Who was João Gonçalves Zarco?
He was a Portuguese Jew converted to Catholicism, and member of the House of Prince Henry the Navigator, when this Prince became the Administrator of the Order of Christ in Tomar, in the center of Portugal .
Zarco distinguished himself as a military hero in the campaigns of Ceuta and Tangier and became also an expert sailor in the Portuguese caravels in the southern part of Portugal and also along the north cost of Africa . Because of his maritime experience Prince Henry sent him together with Tristão Vaz Teixeira to go in search of “some islands in front of the African coast that appeared drawn in old maps.”
In 1418, João Gonçalves Zarco and his sailors took sail along the northwestern coast of Africa but their caravel was caught by a storm and they were lost at the high sea for several days, until they arrived at an unknown island.
They named it first Devine Spirit but then changed its name of Porto Santo, meaning Salvation Port because it saved their lives.
After examining the island that had no human inhabitants they returned to Portugal and reported the good news to their master Prince Henry who became very enthusiastic and asked them to go back again in the following year in 1419. But this time they took with them another member of Prince Henry’s House, a fellow named Bartolomeu Perestrelo. This time they went to colonize the new island of Porto Santo .
On the same caravel they took a female rabbit and she delivered a board the ship several little rabbits which they let loose when they arrive at Porto Santo, with the message: “Love thyselves and multiply”. And they did. In a short while there were so many rabbits in the island that they ate all the pastures necessary for the other domestic animals.
From the island of Porto Santo they observed on the horizon that on southwestern “there was always a permanent dark cloud”, but the sailors thought that could be smoke coming from hell were the bad souls were burning… or could be the place were the sea sudden dropped and the caravels just fell into hell…
But at the beginning of the summer, one day that was more clear, João Gonçalves Zarco got his courage together with his sailors and went to check that “dark cloud” and they were overwhelmed with want they discovered. They found an island covered with vegetation and so much wood that they named it Madeira which means wood in English. They thought they had found Paradise !
Where was Zarco born?
Historians are not in agreement as to where João Gonçalves Zarco was born. Some say Tomar, other indicate Lisbon , and still others say Matosinhos or Porto . Some even show papers revealing that in the XII century Zarco families already existed in Portugal even before her Independence in 1139. For sure there are legal documents in which the name Zarco already appears during the Kingdom of Dom Dinis [ 1248-79 ]. This is evidence that the name Zarco was not invented by the discover himself.
Is his name Zarco or Zargo?
Another battle that goes on among the historians concerns his name: should it be Zarco with a C, of Zargo with a G.
The old historians contemporary of the Zarco such as Gomes Eanes de Azurara, João de Barros e Damião de Góis always used his name Zarco with a C.
Some people say that the name Zarco came from a legend that in the military campaign in Ceuta the discoverer was the only one able to kill a very strong Arab and his name was Zarco and after that the Portuguese soldier started using the same Zarco. I never heard of a hero that adopted the name of his victim. This is such a stupid legend that should never be repeated.
But there is another very simple thing that the historians do not reveal or they do not know.
The name Zarco is Jewish, but it can be also derived from the Arabic. Why? Because the Jews lived the in the Iberian Peninsula for more than two thousand years, in the territory that later became Portugal . Even today more than 50% of the Portuguese people have Jewish blood!
On the other hand the Arabs came to the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and they stay there until Granada was taken by the Spaniards in 1492. This is total of 781 years.
In Portugal the Arabs lived until 1249 when King Dom Afonso III conquered Algarve . Therefore the Arabs were in Portuguese territory for a total of 538. The Arabs left a large influence of their civilization not only in names, place names but also in the Portuguese language. We should note that the name Algarve is derived from the Arab = “Al –Gharb” which means “Occidental” or sunset. The Jews also have a similar term. They call the Portuguese “Sephardic” which means “Occidental”. But the first ones to call the Portuguese “Occidental” were the Greeks with their term”Iberos” which also means “Occidental”.
