Help support TMP

"European Discovery of Brazil: Pinzon or Cabral?" Topic

11 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Renaissance Discussion Message Board

Back to the Wargaming in General Message Board

1,343 hits since 19 Apr 2007
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2007 6:14 a.m. PST

National and ethnic prides aside, looking at the event objectively (and based on available records), who should be considered the rightful discoverer of Brazil?

(links can sometimes change with time, making some sources unavailable at a later date)

"Pinzón left Spain from Palos in December, 1499 with four caravels. He reached the coast of present day Brazil on January 20, 1500, and claimed it in the name of Spain. He explored the coast of Brazil, and discovered the Amazon River. He sailed as far north, as the Gulf of Paria, in northwest Venezuela. He cut a quantity of Brazil lumber, and headed back to Spain. On the way, he lost two of his ships, and therefore, was not well received in Spain on September 30, 1500."

"When the first Europeans sailed near the mouth of the Amazon, they marveled at the colossal size of the river that seemed to push back the salty waters of the Atlantic and at the rich store of natural resources waiting to be exploited. In 1499, still far out to sea off the mouth of the Amazon, a Spanish explorer had a crew member dip a bucket into the ocean and found the water drinkable. Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, awestruck at so much freshwater with land nowhere in sight, described those parts as a mar dulce (sweet sea). Another early explorer near the mouth of the Amazon, Pedro Álvars Cabral—the "discoverer" of Brazil—also did not tarry long but remarked that the forests in the estuary were so thick they could supply virtually unlimited timber to the navies of Iberia."

"In 1499, Pinzón sailed to the South American coast. Carried by a strong storm, he reached the north coast of what today is Brazil on January 26, 1500. Pinzón disembarked on the shore called Praia do Paraíso, Cabo de Santo Agostinho, State of Pernambuco. According to the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), Spain could make no claim, but that place was named Cabo de Santa Maria de la Consolación by Pinzón. He also sighted the Amazon River and ascended to a point about fifty metres from the sea. He called it the "Río Santa María de la Mar Dulce", thus becoming the first explorer to discover an estuary of the Amazon River. Pinzón is considered the discoverer of the Oiapoque River."

About Cabral: "The fleet left Lisbon on March 9, 1500, and following the course laid down, sought to avoid the calms off the coast of Gulf of Guinea. On leaving the Cape Verde Islands, where Luís Pires was forced by a storm to return to Lisbon, they sailed in a decidedly southwesterly direction. On April 22 a mountain was visible, to which the name of Monte Pascoal was given; on the April 23 Cabral landed on the coast of Brazil, and on the April 25 the entire fleet sailed into the harbor called Porto Seguro. Cabral perceived that the new country lay east of the line of demarcation made by Pope Alexander VI (see Treaty of Tordesillas), and at once sent André Gonçalves (according to other authorities Gaspar de Lemos) to Portugal with the important tidings. Believing the newly-discovered country to be an island he gave it the name of Island of the True Cross (or Island of Vera Cruz) and took possession of it by erecting a cross and holding a religious service. The service was celebrated by the Franciscan, Father Henrique, afterwards Bishop of Ceuta."

"Cabral didn't come as a discoverer to the new world like Columbus who reached continental America two years earlier far more in the north. He was sent by King Manuel I of Portugal to sail around Africa to India. To avoid the dangerous seas and unfavorable currents and winds at the coast of Africa the fleet sailed a wide curve into the ocean. So it touched the coast of the Southamerican continent. We do not know why the fleet sailed so far to the west. It is possible that 40 year old Cabral, a Portuguese nobleman with little experience in navigation, took a wrong course too far to the west. But we can't exclude that he had the secret order to sail beyond the line of demarcation which seperated the Portuguese sphere of possession from the Spanish one . . .
But it wasn't Cabral who came to Brazil first. Already in July 1499 Amerigo Vespucci probably touched its coast and saw the Amazonas. And there was another one who came before Cabral: Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, commander of the "Niña" on Columbus' first journey. Pinzón reached Brazil in December 1499 near Cape São Roque at the mostwestern point of the continent. The Spaniards landed and took possession of the land, obviously not knowing that they still were in the Portuguese half of the world."

"Reaching the coast of Brazil and landing at Cabo Santa Maria de la Consolacion, near what is now Pernambuco, on January 26, 1500, Pinzón and his crew followed the Brazilian coast northward, eventually reaching the mouth of the Orinoco river in what would eventually become Venezuela. During this part of his voyage he became the first European to enter the Amazon, which he mistook for the Ganges of India due to the inaccuracy of his map. Encountering groups of native Arawaks, Pinzón accomplished what his late brother had wished to do on Columbus's first voyage: he acquired a great quantity of gold, as well as emeralds and pearls, through trades."

