El Dorado, Manoa, Did a Legendary City of Gold Ever Exist
According to legend and popular belief of sixteenth century Europeans, there is a hidden city in South America that was filled with an unimaginable amount of treasure.
The journey was often perilous for those brave, gold seeking explorers, and sometimes even deadly. A famous author, Sir Walter Raleigh, wrote in 1596 that he knew the location of El Dorado. Still, the city was never found. Many Spanish explorers journeyed deep into South America in hopes to find the legendary city of gold—El Dorado.
So how did the Europeans come to hear about the legendary city in the first place? They heard rumors and speculation from the indigenous South Americans themselves. Some theorize that the origin of the rumors could have been about the Chibcha people, who lived isolated in what is modern day Columbia. They mined emeralds and gold and did indeed build a nice society. The Chibcha people had a custom in which they would cover every newly appointed chief in balsam gum. Afterwards, they would blow gold dust all over him through straws, making him appear like a golden statue.
Finally, near the end of the 1400's, they were defeated by another tribe and the practice ended. Still, the story of their strange practice lived on through oral storytelling. By the time the Spanish colonizations began in that area, the story had evolved into folklore and legend about a “gilded one” who ruled over a kingdom of gold.
The Spanish believed that the city of gold, El Dorado, really existed. They also believed that some Incas escaped their [Spanish] conquest and fled to a hidden empire filled with vast riches. They believed that the Inca rebels left with a lot of wealth and that their secret empire was hidden somewhere in modern day Venezuela.
The years afterwards the Spanish searched all over the continent in search of El Dorado. Five large expeditions were sent out, and nothing was ever found. To add to the legends, a strange man named Juan Martinez, who explored areas where the other explorers feared to venture in to, spoke of a golden city called “Manoa”.
He claimed that, during his crew’s journey into the deepest parts of the jungle, their storage of gunpowder exploded. His crew, blaming him for the accident, abandoned him for punishment. Martinez was left alone in a deep jungle to fend for himself when he was allegedly found by friendly Indians. He claims that they blindfolded him and led them to Manoa, their kingdom of gold. They gave him treasure as a gift as he departed, but unfortunately other Natives stole them on his way back.
Of course this sounds like nothing more than a tall tale, but apparently some people really put some credence into Martinez’s story. Sir Walter Raleigh ended up hearing about the story and other folklore, and headed toward South America himself. Upon arrival, he spent months with his party searching for the legendary city of gold. All he found was, ironically, the anchor from Martinez’s ship when the gunpowder exploded. It was at least some proof that some of Martinez’s story was true.