Pinzón, Martin Alonso (mid-1400s–c. 1493)

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Pinzón, Martin Alonso (mid-1400s–c. 1493)

Martín Alonso Pinzón (b. mid-1400s; d. ca. 31 March 1493), navigator, captain of the Pinta. A shipowner and commercial agent from Palos, on Spain's south Atlantic coast, Martín Alonso and his brother Vicente Yáñez Pinzón proved invaluable to the success of the first expedition of Christopher Columbus. From the mid-1470s he and his brother commanded trading voyages from Palos to the central Mediterranean, the Canaries, and probably the Guinea coast.

Pinzón piloted the Pinta on the 1492 expedition and was instrumental in maintaining discipline among the crew of the three ships, especially those on Columbus's flagship, the Santa María, as threat of mutiny increased in the days immediately preceding the sighting of land on 12 October. Off the coast of Hispaniola, however, Pinzón broke ranks and sailed ahead, leaving Columbus behind with his brother Vicente Yáñez to face the tragic shipwreck of the Santa María. Pinzón rejoined the principal force after many days' absence, reporting gold and other important discoveries. Columbus chafed, planning to charge him for insubordination after safely returning to Spain.

Columbus sailed back to Spain on the Niña, along with Vicente Yáñez. The ships were separated during a terrible storm off the Azores. Pinzón reached port at Bayona in Galicia, while Columbus was driven into Lisbon. Pinzón's son and other family members were in Bayona, returning with goods from Flanders. From there, Pinzón penned a report of the expedition and sent it overland to the Catholic monarchs, then resident in Barcelona. Ill, he set sail for Palos, and by coincidence, arrived the same day (15 March 1493) as Christopher Columbus. Admiral Columbus initiated action against him, but Martín Alonso's death in late March avoided a legal imbroglio. Some suspect that Martín Alonso was one of the first Europeans to fall victim to the New World epidemic—syphilis.

See alsoColumbus, Christopher; Pinzón, Vicente Yáñez.


Juan Gil, Marineros y mercaderes en las Indias, 1499–1504 (1985).

Juan Manzano Manzano, Los Pinzones y el descubrimiento de América, 3 vols. (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Fernández Duro, Cesáreo. Los hermanos Pinzón en el descubrimiento de América Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 1944.

Frye, John. Los otros: Columbus and the Three Who Made His Enterprise of the Indies Succeed. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen Press, 1992.

                                       Noble David Cook