El Dorado, legendary country of South America
El Dorado (ĕlˈdəräˈdō, –rāˈ–)
[Span.,=the gilded man], legendary country of the Golden Man sought by adventurers in South America. The legend supposedly originated in a custom of the Chibcha
people of Colombia who each year anointed a chieftain and rolled him in gold, which he then ceremonially washed off in a sacred lake, casting offerings of emeralds and gold into the waters at the same time. This custom had apparently disappeared long before the coming of the conquistadors, but the tales lived on and grew into a legend of a land of gold and plenty. Gonzalo Pizarro
and Francisco de Orellana set out in quest for it, the latter drifting down the length of the Amazon River in the process. From the middle of the 16th cent. a series of adventurers searched for El Dorado and its fabulous variants—Omagua, the Land of Cinnamon, or the golden land of Manoa. El Dorado passed into European literature and found its way to the maps. The conquistadors of Venezuela and New Granada—Federmann
, and Jiménez de Quesada
—all searched for El Dorado. Perhaps best known to English-speaking peoples is the expedition of Sir Walter Raleigh
in 1595. The location of the mythical land shifted as new regions were explored, and similar legends appeared in W United States. Cabeza de Vaca told of the Seven Cities of Cibola; interest in these treasure-laden cities reached a peak with the stories of Fray Marcos de Niza
and culminated in a tremendous but fruitless expedition under Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
. El Dorado is used figuratively to mean any place of fabulous wealth, a utopian dream, or the land of desire.
See A. F. Bandelier, The Gilded Man (1893, repr. 1962); G. Arciniegas, The Knight of El Dorado (tr. 1942); R. Silverberg, The Golden Dream (1967); V. S. Naipaul, The Loss of El Dorado (1970).
El Dorado, city, United States
El Dorado (ĕl dərāˈdə). <1> City (2020 pop. 17,756), seat of Union co., S central Ark; inc. 1845. The discovery of oil in 1921 made it the oil center of the state. The city has oil refineries, chemical plants, and poultry-packing houses, as well as diverse manufactures. <2> City (2020 pop. 12,870), seat of Butler co., SE Kansas; inc. 1870. Located on the Walnut River, considerable growth came to the area after the discovery of a major oil reserve there in 1915, which quickly became the largest oil field in the U.S. However, in 1916, an altercation between a Black shoe shiner and a white oil worker lead to large race riots, and many Blacks fled the city. During World War II, a number of German and Italian POWs were housed in a camp in the city. In 1958, a tornado swept through town; fifty years later, the city opened a Memorial Park in honor of the 13 people who died then.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.
a country rich in gold and jewels that was sought by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th and 17th centuries in South America, mainly in the basin of the Orinoco and Amazon rivers.
According to the legend that had reached the conquistadores, the ruler of El Dorado sprinkled himself with gold dust every morning and washed it off in the waters of a sacred lake. The legend and the name of the country stem from the custom that existed among the Chibcha (Muisca) of consecrating their rulers in Lake Guatavita (Colombia).
In a figurative sense, “El Dorado” means a land of fabulous wealth.
REFERENCESozina, S. A. Na gorizonte—El’dorado! Moscow, 1972.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
mythical land of gold treasures, object of Spanish expeditions. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 159]
legendary land of gold in South America. [Span. Myth.: NCE, 846]
legendary place of fabulous wealth. [Am. Hist.: Espy, 335]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.