Legend of El Dorado

In 1492, Columbus, in order to gain the necessary credit for his undertaking, presented Queen Isabella of Castile the prospect of finding a land so rich in gold and silver, that the roofs there were tiled with it and the streets were paved with it. He refered to the description of Cipangu (Japan) in the "Travels of Marco Polo".
In Kyoto, Japan, there are two temples, one the roof of which is covered with (very thin) leaf gold, the other with leaf silver. Marco Polo himself did not visit Japan and relied on hearsay. As Marco Polo did not write down his "Travels" personally, but told them to a fellow prisoner who wrote them, as publishers in those days liked to spice up stories as a part of marketing policy, the report on roofs tiled with gold and silver vecame exaggerated.
When Columbus reached the new world, he met Taino Indios who were scantily clothed, but who wore golden ornaments. Under pressure to deliver at least some evidence for the gold he had promised, Columbus haf to focus on the search for gold.
With the discoverers came a new kind of people to the new world, Spaniards wo wanted to get rich quickly, Hidalgos, Conquistadores. They began to explore the hinterland of the discovered coasts, in search for the legendary city of gold now referred to as El Dorado. Among the better known hunters for this imaginary city were Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who in 1509 crossed the isthm of Panama and found the Pacific Ocean, Hernan Cortez, the conqueror of the Aztec Empire (1519-1521), Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of the Inca Empire (1532-1533). Cortez and Pizarro found large amounts of gold and silver, seemingly proving the legend true, and triggering a host of expeditions searching the Americas for other such native, gold-rich kingdoms.

DOCUMENTS The Legend of El Dorado, from A Short History Of The Guyanese People by Vere T. Daly

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 23rd 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

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