Sankofa Studies

Pedro Nino and The Nino Brothers

February 24, 2020

Christopher Columbus did not sail to America by himself. He was accompanied by a crew of navigators who were of African descent. The crew included Pedro Nino and his brothers. 

Described as “El Negro,” navigator and explorer Pedro Alonso Niño, son of a white Spaniard and enslaved African woman, has long been acknowledged for accompanying Columbus on his first expedition to the Americas in 1492 as the pilot of the Santa Maria. Although Pedro is one of the most well-known of Columbus’s crew, he was not alone — his brothers Francisco (youngest) and Juan (oldest) were also part of Columbus’s voyages. 

In their home of Moguer, Spain, they were prominent sailors with experience on Atlantic voyages. Reportedly, Pedro even sailed the West African coast. During the first Columbus voyage, Juan helmed La Niña, which he also owned. Francisco was most likely a sailor on La Niña. The brothers also took part in Columbus’s second voyage in which it is well-documented that Pedro was with Columbus when he “discovered” Trinidad. 

Pedro set out on his own expedition, in search of riches in the Americas Columbus had not ventured through. Although he successfully returned to Spain, he was accused of cheating the King of 20 percent of the treasure and arrested. He died in prison before he could go to trial. Francisco died in Honduras. It is not widely known where Juan died. 


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