If we consult the Jewish dictionary we will find out that the word “Zakhar” means “male organ” and “Zarkor” means “project” or “ejaculate”. This is the reason why “Zarkor” has the same meaning as “ Colon ” in Greek! This statement is very important for the analysis of the Columbus ’ Sigla or of Cristóvão Colon.
Zargo meaning beetle!
With respect to the name Zargo with a Z we should clarify that exists in Madeira island a parasite, and insect of the Madeira’s fauna, called zargo with a G, which belongs to the species of koleopteros among which the beetles are the best example. “koleopteros” is a scientific word composed by two Greek terms “Koleos” = vagina , plus “pteron” = meaning wings, because the larvae of the beetles look like a “vagina with wings”…
After this scientific explanation, I do not think it is just , nor decent, to called the great navigator Zargo with a Z !
But even more important for this discussion is for us to analyze the Zarco’s signature. Where we see what looks like a G, it is the Jewish letter K therefore with the sound o C. If the same letter in Zarco’s signature was the letter G, it should appear like an inverted Y. We should note that in the Jewish alphabet there are no vowels. Therefore we should not hesitate in declaring that the name of the navigator has to be Zarco with the letter C.
I hope that the people from Madeira will never consider their discover to be a beetle… and use always his correct name ZARCO with a C.
Why was Zarco a hero of the discoveries?
João Gonsalves Zarco was the first hero of the Portuguese maritime discoveries.
It was Zarco who made the first and most important maritime discovery: Porto Santo and Madeira , representing the first great conquest of the navigators to take control of all seas. It is really a pity that the History of Portugal does not give to his achievement the place it really deserves. Zarco was for the maritime discoveries what Yuriy Gagarin, Russian, and John Glenn, American, did for the Exploration of Outer Space. Unfortunately neither the Portuguese Government with headquarters in Lisbon, nor the Regional Government of Madeira have placed João Gonçalves Zarco on a pedestal that he merits, so his example can be shown to present and future generations.
Where in Porto Santo is the work that Zarco did?
My wife and I went to Porto Santo on May 2005. Fascinating island! Magnificent beach! We asked where the house of João Gonçalves Zarco was located, but nobody could tell us. We visited the so called “Casa do Colombo ” – House of Columbus-- but it does not show anything outstanding related to its discoverers. Too bad! The historical-cultural authorities of the archipelago should use the “Casa do Colombo ” as a museum and show in a didactic form to the visitors, in Portuguese and English, six dioramas:
“Casa do Colombo ” – The House of Columbus on the Island of Porto Santo dedicated to the navigator. Unfortunately it informs the visitors that he was born in Genoa !...
(1) First diorama should be about the School of Navigation at Sagres demonstrating that its principal objective was to find the water route to India around the Cape of Good Hope .
(2) The second diorama will display the arrival of the discovers at the Island of Porto Santo with the models of the beach and of the caravel, stressing the importance of this first discovery in the History of the World.
(3) Third diorama will treat the beginning of colonization with the rabbits, other domestic animals, cereals and even humans.
(4) The discovery of Madeira and the arrival of the navigators at the small island of the Fort of São José, and how Madeira developed into a such fascinating community, agriculturally and otherwise.
(5) The comparison of the Portuguese discoveries with the Explorations of the Outer Space, by showing cartography and photos to demonstrate that the conquest of Outer Space is the continuation of Humanity’s spirit of discovery stimulated by the Portuguese of the XV and XVI centuries, who became the first nation in the world to initiate the globalization that everyone is talking about now.
(6) And finally one diorama describing the historic relations of Cristóvão Colon (or Columbus) with his family members in Porto Santo and Madeira .
Unfortunately the exhibit in “Casa do Colombo ” belittles the Portuguese maritime history and only glorifies that Columbus was born in Genoa !...
Manuel Luciano da Silva