Guyana is said to be the location of the fabled El Dorado, or as it’s more popularly known, the Lost City of Gold. Like Scrooge McDuck and Flintheart Glomgold, I intend on finding this massive fortune, so join me if you dare, as we discover the truth about this lucrative legend!
The term El Dorado first referred to the king of the Muisca people, who were based in what is now Colombia. He would powder himself with gold dust and then jump into Lake Guatavitá as an offering to the creators of the universe. After learning of the legend, Spanish conquistadors swiftly conquered the Muisca folks, but when their findings of gold were so minimal, they refused to believe that they had actually located El Dorado and continued their fruitless search.
As with many legends, its stature grew with time and retellings, changing from being about a king to an entire city of gold. With occasional minor hauls of gold, inspiration continued to thrive, but the mother lode was never located. The Spanish weren’t alone in their pursuit of the wealthy empire and were joined by German explorers and even some English. Sadly, when Sir Walter Raleigh failed to find the city after two expeditions, he returned to England and was executed.
Another element that helped spread the myth was the various South American civilizations, who were getting slaughtered, realizing that the best way to get rid of the invading treasure seekers was to tell them that El Dorado was not where they currently were, but somewhere further on. This kept the search continuing and widening to the furthest reaches of the continent.
On the plus side, this all led to great advancements in exploring and mapping South America. Most notably, Francisco de Orellana discovered the Amazon River and traced it to the Atlantic Ocean. Maps in Europe during this time, even depicted the fabled golden city as existing in the mountains of Guyana. Of course, it was never actually found there, but like the Lost City of Atlantis, that doesn’t mean people have stopped searching for it.
Lope de Aguirre became known as the ‘Madman of El Dorado’ when he usurped power over an expedition led by Pedro de Ursúa, murdered many in the party and went on to attack Spanish settlements, declaring his group independent from Spain. Aguirre was finally dealt with by the Spanish, but not before leading a brief reign of terror. Perhaps he went insane in his search for the lost city.
The El Dorado name has spread across the globe, often being used as a moniker for a mining town or other place that riches can be sought quickly. There’s El Dorado County in California and in contrast, Helldorado was a nickname earned by Tombstone, Arizona. Both the El Dorado and Helldorado tags have been used by beer brewing companies. Also, General Motors bestowed upon its most expensive model the name Cadillac Eldorado, in honour of the mythical city.
DreamWorks animated film The Road to El Dorado may be the most recognized piece of popular culture referencing the myth. Starring the voice talent of Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh and having a stacked lineup for its soundtrack, the movie follows two Spanish explorers who discover the Lost City of Gold and are viewed as gods by the citizens of El Dorado. They try to con these fine El Doradians in the hope they can get away with all their loot and hijinks ensues.
The concept of El Dorado has been turned into metaphor, as it could involve anything a person longs for, whether that be wealth, love, happiness, etc. It can also be used to describe something unattainable. If you are said to be “looking for El Dorado,” you’re basically being told that your mission is hopeless and will result in nothing but misery. The Sip Advisor’s ‘El Dorado’ may be the success of this site and thankfully for all you little sippers, I’m just too dumb to give up!
Guyana: Gold Way Cocktail
- 1.5 oz Lemon Hart Rum
- 0.5 oz Galliano
- Top with Club Soda
- Splash of Lime Juice
- Garnish with a Lime Wheel
I think it would have been fun to live in a time when all these mysteries weren’t disproved… when a sense of adventure and discovery existed and we couldn’t just Google everything to learn the answer. That said, I’m quite comfortable playing around on the internet, rather than going out to find answers on my own, so let’s just call the whole thing a wash!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
The recipe calls for Vanilla Syrup, but I subbed in Galliano instead and it was the highlight of the drink, coming in at the end on top of the Rum and Club Soda. I should also note that there is an El Dorado rum out there, that would be even more interesting if it included gold leaf!