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The legend of El Dorado

The Legend of El Dorado

The Spaniards had been in Colombia for over thirty years and they had found gold, though not enough to feed their greed.

Then, in 1539, when the first Spanish expeditions reached the Muisca kingdoms of the distant interior, the Conquistadors began to hear rumors of El Dorado, the Gilded Man, and the golden ritual offerings thrown into the sacred, deep blue lake of Guatavita.He went about all covered with powdered gold, as casually as if it were powdered salt. For it seemed to him that to wear any other finery was less beautiful, and that to put on ornaments or arms made of gold worked by hammering, stamping, or any other means was a vulgar and common thing. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, 1535 - 48

The Muisca Indians told of a ceremony performed on the appointment of a new ruler:They stripped the heir to his skin, and anointed him with a sticky earth on which they placed gold dust so that he was completely covered with this metal. They placed him on a raft and at his feet they placed a great heap of gold and went four principal subject chiefs, decked in plumes, crowns, bracelets, pendants, and earrings all of gold. They, too, were naked, and each one carried his offering. As the raft left the shore the music began, with trumpets, flutes, and other instruments, and with singing which shook the mountains and valleys, until, when the raft reached the center of the lagoon, they raised a banner as a signal for silence.The gilded Indian then made his offering, throwing out alt the pile of gold into the middle of the lake, and the chiefs who had accompanied him did the same on their own accounts.

After this they lowered the flag, which had remained up during the whole time of offering, and, as the raft moved toward the shore, the shouting began again, with pipes, flutes, and large teams of singers and dancers. With this ceremony the new ruler was received, and was recognized as lord and king. From this ceremony came the celebrated name of El Dorado which has cost so many lives. Juan Rodriguez Freyle, 1636.