"When the Spanish explorer Vicente Yáñez Pinzón drifted ashore in northern Brazil in January 1500, he saw the Amazon, but could claim none of it for Spain, according to the terms of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the Americas (and the rest of the world) between Spain and Portugal. Instead, Portuguese explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral who came ashore in May 1500, is recognized as the discoverer of Brazil."

Other sources:

So, what is really the criteria for considering someone a "discoverer"?

PS. Also, if discovery means that you know exactly what it is you discovered, does that mean that Columbus did not really discover the New World in 1492 (since he really thought he was in Asia)?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2007 6:34 a.m. PST

I will have to go back and re-read my Samuel Eliot Morison. He tells me what to think about this kind of thing.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2007 6:38 a.m. PST

I guess I'm trying not to be like the old android on last night's episode of Futurama who said, "I choose to believe what I've been programmed to believe".


Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2007 7:02 a.m. PST

Seriously, though, Morison's 2-volume set is a beacon of rationality in a fog of myths and nationalistic myths.
Not only was he a very good historian, but was a blue water sailor and visited many of the sites.

If his conclusions may be overturned, his methods are to be applauded.

Morison is one of my heroes.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP19 Apr 2007 7:55 a.m. PST

Wow. I wasn't aware that Pinzon had spent 4 months sailing the coast of Brazil!

The things you find when you keep digging into this.

"Sailing from Palos with four caravels, he skirted the Cape Verde Islands and struck the Brazilian coast at Cabo Santa Maria de la Consolacion (= Cape San Agostinho, near Cape São Roque) on 26 January 1500. Sailing west along the coast of Brazil, on which he spent four months, he entered the mouth of the Amazon. Thinking at first that it was the Ganges he named it Rio Santa Maria de la Mar Dulce. Apart from the claims of Vespucci, this is regarded as the official discovery of the river."


Carlos Marighela 2 Inactive Member20 Apr 2007 6:24 a.m. PST

I live up the coast from Cabral's supposed landing site and the wife worked in Porto Seguro for several years where they will readily inform you he made land fall (disputed) , so there is no way we will admit to it being Pinzon, even if just for the sake of domestic harmony. It's a bad time to be asking the question anyway tomorrow is April 21 :-)

Fascinating as the question is first I would note that there were quite a few folk here before either, so it was only a 'discovery' in European sense (yesterday 19th April is Indian Day in Brazil). The more interesting question in my mind is whether the Portuguese had fore knowledge of Brazil's existence. The Portuguese were fairly experienced naviagtors by this stage, having been navigating around the African coast for the better part of the previous century. For Cabral to 'get lost' in this manner as is commonly suggested seems to stretch credulity.

The thing that really spices the broth is that the Treaty of Tordecillas, that partioned the world between Spanish and Portuguese in 1494 is too neat. Given the Portuguese prowess in opening up mercantile trade routes and were experienced mariners, I find the bit about him crossing the Atlantic to avoid being becalmed off the Gulf of Guinea a real stretch.

It has been suggested that the Portuguese themseves may have inherited their knowledge from Arab navigators, just as they did most of their maritime technology, although there is no physical evidence to suggest they did. Curioulsy one of the first things Cabral's party did when they came into contact with Brazilian Indians was to check to see if they showed any signs of contact with Islam (they would be at home with a lot of TMPers on the CA boards)

There has even been speculation that Columbus was Portuguese spy, whose mission was to divert Spanish attention in another direction.

Carlos Marighela 2 Inactive Member20 Apr 2007 6:30 a.m. PST

On a vaguely related note that will no doubt appeal to CC, there is a statue not that far from wher I live to Pedro Fernandes Sardinha, the first Bishop of Brazil. Along with his shipmates, he was shipwrecked on the coast and then beaten to death by the local Indians and consumed as a savoury meal. The local joke is that ate him because they though he was a Sardine.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP04 Nov 2009 6:34 p.m. PST

About Columbus . . .

TMP link


raducci Inactive Member05 Nov 2009 2:44 a.m. PST

Niether. St Brendan and a bevy of Irish monks.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP05 Nov 2009 10:54 p.m. PST

St. Brendan, in Brazil?



raducci Inactive Member07 Nov 2009 5:22 a.m. PST

OK CC. You drink a few bottles of Irish whisky and see where you end up!

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.