One November day in 1532, Spanish general Francisco Pizarro began the conquest of the Incan empire in South America. In the first attack, thousands of Indians were slaughtered, and their king, Atahualpa, was captured.
To spare his life, Atahualpa proposed a ransom: an entire room filled with gold.
Soon, fine gold vases and figurines began appearing, brought by his subjects throughout the Andes. To make room for more gold, the Spaniards smashed the objects into small pieces. When the room was full, they melted down the gold, shipped it to Spain, and killed Atahualpa.
Today, centuries after the quest for El Dorado, poor peasants, struggling to survive, have taken up the search for gold. They fill the pit mines of Brazil, the rivers of Peru, the hills of Bolivia.
In Ecuador, thousands of people have rediscovered old mines of the Spanish crown. Armed with picks, dynamite, and mercury, they revisit a legacy that began with the death of King Atahualpa.
Narration is by Edward James Olmos, who hosted a series of 13 half-hour Vanishing Homelands specials.