The river’s first sighting by a European was in 1516, when Spanish seaman Juan Díaz de Solís discovered it during his search for a passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. He and a group of his men disembarked in what is today the Uruguayan Department of Colonia and were attacked by the natives (probably Guaraní although for a long time the fact was adjudicated to the Charrúas). Only one of them survived, a 14-year-old cabin boy named Francisco del Puerto, allegedly because the natives’ culture prevented them from killing elderly people, women and children.
Years later, from a ship commanded by Sebastián Gaboto, “a huge native making signals and yelling from the coast” was seen; when some of the crew disembarked, they found Francisco del Puerto, brought up as a Charrúa warrior. He went back with the Spaniards and, after some time, returned to Uruguay, leaving no further trace of his whereabouts.
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