The Lost Legend of El Dorado
Not only is a treasure so famous that just speaking its name invokes visions of utopia and wealth, but it’s also a treasure that beholds so many other unknown treasures.
The story of El Dorado didn’t began as it being a city at all. It began as a myth about a tribal chief from South America that would cover his entire body in gold dust before diving into a lake of pure mountain water. From this, El Dorado became the city of the chief that partook of this practice. This legend would come to elude many. And for some it would become the center of their existence, and their path to discovering greater things. Such was the case for Francisco Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro, who would eventually sail from Quito in 1541 towards the Amazon Basin. Although the trip would not end well, it did lead to Orellana’s achievement of being the first person to sail the Amazon River all the way to its mouth. The original story of El Dorado actually goes back to the writing of El Camero, which was written by Juan Rodriguez Freyle. It was in this writing that Freyle wrote of a chief priest that covered himself in gold at a religious ceremony before he dipped in Lake Guatavita, which today can be found in Bogota, Colombia. The story evolved from that into being a story about a tribe of Indians, the Muisca tribe, of which this king was chief.
After Spaniards invaded and took over, they began looking for gold that was said to be in abundant supply in the area. However, they Spaniards didn’t find anything that resembled the wealth they had heard of. After these stories however, it spawned a great number of prospectors and treasure hunters that went off in search of the legend gold in the area. It was one of these expeditions that Francisco Orellana and Gonzalo Pizarro were on when Orellana’s record was made. These two historic figures were part of an army that were headed by Francisco Pizarro. Gonzalo was Francisco Pizarro’s half-brother and was joining his brother on the mission to head down the river to a place where there was promised to be a significant supply of gold and cinnamon. Francisco de Orellana was Gonzalo’s nephew and also wanted to join his uncle on this same mission. In total there were about 340 soldiers and 4000 Indians making up the army. The army didn’t fare well. Many died of starvation and disease.
And those were the ones that survived the hostile attacks that kept coming from any local tribes that they were passing through on their way. After seeing many men around him die and losing faith in their mission, Gonzalo quit the mission. Before leaving the army however, Gonzalo told Francisco to continue on down the river. After following orders, it was then that Francisco Orellana discovered the Amazon. It’s named the Amazon today because that was the name of a tribe that attacked Orellana and his army along their travels. Other famous explorers that went on the search for the lost city of El Dorado were Philipp von Hutten and Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada. The former left from Coro, off the coast of Venezuela and it took from 1541 - 1545, while the latter left from Bogota in 1569. Later in 1959, Sir Walter Raleigh also looked for the lost city and concluded that it was located in Guyana on Lake Parime, which is located along the Orinoco River. The fact that this was the location of the lost city of El Dorado was widely accepted and was even printed onto many maps.
However, Alexander von Humboldt took an expedition that lasted from 1799 until 1804, that proved that the lost city of El Dorado is actually what we know today to be Bogota, Colombia.
Kemo D. 7