On this day in 1500, Spanish explorer Vicente Yanez Pinzon discovered the coast of Brazil. Pinzon was born in Palos de la Frontera, Spain and came from a noble family. He was a conquistador and he had helped to subjugate the native people in the Caribbean. Pinzon was an experienced explorer and had been the captain on the Nina, one of the ships that had sailed under the command of Christopher Columbus, during his first voyage to the New World.
Pinzon and his crew first sighted the coast of northeast Brazil and they briefly landed on the shore. Later, Pinzon and his ships traveled down the country’s coast and he was possibly the first European to see the Amazon River. He sailed approximately 50 miles up the Amazon, which he called the River of Saint Mary of the Sweet Sea. He was eager for Spain to claim the lands that he discovered, and he urged Spanish monarchs to settle the area. He believed that there was huge potential in the new territories.
Later, Pinzon and his ships traveled down the coast of Brazil and he was possibly the first European to see the Amazon River. He sailed approximately 50 miles up the river, which he called the River of Saint Mary of the Sweet Sea. He was eager for Spain to claim the lands that he discovered and he urged the Spanish monarchs to settle the area. He believed that there was huge potential in the new territories.
The same year Pinzon discovered Brazil, the Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral also explored Brazil. He claimed the new lands for Portugal. Despite arriving after Pinzon, Cabral’s claims were considered legitimate because of the terms of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. This treaty divided the New World between Spain and Portugal in order to avoid bloodshed and war. This treaty was to shape the future of Latin America.
Brazil was densely populated at this time by many Indian tribes. They had lived on the lands for thousands of years and had developed sophisticated cultures. Their claims to the land and their rights were not considered by the Portuguese or Spanish when they signed the Treaty of Tordesillas. Portugal did little to support their claims to the newly discovered lands until the 1530s. It wasn’t until 30 years after Cabral and Pinzon landed in Brazil that the first European settlement was established near modern-day Sao Paulo. Several more settlements followed. These early settlements eventually flourished and formed the nucleus of the Portuguese Empire in the New World.
After his expedition to Brazil, Pinzon was appointed the governor of the island now known as Puerto Rico. He was a pivotal figure in the colonization of that island. In 1514, he accompanied another explorer on a journey to South America but he disappeared and no one is certain of his fate.