Juan de la Cosa bigraphy, stories - Spanish navigator

Juan de la Cosa : biography

c. 1460 - 1509

Juan de la Cosa or sometimes Juan the Biscayan (c. 1450–1510) was a Spanish navigator and cartographer, known for designing the earliest European world map that incorporated the territories of the Americas that were discovered in the 15th century. De la Cosa played an important role in the first and second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the West Indies, since he was the owner and captain of the Santa María.

In 1499, he served as the chief pilot in the expedition of Alonso de Ojeda to the coasts of South America. Upon his return to Andalusia, he drew his famous mappa mundi ("world map") and soon returned to the Indies, this time with Rodrigo de Bastidas. In the following years, De la Cosa alternated trips to America under its own command with special duties from the Crown, including an assignment as a spy in Lisbon and participation in the board of pilots held in Burgos in 1508. In 1509, he began what would be his last expedition, again with Ojeda, to take possession of the coasts of modern Colombia. De la Cosa died in an armed confrontation with indigenous people before he could get possession of Urabá.


Travels with Christopher Columbus

Juan de la Cosa sailed with Christopher Columbus on his first three voyages to the New World. He owned and was master of the Santa María, flagship of Columbus's first voyage in 1492. The vessel shipwrecked that year on the night of 24–25 December off the present-day site of Cap-Haïtien, Haiti.

On Columbus's second voyage, in 1493, de la Cosa was mariner and cartographer on the ship Colina. On Columbus' third voyage, in 1498, de la Cosa was on the ship La Niña. Some historians believe de la Cosa did not participate in this voyage.

In 1494 de la Cosa received compensation from the Spanish monarchs for the sinking of his ship on his first voyage. He was awarded the right to transport docientos cahíces de trigo (two hundred cahices of flour)A cahice was approximately 15 bushels from Andalucia to Biscay, and exempted him from certain duties.

First voyage with De Ojeda

On his fourth voyage, in 1499, de la Cosa was the first pilot for the expedition of Alonso de Ojeda and Amerigo Vespucci, and with them was among the first to set foot on the South American mainland on the Gulf of Paria. At the same time they explored the coast from Essequibo River to Cape Vela.

In spite of not receiving much remuneration, De la Cosa had benefited considerably, having mapped in detail the coast of the region he explored, information he would use to create his famous map.

On the fifth voyage, in 1500, de la Cosa, Rodrigo de Bastidas and Vasco Núñez de Balboa explored the lands of present-day Colombia and Panama. He explored further along the South American coast to the isthmus of Panama, and returned to Haiti in 1502. When the Spanish court found soon afterwards that the Portuguese had made several incursions into the newly discovered country, Queen Isabella sent Juan de la Cosa at the head of a delegation to Portugal to protest this incursion. De la Cosa was arrested and incarcerated, liberated only with the help of Queen Isabella.

First independent voyage

De la Cosa was nominated an alguazil, and in 1504–05(?) (or 1506) was commander of an expedition to the Pearl Islands and the Gulf of Uraba to found settlements there. At the same time he visited Jamaica and Haiti.

Second voyage with de Ojeda and de la Cosa's death

In 1509 Juan de la Cosa set out for the seventh and last time for the New World. He carried two hundred colonists on three ships, and on reaching Haiti placed himself under the command of Alonso de Ojeda, who added another ship with one hundred settlers to the expedition. After having settled an old border dispute between Alonso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa, they went with Francisco Pizarro into de Ojeda's territory and landed at Cartagena against the warnings of de la Cosa, who proposed they disembark on the more peaceful coast of the Gulf of Uraba. Upon leaving the ship there was a scuffle between the Spanish and the natives on the Bay of Calamar. Proud of the Spanish victory, de Ojeda decided to delve further into the forest to the settlement of Turbaco. When they arrived at the town, they were attacked by the natives and de la Cosa was shot with poison arrows and killed by Indians. De Ojeda managed to escape and ran to the bay where he told a passing expedition of the murderous natives. De Ojeda and the men of the other expedition returned to Turbaco and killed all of its inhabitants to avenge de la Cosa's death. De la Cosa's widow received 45,000 maravedís and all the natives he had in his possession as indemnity for services rendered.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine