The Search for El Dorado

Written by on September 1, 2016 in Southwest Legends - Comments Off on The Search for El Dorado

The lust for gold helped shaped the American Southwest. During the 1800s, miners poured into New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah in search of “color.” Their boom towns formed the core of our cities and towns today.

In the 16th and 17th Century, the European settlers to South America believe there was a city of gold, known as El Dorado. Literally hundreds of expeditions set out in search of these untold riches, and when the search failed in South America. However, the legends of lost cities of gold and lost mines spread into Central American and then into the American Southwest. In short, El Dorado came to be known simply as source of untold riches somewhere in the Americas.

Sadly, only a few lucky miners actually made their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Far more of them went in search of a dream but never found the end of the trail. The vast majority ended up working in the mines for the big mine owners. They worked for poor wages, in extremely dangerous environments and lived in communities far from any amenities. Their glamorous and romantic images of mining, were more often dashed as they performed back-breaking work and experienced numerous mining accidents.

Eventually, it came to mean that someone said to be looking for El Dorado was on a hopeless quest, as so many miners in the Southwest learned the hard way. The essence of the search was captured so well in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe that goes like this…

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old-
This knight so bold-
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow-
“Shadow,” said he,
“Where can it be-
This land of Eldorado?”

“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied-
“If you seek for Eldorado!”

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