El Dorado: A Mystery of the Spanish World

Por Angela Padrón

There are many myths and legends that have developed over time in the Spanish world. One of the most famous is El Dorado, or The Land of Gold. For centuries, people all over the world have lusted for gold. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans believed that there was a place in the New World where there was a tremendous amount of gold hidden away. Many experts believe El Dorado, if it exists at all, would be somewhere in South America.

Long ago, people heard rumors of a Muisca chieftain in the Andes Mountains, near what is today Colombia. The chief was named El Dorado, or “the gilded one,” as the Spaniards called him. At the chief’s anointing ceremony, a ritual was conducted—he was taken down to Lake Guatavita, stripped naked, and covered in gold dust. He was then placed on a decorated raft with his attendants, along with piles of gold and precious jewels. The raft traveled to the center of the lake, where the king washed the gold dust off of his body as a sacrifice to the Muisca god. During the ceremony, the native tribes also threw the gold and jewels in the lake for the god.

The natives were eventually conquered by the Spaniards, who found so much gold that they believed there had to be a place that had even more gold. Although some gold was found by draining Lake Guatavita, uncovering more gold in deeper water was not possible. Since then, the lake has been drained several more times to try to find more gold. However, in 1965 the Colombian government declared the lake to be a protected area and banned all draining going forward.

The name “El Dorado” has since become synonymous with finding wealth. Many people have tried to find this so-called city of gold, to no avail. Today El Dorado remains a legend, a mystery in the Spanish World. Perhaps with new technology available, people will soon find a way to explore the deeper waters off the coasts of South America to continue to search for this lost gold. Or perhaps the gold-seekers should try looking at the end of a rainbow—they might just have better luck!

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