Palos de la Frontera is internationally known as the Cradle of the Discovery of America, making it an excellent place to immerse oneself in the great feat of the Discovery of the New World.
A stroll through it becomes a true journey through the history of two worlds: Europe and America. Therefore, talking about Palos de la Frontera is talking about Cristopher Columbus and the Discovery of America, an event that has been one of the most relevant historical facts in the history of humanity.
Cristopher Columbus set sail from Palos de la Frontera on August 3, 1492, with the goal of finding a new route to reach the Indies. In three vessels, one ship, and two caravels, 90 courageous men, led by Columbus and the brothers Martín Alonso Pinzón and Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, unknowingly discovered a new continent on October 12, 1492: America.
Palos de la Frontera is filled with monuments related to the Discovery of America, among which stand out the House of the Pinzón Brothers, the Sculpture of Martín Alonso Pinzón, the San Jorge Church, the House of Mercy, currently the Naval Museum, or the Fontanilla.
On March 2, 1967, the “Colombian Places” in Huelva were declared a historic-artistic ensemble.
The origins of Palos de la Frontera date back to the Upper Paleolithic, and its name comes from the Roman word PALUS-PALUDI, which means lagoon.
Various populations have inhabited Palos de la Frontera, from the Tartessians, through the Romans, Visigoths, and Muslims. However, its foundation cannot be considered as such until the year 1322, when Alfonso XI of Castile donates these lands to the nobles Don Alfonso Carro and Doña Berenguela Gómez, separating them from the kingdom of Niebla.
In 1379, Juan I once again handed it over to D. Álvar Pérez de Guzmán, the true father and founder of the Palerma village, who took care of repopulating it with 50 families and improving its agricultural production.
It is in the 15th century when Palos de la Frontera experiences significant demographic and economic development thanks to its intense maritime trade activity with Europe and Africa. The sailors from Palos had extensive experience, making them sought after for Castilian expeditions, as their prestige was internationally recognized.
The golden age of Palos was the decade of 1470-1479, during the succession dispute between Juana la Beltraneja and Isabella the Catholic, which led to a peninsular war between Castile and Portugal. For Palos, this meant royal support for its incursions to Guinea and, ultimately, challenging the Portuguese, rivals in oceanic expansion, for their newly acquired colonies.
However, the Peace of Alcáçovas (1479) resulted in the Catholic Monarchs ceding all rights over Atlantic-African seas and lands, except for the Canary Islands, to Portugal. The sailors from Palos were thus deprived of essential fishing and commercial areas for their subsistence, which they had solidified with great effort. For survival, the people of Palos had to disobey the agreements made by their monarchs with Portugal.
Their incursions to Guinea, once praised, became unlawful and subject to punishment. As a result of one of these incursions, the people of Palos were sentenced to serve the Crown for two months, with two caravels, Pinta and Niña, rigged at their own expense. On April 30, 1492, the Monarchs ordered that these ships be placed at the service of Columbus: it was the Royal Provision. The crown thus reduced the expedition costs and bound the brave and experienced sailors of Palos, considered the most suitable at that time, to such a significant enterprise.
Furthermore, to leave no doubt about the royal nature of the expedition, the Monarchs wanted the ships to depart from a royal port. To achieve this, at the end of June 1492, they acquired half of the town of Palos owned by the Counts of Cifuentes for 16,400,000 maravedis. The other half belonged, for the most part (5/12), to the Count of Miranda, inherited from Álvar Pérez. And the remaining twelfth (1/12) belonged to the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
CRADLE OF THE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA
All these events influenced the fact that on August 3, 1492, the three Caravels, under the command of Admiral Christopher Columbus, accompanied by the Pinzón Brothers, set sail from the Port of Palos. Thus, Palos de la Frontera has always been linked to the history of the Discovery and the great feat it represented, making it since then the “Cradle of the Discovery of America.” From the Monastery of La Rábida, a key location in the discovery, Friar Juan Pérez and Friar Antonio Marchena, Franciscan friars, facilitated the contact between Christopher Columbus and Martín Alonso Pinzón. In their Convent of La Rábida, Columbus found hospitality, understanding, and support. When his spirits faltered, the Franciscans interceded for him at the Court and connected him with the sailors from Palos. The friars were well aware of the audacity and skill of these navigators, devoted to Santa María de La Rábida, whom they called Virgin of Miracles. Columbus, thanks to the Capitulations of Santa Fe (Granada), already had the financial support of the Catholic Monarchs for his expedition to the Indies via the West. On May 23, 1492, when the Royal Provision was read to the inhabitants of Palos, gathered at the Church of San Jorge, ordering them to provide two caravels to Columbus and accompany him on the journey mandated by Their Highnesses, the town accepted the royal decision but did not comply. The people of Palos were not willing to embark on such a grand adventure with an unknown and unprestigious individual. That was the situation when Martín Alonso Pinzón returned from Rome after one of his regular business trips. He was a wealthy man, skilled in the art of navigation, and of great prestige in the region. In essence, Pinzón possessed the attributes that Columbus lacked, presenting himself as the ideal complement to the future Admiral for the expedition. Vázquez de la Frontera, an old sailor from the town highly respected for his experience and a friend of Martín Alonso, played a significant role in influencing Pinzón to support the enterprise. Thus, La Pinta and La Niña were joined by a ship, La Gallega, renamed Santa María, owned by Juan de la Cosa and captained by Columbus. La Pinta remained under the command of Martín Alonso Pinzón, while a third brother, Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, led the Niña.
The expedition departed from the Port of Palos on August 3, 1492, heading towards the Canary Islands, which, according to Columbus’s calculations, were at the same latitude as Cipango. On August 9, they arrived at Gran Canaria, where the rudder of La Pinta was repaired, and the rigging of La Niña was changed. On September 6, Columbus resumed his journey, venturing into the ocean. Leading the way was La Pinta, the fastest of the three. LAND HO!!! It was the morning of October 12, 1492, when the lookout on La Pinta, Juan Rodríguez Bermejo, better known as Rodrigo de Triana, spotted land—a small island that the indigenous people called Guanahani and that Columbus named San Salvador. On the night of December 24, the ship Santa María ran aground on some reefs. Unable to refloat the vessel, the crew moved to La Niña. Using the remains of the Santa María, they built a fort which, due to the date, was named Fort Navidad.
In January 1493, they began the return to Europe, and on March 15, La Niña arrived at the Port of Palos. Its arrival was triumphant. A few hours later, La Pinta also arrived. Martín Alonso Pinzón was ill and died days later. He was buried beneath the High Altar of the Monastery of La Rábida in a Franciscan habit, according to his own wishes. As a result, Palos de la Frontera boasts a rich historical and monumental heritage that commemorates the discovery feat.