From a Guy Covered in Gold Dust to a City of Gold
The myth of El Dorado, the fabled city that was made of gold, seems to have changed with the passage of time like a message in a game of telephone. Just like that childhood game, the story of El Dorado was altered with each retelling from one source to another, until the final recipient ended up with something completely different from the original. The story first referred to a man, then to a city, then to an entire kingdom, and finally, an empire.
The legend began with the first Spaniards who came in contact with the native Muisca people, in today’s Colombia. They heard a tale about chiefs who coated themselves in gold dust, then rowed into Lake Guatavita, about 35 miles northeast of modern Bogota, to drop golden gifts for the water god. The first Spaniards to hear the tale named a mythical Muisca chief El Hombre Dorado, Spanish for “the Golden Man”. From there, as seen below, the story grew with each increasingly ridiculous retelling into the myth most are familiar with today.