El Dorado: The Legend and the Myth
Your Name Here
Professor John Doe
Whether it is just a place of legend that once existed and has disappeared into history or a myth fabricated by European explorers looking for riches, El Dorado has always been a source of mystery to historians and explorers from around the globe. In the search for their “El Dorado”, the European explorers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries would stop at nothing to obtain the untold wealth and notoriety that would come with a successful expedition. Along with the wealth that few found, European explorers were able to successfully rape, pillage and destroy an entire continents native population’s way of live in just a few decades. El Dorado, whether is actually exists, or not, has contributed to mans madness in the search for wealth, conquest and paradise in the new world. El Dorado is defined as being a place of legend, a place thought to be found somewhere within the South American continent. It is a place that is believed to be rich in gold and precious stones (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1988). The term “El dorado” was originally derived from the Spanish “el dorado” which means “golden one.” Many legends surround this story and the origin of El Dorado. “The Gilded Man” (Bandelier, 1893) – el hombre dorado – which through the generations has been shortened to the current version of El Dorado, is the story of a South American Indian tribe that once lived and flourished in what is now the mountainous table lands of Bogota. Legend has it that this was the name of the chief of the Musica (Wikipedia, 2011) tribe in South America. The story states that the members of this chief’s tribe, during tribal ceremonies, would sprinkle his body with gold dust, which, after the ceremony, would be removed by the king diving into Lake Guatavita. In the years prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorers the Guatativa Indians had been defeated and subjugated in tribal warfare by a neighboring tribe around 1490-1500, and the new chief of this region had put an end to the ceremony of El Dorado. With the arrival of the Spaniards to this region of South America around 1525, the gilded man had already become a myth to the local native tribes. In the Cibao mountains of South America, in the year 1501, while panning for gold in a small stream, a native woman found a single gold nugget that was described as being as large as a “loaf of bread” or the size of a “suckling pig” (Bacci, 2007). The weight of this nugget was estimated at 16 kilograms or 35.2 pounds. In today’s market, with today’s price of gold at $1,475.00 per ounce, the weight of this single nugget would be worth approximately $662,000.00. This nugget was so valuable in proving the mass of wealth available in the new world that it was placed on display for the colonists and guarded until it could be shown to the king and queen of Spain. While the native girl that originally found this great nugget was probably given nothing for her find, the two Spaniards in charge of the local expedition were rewarded with devotional objects, dishes and urns that were taken, or stolen, from temples and palaces from throughout the country. The total amount of this reward was measured to the “height that a man stands with his hand outstretched” (Bacci, 2007). In July of 1529, the new Governor of Venezuela, a German, Ambrosius Dalfinger became the first European to follow-up on and actually search for the origin of “the gilded man.” Dalfinger and approximately 300 men set forth on a campaign of conquest in search of two items – gold and slaves. His exploits of devastation and plunder would become an object of revulsion to even the Spaniards of his day. In 1530, in the Ambrosia valley, the local natives handed Dalfinger his second defeat in battle. With his forces severely depleted, he finally retreated back to Coro, Venezuela. With all of the effort that Dalfinger put forth to bring death and destruction...
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