The Moorish Navigator


Now most of us know the story of Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the new world. But little is known of the passengers of his three infamous ships, the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria. Better yet, we don’t know much about where the passengers originated from.

History has been written to assume that all the passengers of these three legendary ships were all of European descent – Jewish, Italian, Spanish, etc., but you are sadly mistaken. A moor, who is so conveniently left out of the story, was a navigator and pilot of one of Columbus’ ships during his infamous first and third voyages to the new world. His name was Pedro Alonso Niño. I would like to add too that the word Moor in those days was a name interchangeable with the term for those of African origin. So Moor may not have meant that Pedro was a Muslim as was the “Moors” who conquered Europe.

Pedro Alonso Niño was born in Spain but of African heritage. His nickname was “El Negro”. His decent was either from Ethiopia or a region of West Africa. He grew up and lived in the region of Andalusia, Spain, a major mariner hub, located in the south of Spain only about two hours from Morocco in Africa. Little is known about his family, but I have found that he may have been one of four seafaring brothers who all helped in the manifestation of the voyage to the new world. One of the new world vessels, La Nina, is said to have been owned and captained by Pedro’s older brother Juan Niño, but there is no solid proof that he did but did. But that was not recorded history so… who knows.

Pedro Niño was the navigator/pilot of the Santa Maria, the largest ship in the trio of ships in the first expedition to the new world. During the first expedition, Columbus laid claim to San Salvador, an island that is located in the modern-day Bahamas. It is said that Columbus chose this island first for Spain because this was the first spot where the expedition actually docked on land due to repairs that were needed for the Santa Maria. The Taino natives that lived on the island had helped the expedition to retrieve wood to fix the Santa Maria. Pedro Niño accompanied Columbus again on his third voyage where Columbus explored the lesser Antilles. and he discovered Trinidad.

After his successful voyages to the new world with Columbus, Pedro Niño was named by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, Chief Pilot of the Ocean Sea (the Atlantic) as recompense for his services to the crown. He was also one of the teachers of Prince John, the ill-fated son of Ferdinand and Isabella, whom he taught the art of mapmaking. The Spanish crown by way of the Bishop Juan Rodríguez De Fonseca (Council of Castile) awarded him with resources and funds to seek out new countries off of the Gulf of Paria (Venezuela), other than those that were already set claim by Columbus. Out of the profits he made from his exploration, 20% would need to be given to the Spanish Crown. 

In 1499, Pedro Nino and his two brothers fo the sea explored the islands of Isla MargaritaCoche, and Cubagua off the northern coast of Venezuela, trading objects of little value for a large number of pearls. They also discovered salt mines off the coast of Venezuela (Punta Araya). After arriving back in Spain, Pedro instantly became wealthy. Unfortunately, shortly after his arrival, the King of Spain claimed that the voyage concealed part of the wealth that was acquired in the new world. Pedro was arrested and put to trial. Luckily, Pedro was exonerated and freed of all charges. For a long time after, Pedro gained fame for participating in one of the most lucrative voyages to the new world. 

Top5 Recommended Hotels in Margarita Island, Venezuela - YouTube

Interesting, eh? There really is no mention of what happened to those that helped Columbus reach the new world, better yet that there were other races of passengers on the three vessels that brought the first southern Europeans to the new world bringing with it a new language, writing, religion, and enterprise. Not to mention other biological changes such as plants, diseases, animals, etc.


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