Man’s unholy lust for gold encompasses all races, eras and nationalities. The yellow metal always ignites our inherent avarice and insatiable desire that hungers for more.
El Dorado, the much sought after fabled city of gold, owes its genesis to man’s morbid fascination with gold. In medieval Europe, mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries it was widely speculated that such a wondrous city lies somewhere in the New World. To unlock this treasure trove, hundreds of futile expeditions were launched, innumerable lives were frittered away and at least one person was driven to suicide out of desperation- but to no avail. El Dorado the city of innumerable riches, despite countless attempts, remained elusive to all.
However, like all other mysterious legends, the tales of El Dorado do contain some semblance of truth, which augmented the belief of its actual existence. It was rumored that the city is located somewhere in the innermost, obscure recesses of South America. Soon after Columbus’s discovery and subsequent Spanish Invasion, stories started circulating about a legendary city of gold, home to unimaginable riches, waiting with all its shining glory for those, who are bold enough or lucky enough to find it. Such enduring tales of EL Dorado, though far-fetched, tantalized the fortune hunters
Legends of El Dorado reached European shores through the Spanish conquistadors who went to the New World in the wake of Christopher Columbus. As they plundered their way through South America, the Spanish under the command of General Balboa, were enthralled by the stories of a city of gold that popped up wherever they went. Outlandish, exaggerated tales about the rituals of an indigenous tribe dwelling in the Andes Mountain, spread like wildfire among the Spanish ranks. It was believed that these tribes revered gold as the metal of their Sun God and whenever any new chieftain rose to power , he was doused with gold and other precious ornaments. Spaniards started referring this “Golden Chief” as El Dorado or the Gilded One. Also as a part of the coronation ceremony huge amount of gold and other precious metals were dumped in the bottom of a lake to appease a monster, which the tribal believed lurked somewhere there.
The immense wealth the Spaniards were able to plunder from the subjugated tribes, further strengthened their belief about such a city’s existence, somewhere in the interior. Thrilled by the tales of the rituals, the Spanish searched frantically for a lake of gold. Although they managed to come across Lake Guitevela and tried to completely drain it, to unearth its fabled riches, the city of El Dorado remained out of their clutches. Majority of the expeditions, saw constant skirmishes with the Indians , and ended in death and despair. But still the legends persisted and so did the futile attempts which were mostly based on hope rather than on any discernible evidence.
In 1617, Sir Walter Reiligh of England led two disastrous expeditions to Guinea in search of the fabled city. Both the expeditions were utter failures and the expeditionary team got embroiled in conflicts with the Spaniards. Sir Walter, upon returning to England was seized and was ordered to beheaded by King James for countermanding orders of avoiding any sort of confrontation with the Spanish army.
However, the stories surrounding El Dorado refused to die down. In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries there were a host of expeditions, including those of the legendary Prussian scientist and traveler, Alexander , Vun Humboldt who also sought the fabled treasure
Although some gold and emeralds were located in its muddy banks, the icy depths of Lake Guitevela were never truly scoured , and many believe that that is where the treasure lies.
However most modern archeologists and historians have out rightly dismissed the notion of El Dorado’s existence. The legends endure because such a city of immense riches does let our wildest imaginations to run amok and so we pine for such stories to be real.
So where is this lost city of gold? In his 1849 poem "El Dorado," writer Edgar Allan Poe offers an eerie and eloquent suggestion: "Over the Mountains of the Moon, down the Valley of the Shadow, ride, boldly ride…if you seek for El Dorado