Children of the Sun: The Quest for El Dorado
Here is the synopsis for the London School of Samba theme for the 2013 Notting Hill Carnival. When Spanish explorers reached South America in the early 16th Century, they heard many stories about a tribe of natives high in the Andes mountains (in modern day Colombia). These stories told that, when a new chieftain rose to power, his rule began with an opulent ceremony at Lake Guatavita. Accounts of the ceremony varied, but they consistently said the new ruler was covered with gold dust, and that by the end of the ceremony precious jewels were thrown into the lake to appease a god that lived underwater. The Spaniards started calling this golden chief El Dorado, “the Gilded One.” The ceremony of the Gilded One supposedly ended in the late 15th Century when El Dorado and his subjects were conquered by another tribe, but the Spaniards and other Europeans found so much gold among the natives along the continent’s northern coast, they believed there had to be a source of this great wealth somewhere in the interior. There were many expeditions to find El Dorado and the Golden City.
In the 15th Century, by the command of the Spanish Royalty, Conquistadors went in search of riches to increase the empires wealth, and to the fund religious war between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. This was the Age of exploration and Spain, one of the first global empires, was led by Charles V and Queen Isabella of Portugal. This was the elusive dream of gold and wealth from a proud nation, towards a new world powered by a false hope.
Francisco Pizarro, one of the most infamous Conquistadors, was fortunate to arrive in the Incan Empire in the early 1530’s, at a time when it was in the middle of civil war. The empire, consisting mostly of Quechua and Aymara people, was ruled by the Inca elite, who were embroiled in a dispute between the succession of Princes Huáscar and Atahualpa. Inca (ruler) Atahualpa believed the Conquistadors fulfilled a prophecy of the return of Viracocha, the legendary bearded prophet from a far away land, who had visited the South American peoples many hundreds of years before.
The Incans initial trust and willingness to lavish gold on these ‘Gods’ was replaced by war once Francisco’s men tricked Atahualpa into an ambush and ransomed him. Noticing his captors lust for riches, Atahualpa offered the Conquistadores a room full of gold to secure his release. The ransom took days to collect, as gold had always been bartered from other tribes and lands within the Inca Empire. The Spanish got their treasure, but instead of freeing Atahualpa they offered him the opportunity to convert to Catholicism before they executed him. Atahualpa had 30,000 men, and at least 2000 of them were slaughtered by a tiny group of 160 Conquistadors, advantageously armed with guns. Not one of them died.
The Conquistadors dominance was not an easily won battle. The Incan high priestesses, who had foretold the arrival of the bearded strangers, called on the deities and tribes of the land to unite in resistance on finding the invaders untrustworthy. Many great battles were fought between the Spanish and the Natives, like the Amazonian warrior women who the great Amazon is named after. The Spanish struggled with the South American terrain, its beasts and its people, and both sides were weakened by diseases like Small Pox and Yellow Fever. But the Inca empire itself was part of its own downfall, the internal fractions between rulers and heirs as well as the cultural and tribal divisions were its undoing. In the face of the combined horrors of disease and conflict, many indigenous people converted to Catholicism to escape the slaughter. The natives mistake of believing the invaders were gods, re voking their docility too late and their inability to match the Conquistadores technologically advanced weaponry , muskets and gunpowder, all lead to the death of the civilisation. The rivers turned red as the Inca Empire ended.
Taking stock of their new lands and its riches, the Spaniards realized that, in spite of the quantity of gold in the hands of the Indians and despite all the legends, there were no golden cities, nor even rich mines, the Muiscas obtained all their gold in trade. Although the Spaniards didn’t find El Dorado, in 1545 they did find Lake Guatavita which they tried to drain in a bid to uncover it’s perceived riches. Although they succeeded in lowering the lake enough to find hundreds of pieces of gold strewn along the its edge, the presumed fabulous treasures in the deeper water were beyond their reach, or more likely, never there. The City of Gold was a myth, which they persuaded to their cost.
