Luis de Torres

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Luis de Torres (died 1493) was Christopher Columbus's interpreter on his first voyage to America.

De Torres was a converso, a Jewish person who was forced to convert to Christianity or be put to death according to the Inquisition, apparently born Yosef ben HaLevi HaIvri[1][2] chosen by Columbus for his knowledge of Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Arabic.[3] After arriving at Cuba, which he supposed to be the Asian coast, Columbus sent de Torres and the sailor Rodrigo de Jerez on an expedition inland on November 2, 1492. Their task was to explore the country, contact its ruler, and gather information about the Asian emperor described by Marco Polo as the "Great Khan". The two men were received with great honors in a village, and returned four days later. They reported on the native custom of drying leaves, inserting them in cane pipes, burning them, and inhaling the smoke: a reference to the use of tobacco.[4]

When Columbus set off for Spain on January 4, 1493, Luis de Torres was among the 39 men who stayed behind at the settlement of La Navidad founded on the island of Hispaniola. Coming back by the end of that year, Columbus learnt that the whole garrison had been wiped out by internal strife and by attack.

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Diary of Christopher Columbus. Viernes 2 de noviembre: "Acordó el Almirante enbiar dos hombres españoles, el uno se llamava Rodrigo de Xerez que bivía en Ayamonte, y el otro era un Luys de Torres que avía bivido con el Adelantado de Murçia y avía sido judío y sabía dizque ebrayco y caldeo y aun algo arávigo."
  2. ^ "Columbus Day: Who was the first Jew in the New World?". Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  3. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: AMERICA, THE DISCOVERY OF: By: Meyer Kayserling
  4. ^ Smith, Goldwin; Gilman, Sander (2003). Jewish Frontiers: Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities. Palgrave Macmillan US. p. 95. doi:10.1057/9781403973603.