Legends of the Spanish conquistadors in America
Somewhere between adventure, fantasy, adventure, and fairy-tale, you will find the chronicles of the Spanish conquest of the New World. Those adventurers abandoned their old dusty hometowns in search of fabulous resources and fantastic realms in a land that they didn’t even know existed just a few years earlier. No wonder the travels are linked to many legends, some of which we will have a look at now.
The legend of “El Dorado” is one of the most famous: a lost city made entirely of gold, whose value to the indigenous people was unknown. This myth is remembered as a place searched for by conquistadors, but the fact is that word first spread about the legendary city when the Welsers, German bankers, were sent to America by Charles V. They spread and exaggerated several indigenous legends about a monarch who bathed in a deep lake covered in gold. Various conquerors, including Francisco de Orellana, went in search of it.
Another myth that has inspired plenty of literature is the story of the fountain of eternal youth. The myth holds that Ponce de Leon began his conquest of Florida seeking the mythical fountain that turned the old young again. However, today there are writers who say that de Leon never even looked for it, and that it was a lie created several decades afterwards to make the conqueror out to be a superstitious maniac.
In addition to fantastic realms and mystical fountains, several legends also emerged about mythical animals. One of them is the “Itzcuintlipotzotli”: described as a hairless dog with a hump that went from its neck to its rear legs, that, they say, was easy to tame but became fiercer with age. Apparently the last one died in 1843, so we do not know its real appearance or if it was perhaps confused with another animal that exists today.
Christopher Columbus himself encountered an unknown beast in 1503 which he described as a “giant cat with a human face and a prehensile tail”. It turns out the cat was what we now know as the eyra cat and that it was “rediscovered” in the early twentieth century in Mexico. Search for photos of this animal on the internet and you’ll be able to see the “human” resemblance in his face. This we can see, yet there is no evidence that its tail was prehensile.
In the centuries-long Spanish conquest of America, there were many more myths such as that of the “Amazons”, who the river was named after. So we urge you to go in search of these gems of fantasy and folklore, and you may just find a few surprises!