The Story of El Dorado

It was originally thought that El Dorado was in the mountains of Columbia, near present day Bogota. But no such kingdom nor the Indian chief covered in gold dust was found by the Spanish conquistadors. This search moved east until it found its current location, known as Guyana today.

The quest to conquer the New World was highly influenced in the search of the city of El Dorado. The legend of El Dorado first appeared around the 1530's where the story about an Indian chief covered in gold dust was told.

Martinez claimed that he was rescued by the Native Indians after, when in 1531 he was charged for negligence after a stock of powder exploded, he was sent drifting up the Orinoco River in a canoe. After being captured by the Native Indians, they took him to a city with bandages over his eyes. After the bandages were removed he opened his eyes and as far as the eyes could see stretching all around him, "were houses of shining gold and dazzling precious stones.”

Martinez said that he and his guides arrived at the King's palace in Manoa, after walking through the city for a full day. According to Martinez, “The emperor was known as El Dorado, for his bath every morning, showers of gold dust were blown through myriads of tubes."

On January 1, 1593, DeBerrio wrote in a letter to the Council of the Indies: "If God aids me to settle Guiana, Trinidad will be the richest trade centre of the Indies for if Guiana was one twentieth of what it was supposed to be, it would be richer than Peru."

The whole of Europe were ablaze with these stories and the hunt for El Dorado began. In 1592, Sir Walter Raleigh who was in the West Indies heard the stories and believed every word. After Raleigh returned to England, in 1594, he sent out an expedition to Guiana under Captain Whiddon to make enquires about El Dorado, but came up with nothing definite about El Dorado. In 1595, Raleigh of England went to Guiana, after burning down St. Joseph, the capital of Trinidad which was a Spanish Colony. As Raleigh and his men started up the Orinoco River, for many days they suffered hardship from being exposed to the torturing tropical sun and heavy pouring rain. With no success, Raleigh returned to England where he published a book called "The discoverie of Guiana." Raleigh wrote "Whatever Prince shall possess it, that prince shall be lord of more gold, and of more cities and people than either the King of Spain or the great Turk."

Raleigh was charged for treason and was imprisoned in the Tower of London between 1602 and 1616. While he was in prison he sent Lawrence Keymis back to Guiana in 1616. Keymis explored the area and then returned to England, reporting back to Raleigh. He claimed that El Dorado was situated on The Rupununi in Essequibo, the largest county of Guyana.

In 1617, Raleigh’s friends helped him financially as he set sail with fourteen vessels, in search of El Dorado.

After Raleigh became sick and weak from the attacks by the Spanish in the Americas, he disappointingly returned to England, where in 1618 he was imprisoned and executed due to old charges of plotting with the Spaniards

Many Europeans continue to come to Guyana in search of El Dorado, but after not finding gold or El Dorado, they carry out trades with the Native Indians.

By Brian Ally