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The Story Behind Eldorado

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Published: 4th of August, 2019 by Patrick Carpen.

Last updated: August 16, 2023 at 17:15 pm

Did you know…that “El Dorado” is Spanish for “The Golden”?

Almost all Guyanese have heard the story of Eldorado. In Primary School, students even sing the Patriotic Song, “born in the land where men sought Eldorado….” But the story of Eldorado is not limited only to Guyana’s shores – it is one of worldwide fame – and it is what allegedly drew the Spanish, British, Portuguese, and other explorers to Guyana.

The story was told of a “golden” king who anointed himself daily with gold dust and who ruled in a city where the streets were paved with gold. But this city was never found – and the story itself turned out to be both mystical and mythical. In common language, it was all a hoax.

But who made the story up in the first place? Why was it told and to whom? And why would someone invent such a lie?

During my travels throughout the Rupununi, more specifically, Yupukari Village, Central Rupununi, I was taken to the very grounds where the British and the Portuguese reportedly had a stand-off during the quest for the city of Eldorado. If the city did exist, the standoff might have escalated into a war – which experts say the Portuguese might have most likely won.

On my way back to Lethem from Yupukari, I had a chat with Mr. Ashley Holland – a tour operator who runs Rupununi River Tours. I asked him “well how did the story of Eldorado come about in the first place if in fact there is no golden city?”

His answer was something I didn’t learn in school. He explained that after the discovery of South America, the Spanish explorers moved inland and started invading the natives. According to Mr. Holland, “they raped and plundered their way through the continent taking back all the gold they could find.”

They were in the process of destroying the Incas in Peru when they were told the story of Eldorado – that there was a golden city “somewhere east.” One legend has it that the Incas fabricated this story to distract the Spanish and send them on a wild goose chase. The Incas of Peru perceived the Spaniards’ obsession with gold and came up with a plan to deceive them. Thus was born the story of El Dorado. The ruse succeeded. The Spanish swallowed the bait – hook, line, and sinker, and went in search of El Dorado.

The explorers traveled down through the Amazonian trail, and when they reached a certain point in Guyana, the descriptions of the location seemed to match the coordinates on the map. Apparently, as Mr. Holland put it, “they had put 2 and 2 together and gotten 7.”

But who knows if the city really does exist? Who knows if, with all the emerging Satellite technologies, the city of Eldorado will one day be found?

One thing that’s sure is that if you come to Guyana, you will find Eldorado Rum!

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