The Conquistadores were plagued by infighting. The division of their loot was, as to be expected, a matter of much discord. Francisco Pizarro reward his brothers Juan and Gonzalo more favourably than men like Diego Almagro who had long served with him as an equal partner, and who was largely responsible for the success of the mission. These contentions lead to civil war among the Spaniards, resulting in the death of Almagro and ultimately to the downfall of the Pizarro clan. Juan was killed in a rebellion at Cuzco. Francisco himself was murdered in his home by a band of Almagro’s supporters, and Gonzalo was beheaded for treachery after his entire army deserted him in a battle against the governor who replaced Francisco. Many of the Conquistadors came to bad ends, but few lamented the just desserts of the Pizarro brothers.
This is the story of wealth at a cost; new diseases brought back to a hungry Europe, gilded
Spanish churches, yet a bankrupt Spain, a country that was blind to the real riches of agriculture in their quest for gold, i.e. the potato brought back by Francis Raleigh in 1618.
This is the legacy of trade today left by navigation routes and bartering. This is the curse of the quest for El Dorado, the quest for untold wealth against nature, where there is always an unforeseen cost.
|Comissão de Frente – Doomed Fool
|Comissão de Frente – Conquistador
|Bateria – Children of the sun, the Inca people
|Passista – High Priestesses
|Passista – Viracochas
|Ala Indio – Flora: The living forest
|Ala Baiana – Wealth
Please note: the finished Baiana will be different from the skirt shown in this image. Click HERE to see the finished Baiana skirt.
|Dance Ala – The Amazons: the fierce warrior women
|Ala Afro – Fauna: The living forest
Please note: the short red top shown in this image is a prototype and is different from the finished version of the Afro top. This will instead be a long gold vest.
Our Artistic Team this year is;
Rachel Maclahlan – (CDF, Baiana, Bateria & Dance ala design & production)
Mariana Pinho – (Afro & Indio design & production)
Eddie Souza – (Passista design & production)
Diane Artis – (Indio costume production)
Orquidea Lima – (Rainha design & production)
Emergency Exit Arts – Patrick Bullock (Float design & construction)
Float designed by Patrick Bullock, in collaboration with Emergency Exit Arts.
Written by Lex Adarme, Tristan Daws and Jeremy Shaverin.
Hoje seu sol nasce
As quatro regiões olham para você
Deixe em nossas mãos
Não com lanças mas com raios de trovão
Pinte nossos braços
Arco-íris soprados por serpentes
O criador retorna, o Viracocha salva
Vive a profecia do Império Inca
Para a glória da Espanha as marchas aproximam
E a busca continua
Pela bússola dos exploradores
Chegou a Unidos de Londres
Contra os homens da terra
E as mulheres da floresta
As pistolas estavam quase triunfantes
Mas a pólvora dissolveu
Enquanto a doença persistiu
Assim o guerreiro lutou até caír
E as forças unidas inspiram a canção
Pulsando o ritmo do seu coração
Conquiste o dia
O Deus nós carrega pela noite
Verde e branco vai prevalecer
Comece o samba no amanhecer
Today your sun rises
The four regions look to you
Leave in our hands
Not spears but thunderbolts
Paint our arms
Rainbows blown by serpents
The creator returns, Viracocha saves
The prophecy of the Inca empire lives
For the glory of Spain the marches draw near
And the search continues
By the compass of the explorers
The London School of Samba arrived
Against the men of the land
And the women of the forest
The guns were nearly triumphant
But the gunpowder dissolved
While the sickness spread
The warrior fought until he fell
And the forces united inspire the song
Pulsating the rhythm of your heart
Conquer the day
God carries us through the night
Green and white will prevail
Begin the samba at dawn
Notting Hill Carnival Results
Samba Category: 2nd place
Overall Parade Result: 4th
The Guardian (The first photo in this gallery)
Daily Mail (Images 2, 3, 4 & 11)
Independent (Images 3 & 7)
Evening Standard See video footage at the end of this clip
BBC News Website (Image 13 in this gallery)
Our 2013 carnival season included the following carnivals and events:
- Cambridge Strawberry Fair
- Twickenham Carnival
- Waterloo Carnival
- Brazillica, Liverpool
- Lambeth Country Show
- Leicester Carnival
- Guanabara, Covent Garden Parade
- Notting Hill Carnival
- Devizes Carnival, Wiltshire
- Hackney One Carnival
- St Austell Torchlight Carnival
- Burning of the Clocks, Brighton
Our 2013 carnival manager/ producer was Mariana Whitehouse.