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Pedro ├lvares Cabral

"discoverer of Brazil"

Pedro Alvares Cabral

Pedro ├lvares Cabral was born in Belmonte, Portugal, about 1467. Both his father, FernŃo Cabral, and his mother, Isabel de Gouveia, were related to King Manuel I. Although it is assumed that Cabral received an education appropriate to a minor noble and probably did some military service, exactly how he spent his early life is unknown.

After Vasco da Gama returned from his historic voyage to India in 1499, King Manuel I named Cabral to command a follow-up voyage and establish trading ports on the Malabar Coast. Cabral and his fleet of 13 ships and 1,200 men (including Bartolomeu Dias as one of the commanders) left Lisbon on March 9, 1500, passed the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, and then set a course sourhwestward, away from the African coast, in order to take advantage of prevailing winds and currents.

Whether what happened next was intentional or accidental is still a matter of debate, but in either case Cabral and his men next sighted land on April 22, and landed near what is now Porto Seguro, Brazil, three days later. Cabral claimed what he called True Cross Island for Portugal, erected a cross, and held a Christian service to mark the occasion, but did not undertake any major exploration of the area. The fleet spent about ten days on and around True Cross Island before setting back out across the Atlantic. Before leaving, Cabral left two exiled criminals behind, and those two men became the "founders" of Brazil's first mestizo population.

On May 29, while the fleet was rounding the Cape of Good Hope, four ships were lost with all hands aboard, including the ship commanded by Bartolomeu Dias. The remaining ships cast anchor at Calicut, India, on September 13. Cabral set up a trading post, but on December 17 hostile Muslims attacked the post and killed 50 men. Cabral sought revenge by bombarding Calicut. He then sailed to Cochin, where he was much better received and was very successful with the trading post and in gaining commercial treaties for Portugal. Two more ships were lost on the return voyage, and by the time Cabral got back to Portugal, on June 23, 1501, his fleet had been reduced to four ships.

Although Cabral returned with a great amount of pearls, diamonds, porcelain, and such spices as pepper, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves, he was never again given a command. He got married, had six children, and lived near the Tagus River until his death around 1520.

There has been much debate over Cabral's discovery of Brazil. Some say it was an accident, while some believe he had secret orders to sail west to determine if any land was at the western part of the area given to Portugal under the Treaty of Tordesillas. There were also three other explorers who went to the region and laid claims to the land. Amerigo Vespucci, Vincente Yß˝ez Pinzˇn, and Diego de Lepe all sailed along the Coast of Brazil and went ashore before Cabral, but all three only explored the known land of the northern section of South America and reached Brazil by the Amazon River. Cabral is, therefore, given credit for being the discoverer of unknown land, and Brazilians celebrate Cabral for discovering their county.

EncyclopŠdia Britannica
The Mariners Museum

Vasco da Gama
Bartolomeu Dias
Amerigo Vespucci

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This page was last updated on 01/18/2018.