NORONHA (Loronha), FERNÃO DE (1470?–1540?), New Christian explorer and colonizer of Brazil. Noronha was head of the first of the Portuguese donatários, associations formed to lease land for development in Brazil, and his association was composed of *New Christians. Arriving in Brazil in 1503 with six ships, troops, and supplies, he discovered an island near the north coast of the country which he named São João, although it was generally known by his name. Following the terms of his contract, he explored and colonized large areas of Brazil, exploiting them for the benefit of his company. In return for his services, King Manuel I named him Knight of the Crown in 1504 and granted him the captaincy for life of the island he discovered. According to a report of 1505 by the Venetian Lunardo Chá Masser, Noronha acted as the Lisbon agent for the senate of Venice and was a pioneer in the import and export of timber, receiving a monopoly on dyewood from the crown. His contract, originally for three years, was apparently extended to 1512 or 1515. Noronha appears to have been a wealthy Jew, close to the court, who had converted to Christianity prior to 1497. He took his surname from his godfather, a nobleman descended from the royal house of Castile.
A. Wiznitzer, Jews in Colonial Brazil (1960), 5–8; S. Leite, Os judeus no Brasil (1923).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.