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Dabaiba

temple, region, indians, river, search, expedition, darien and treasure

DABAIBA (also written Dabaybe, d'Abaibe, etc.), a region lying south of the Gulf of Darien, of which the boundaries were never eiractly defined. Spanish adventurers in the 16th century learned, as a matter of common report, that they might find or at least by exploring in that general direction, a temple lined with gold; and in this half-true story told by the Indians of Darien we probably have the earliest form of the Eldorado myth. Balboa, when governor on the Isthmus, organized a Dabaiba- 'expedition which he led in person (1512). One hundred and sixty men in two brigantines proceeded up the Atmto River, hut made little headway against the hostile natives. Governor Pedrarias Davila (June 1515) sent 200 men under Luis Carillo and Balboa on the same errand. Attacked by Indians on the Atrato, one-half of the soldiers were killed, and the survivors took nothing but news of shameful defeat back to the coast. It seemed that ((the mysterious dominion so mysteriously defended must hold great treasure, and in the inflamed minds of the Christians the savage pantheon Dabaiba had risen into a lofty edifice glitte ' with gold and gems, and situated in a region ri and beautiful beyond comparison)) (H. H. Ban croft). Subsequently an expedition of 160 men under Tabna and Birues, with light brigantines and canoes, tempted fate upon the river. The savages on this occasion enjoyed more than their usual measure of supernatural protection, for *the divinity of the golden temple) sent a flood which uprooted trees, overturned one of the vessels and drowned both leaders. Even Fran cisco Pizarro, who was of the party, shared the superstitious fears inspired by these events to such a degree that he declined to assume com mand and continue the quest. Peter Martyr speaks of four attempts to gain the golden tem ple, one expedition attaining a distance up the river of 80 leagues; but ((wonderful mischance! — the unarmed and naked people always over came the armed and armored.* Francisco Cesar, captain of infantry, starting from San Sebastian in 1536, with 80 foot-soldiers and 20 horse pene trated a short way into the mountains, returning with treasure valued at 30,000 castellanos. Pedro de Heredia in the same year led 210 mail clad men into the sierra, but came back empty handed. Cesar, repeating his experiment, se cured treasure amounting to 40,000 ducats. Next, Badillo led 350 men from Cartagena to explore the same region in 1537. The expedi tion lasted more than a year, and was a com plete failure. One-half. of the soldiers tiled; Badillo was ruined and disgraced; Cesar, who accompanied him, lost his life. Such luring by

occasional gains, such varied and dire misfor tunes seemed the work of enchantment; but a realistic explanation is not far to seek. We know that the territory southeast of the Gulf of Urabi or Darien was subject to a cacique named Dabaybe; his name is still given to a village in the department of Antioquia and to a spur of the Western Cordillera in Colombia. This mountain range for years was an insuper able barrierpreventing the isthmian Spaniards from extending their domain overland toward the south. Accordingly their eager search was fruitless, though the temple actually was in existence. The Indian stories described, accu rately enough, the splendors of the Inca empire, of Curi-cancha and Cuzco (see those titles). But the adventurers could not realize, and the Indians themselves probably did not know, how far away the famous temple at Cuzco really was. The facts in the case, the accent of truth in the Indians' accounts, sustained the explorers' confidence year after year; but confident search in a region far removed from the object sought is always ((mysteriously) baffling. Long before the report of Pizarro's discoveries in Peru reached the isthmus, a fixed belief had taken possession of the minds of the Spaniards that a kingdom more desirable than any they had despoiled, with gold-adorned temples, was some where hidden away in the heart of the continent.

The attributes of elusiveness and mystery had become an indispensable part of the conception; therefore the true accounts of the wonderful Temple of the Sun did not exactly tally with the ((glittering phantom') of their imagination. After Quesada (see Col-calm/0, starting from Santa Marta, succeeded in penetrating, by way of the Magdalena River, the region of Colombian up lands which lay beyond 13abaiba, naturally the olden temple was sought still further inland; d thus the headwaters of the Orinoco and azon were discovered. Bancroft and other writers following his prompting have suggested that an ancient building in the Cenfi Valley, near which were found tombs containing Id d gems, may have been the temple of Da 4.

is quite impossible, however, to accept s cora Lecture, for the reason that colonists of San Sebastian came upon the Cena building at an early date, and, if it had been the real object of their search, they would have been able, with the assistance of the natives, to identify it be yond question. See ELDORADO.

MARItION WILCOX.