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Duarte Lopes (1591)

Duarte Lopes (16th century)

Portuguese trader to Congo and Angola, Lopez first left Portugal for the Congo in April 1578, sailing on his uncle's trading vessel. After a stay of several years, and having accumulated some wealth through his enterprises, he was appointed as ambassador of Alvaro II, king of the Congo, to the pope and [king] Philip II of Spain, at that time unified with Portugal. As ambassador to Philip, Lopez was to offer specimens of local minerals and to open the region for free trade with Portugal and Spain, while also informing the pope of the need for missionaries. However, during his return to Portugal, Lopez was shipwrecked on the coast of Venezuela and forced to spend a year there. Although his submissions to the pope and Philip were largely ignored, Lopez was able to relate everything he knew about the Congo to Filippo Pigafetta, who had been charged with the task of collecting information about the region. The result was published by Pigafetta in 1591, although much of what it contained bordered on the fabulous. Lopez returned to the Congo in 1589, after which nothing more is heard of him. Pigafetta's work was translated into English by Abraham Hartwell at the request of Richard Hakluyt, into Latin by Augustin Cassiadore Reinius, and placed at the head of De Bry's Petits Voyages. It has been suggested that the narrative was used by Daniel Defoe for his Captain Singleton" (Howgego, Encyclopedia of Exploration I, L146).


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