According to many historians, the Spanish navigator Vicente Yañez Pinzón landed on Praia Mucuripe on February 2, 1500, more than two months before Pedro Álvares Cabral first sighted Monte Pascoal in Bahia (the officially recognized European discovery of Brazil). The first Portuguese attempts to settle here, in the early 17th century, were short-lived, and it was the Dutch who founded what ended up as Fortaleza by building Fort Schoonenborch in 1637. When the Dutch abandoned their Brazilian possessions in 1654, the Portuguese renamed this fort the Fortaleza de NS da Assunção (Fortress of Our Lady of the Assumption). Around it grew a village, then a town, then a city that came to be called Fortaleza.
Indian resistance slowed Portuguese colonization of interior Ceará until the 18th century, but cattle ranchers, and later cotton growers, occupied land. It was cotton exports in the 19th century that made Fortaleza into an important town (it had previously played second fiddle to Aracati). Droughts in the interior and growing commerce and industry in Fortaleza have since attracted ever more migrants to the city. Since the early 1990s tourism has joined textiles and food among the leading industries here. Under Workers’ Party mayor Luizianne Lins, elected in 2004, Fortaleza has had some success in shrugging off an unwanted reputation as a capital of sex tourism.