Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



Degree Granting Department

World Languages

Major Professor

David Arbesú, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pablo Brescia, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carlos J. Cano, Ph.D.


Colonial, El Dorado, Orellana, País de la Canela, Pizarro, Quito


This thesis examines the account of the discovery of the Amazon River written by Gaspar de Carvajal in the sixteenth century. In his Relación del descubrimiento del famoso río grande que, desde su nacimiento hasta el mar descubrió el capitán Francisco de Orellana, Carvajal describes the nine-month journey in which Orellana and his men crossed South America from the Andes to the Atlantic Ocean. In makeshift boats, they traveled through the river that we now know as the Amazon. The fact that the river has kept the name of the mythical warriors of European classical culture shows how the Amazon region has been, for the past five centuries, a mixture of legends from the new and the old worlds. Therefore, I analyze how the myth of the Amazons came to be such an intrinsic part of the New World. In order to do so, I trace the origin of the myth in Ancient Greece and how the Amazons made it into the Spanish books of chivalry during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. These books were widely read by the conquistadors, who then thought they had found these mythical warriors in the heart of the unfathomable Amazon jungle. There are two other myths that were of particular importance in Orellana's expedition, the "Cinnamon Country" and "El Dorado," which I also analyze. Finally, I recount the history of the manuscript, which was not known until the nineteenth century, and how Carvajal used a large variety of sources, as well as an amalgam of American indigenous terms, to write his chronicle. In an appendix at the end of this study, I have included my transcription of the manuscript, which is the first semi-paleographic transcription of Carvajal's account.