When Fray Gaspar de Carvajal, in the sixteenth century, chronicled the expeditions of the Spaniards through the new world, he also named the region of the Amazon, the river that cuts through it and the largest Brazilian state.
How did that happen? Well, when the expedition set of from Quito, in Peru, they were hoping to find El Dorado. But instead, as they encountered native tribes, what they heard the most about was a tribe of fierce women warriors, who lived without men and subjugated countless tribes.
Entering into their territory, the Spaniards were soon attacked by women described as white and tall, with very long hair, fighting with their arrow and bow while almost entirely naked. The Spaniards were forced to retreat.
After taking a male prisoner, one of the Amazons’ subjects, they learned that those women didn’t have husbands, had around 70 villages, had robust houses and interconnected roads. They had children with men they imprisoned and would either kill or return the male babies, keeping only the girls.
After Carvajal’s chronicles were published, generations of explorers claimed to see or to hear about the Amazons in the region. Indigenous oral traditions also talked about groups or times in which women were in charge.
Whether they existed or not might remain a question forever. But their impact is undeniable, with the name Amazonas being synonymous with that supremely important part of the world.