Pedro Álvares Cabral (1467-1520) was a Portuguese nobleman, explorer, and navigator who was the first European to see Brazil (on April 22, 1500).
Cabral’s patron was King Manuel I of Portugal, who sent him on an expedition to India. Cabral’s 13 ships left on March 9, 1500, following the route of Vasco da Gama. On April 22, 1500, he sighted land (Brazil), claiming it for Portugal and naming it the “Island of the True Cross.” King Manuel renamed this land Holy Cross; it was later renamed once again, to Brazil, after a kind of dyewood found there, called pau-brasil. Cabral stayed in Brazil for 10 days and then continued on his way to India, in a trip fraught with storms, shipwrecks (at the Cape of Good Hope), and fighting (50 of Cabral’s men were killed after an attack from Muslim traders in Calicut, India, who did not want competition on their spice routes). Cabral successfully traded for spices in Cochin (now called Kozhikode), India (in early January, 1501). Cabral returned to Portugal on June 23, 1501, with only four of the original 13 ships.
After this journey, King Manuel appointed Vasco da Gama to head the next expedition (1502), and Cabral retired. He is buried in a monastery in Santarém, Portugal.