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German Colonization of the Americas


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The German colonization of the Americas consisted of a failed attempt to settle Venezuela in the 16th century.

The Augsburg banking families of Anton and Bartholomeus Welser obtained rights to Venezuela from Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain in 1528. These rights were negotiated by Heinrich Ehinger und Hieronymus Sailer, either independently or as agents of the Welsers. However, by 1531, the Welsers certainly controlled the privilege. A colonization scheme was set up, with Ambrosius Ehinger arriving as governor in 1529. He explored the interior in search of the gold of El Dorado. Ehinger had left Seville on 7 October 1528 with the Spaniard García de Lerma and 281 settlers. At Santo Domingo, de Lerma with 50 companions left for his mission to Santa Marta, to reestablish Spanish control following the murder of the governor there. Ambrosius Ehinger and the remainder headed for the Venezuelan coast and landed on 24 February 1529 at Coro. Other German governors followed: Nikolaus Federmann, Georg Hohermuth von Speyer, Philipp von Hutten, who also engaged primarily in the search for gold. Federmann traveled over the Andes to Bogotá, where he and Sebastián de Belalcázar initially contested Jiménez de Quesada’s claims to that province. German miners were brought over, as well as 4,000 African slaves to work sugar plantations. By 1541 disputes had arisen with Spain, and the bankers were stripped of control of their colony in 1556.

Many of the German colonists died from tropical diseases or hostile Indian attacks during frequent journeys deep into Indian territory in search of gold.

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