The Pinzón brothers, Martín Alonso and Vicente Yáñez, are best known for having accompanied Columbus on his 1492 voyage to the New World. Mariners from Palos, the small Andalusian port from which Columbus set sail, the Pinzón brothers helped Columbus to recruit his crew. In turn the admiral named them captains, giving Martín Alonso command of the Pinta, Vicente the Niña. Yet neither Martín nor Vicente took orders easily. The two had a reputation for piracy and on one occasion had been reprimanded by the crown for the illegal seizure of some Ibizan ships carrying wheat. Of the two, Martín was evidently the more independent and even had his own ideas about the quickest route to the Indian mainland. Thus on October 6, 1492, a week before landfall, he differed openly with Columbus about the direction the little armada should sail. Upon reaching Hispaniola, Martín abandoned the admiral to search for gold, occasionally stopping to name parts of the island after himself. Columbus later caught up with his wayward captain and the two sailed eastward together, only to be separated again in a storm off the Azores. Martín reached Bayona in Galicia before the admiral returned to Seville, and, according to one account, the admiral was angry when he learned that Martín had already informed the Catholic monarchs about his discoveries in the Indies.
Martín Alonso Pinzón died in 1493, but his brother would return to the New World in 1499-1500 to explore the coast of Brazil. Vicente subsequently proposed additional voyages to the Indies but spent his last days sailing in Spanish waters, working for the newly established Casa de Contratación. He died in relative obscurity in 1514.
The story of the Pinzón brothers and their maritime accomplishments and adventures is the subject of this long, rambling, somewhat idiosyncratic, and occasionally purely conjectural study. In essence, the book represents an extended effort to highlight what the author, a noted expert on Columbus, believes to be the Pinzón brothers’ important but forgotten contributions to the discovery and exploration of the Indies. The book’s strength lies in its abundant documentation, most of which is drawn from the unpublished doctoral dissertation of the author’s daughter. Particularly valuable is the appendix, a collection of almost two hundred documents, many of which are published here for the first time.