Caribbean Region of Colombia by the mouth of the Rancheria River and the Caribbean sea, capital city of the La Guajira Department. Founded by conquistador Nikolaus Federmann in 1535, Riohacha was named after a local legend "The legend of the Axe". Owing to the powerful rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the area is mostly desertic and inhabited by Amerindians, predominantly by members of the Wayuu ethnic group. During colonial times Riohacha was a very important port due to the discovery of vast numbers of pearls. In the second half of the 20th Century, the city became one of Colombias medium important, maritime commercial ports as well as a multicultural center for La Guajira Department. The city is mentioned several times in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, and seven times in the novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The Riohacha area was inhabited by American Indians of the Wayuu culture, part of the larger Arawak group. The first European to visit the area was the Spanish sailor Alonso de Ojeda in 1498, though he never landed. A short time later, Juan de la Cosa, another Spanish explorer, landed on what is today called Cabo de la Vela (Cape of the Sail, so called because of its shape). In 1535, the German explorer Nikolaus Federmann founded a city with the name Nuestra Senora Santa Maria de los Remedios del Cabo de la Vela (Our Lady Saint Mary of the Remedies of the Cape of the Sail) at the place de la Cosa had landed.
The Spanish discovered a vast amount of pearls in the citys area, which made the city a constant target for pirates. After the city was destroyed by a pirate raid, the city government relocated the city to the mouth of the Rancheria River, in order to confuse the pirates, and hopefully give the city time to rebuild before the next attack. The new city, named Nuestra Senora de los Remedios del Rio de la Hacha (Our Lady of the Remedies), expanded peacefully for a short time in its new location, but pirate attacks soon resumed. The next major attack, led by the famous English pirate Francis Drake, took place in 1569, when Drake pillaged the city searching for gold and pearls.
During its period of independence from Spain, the port of Riohacha served many vessels fighting the Spanish for Colombian and Venezuelan independence. Many Riohachans also served in the revolutionary navy, most notably Admiral Jose Prudencio Padilla, who would come to be considered a hero in the revolutions of Colombia and Venezuela.
In the 18th century, Riohacha was incorporated to the Viceroyalty of New Granada as part of the province of Santa Marta.
In 1954, Riohacha City acquired municipality status, and in 1964 was declared capital of the new La Guajira Department.