Gold and silver in the rich colonies, the ambition of the pirates
For 300 years the Spanish Viceroyalties of America controlled the riches. Attacking the colonies, by land and sea, pirates and privateers tried to seize them.
Pirates watch from nearby islands
The Spanish colonies had great wealth, but at the beginning of the colonization of America, they were unprotected against the presence of European pirates.
One of the rich Spanish colonies in America, Trinidad on the island of Cuba.
Spanish colonial architecture in America. Throughout the duration of the Empire, Spain built great works of urban architecture, as well as churches and fortresses.
Prepared to attack and board
Each era had its sea and its pirates.
Strategic zones all over the world, always on the prowl
The bow was a good place to observe the maneuver of approaching another ship or the coast.
Always lurking in islands and places where they could hide and surprise, in places of the Caribbean Sea, waiting for their opportunity. Places of obligatory passage of ships.
At one time the Caribbean Sea was the place of passage of ships with treasures and riches. Then it passed to the Indian Ocean and the Malay Peninsula. Nowadays, the coasts of the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia, are the favorite place for pirates.
To be a pirate was to be a free man
Some dedicated themselves to piracy as their salvation in the face of their extreme living conditions, others for greed and power.
The prize in the face of risk
Pirates used very fast ships to obtain the maximum speed to catch up with other ships.
The hard life on board the ships and their chances of being wrecked.
The living conditions at sea were very hard, dangers of all kinds and diseases. Just the fact of traveling from Europe to America was in itself a great risk. Few nobles dared to do it and no king. Only civil servants, military and adventurers did it.
Sailboat exposed to the whims of the wind
When the pirates captured a ship, they asked the other sailors if they wanted to join them. Many of those sailors accepted, fed up with the abuses and poor living conditions on the other ships.
In all European navies conditions were appalling. One of the worst was the English Navy. Those who managed to defect from the harsh discipline of the English Navy found a way out by joining the Pirates.
Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, on alert, before the pirates
Besieged by groups of unscrupulous pirates
For centuries there was an invasion of Pirates in the Spanish Caribbean Colonies. Continuous attacks mainly from the English and French. Initially they attacked only the ships, later on corsairs and filibusters in numerous groups attacked the coastal populations.
Danger in the Spanish colonies
Located on the islands surrounding the colonies, the buccaneers waited for their moment. At first on the island of Hispaniola, then in the entire Caribbean Sea.
The Caribbean invaded by pirates
Real armies of pirates and privateers of undeclared wars, endangered the colonizing effort of Spain in America. Some of these attacks were led by English privateers as was the case of Morgan. who grouped the filibusters and gave them a target.
The discovery of the New World
They settled on Caribbean islands
The flourishing wealth of the Spanish colonies in America, made that other countries looked for the way to seize a part of those riches. In a more or less covert way they used pirates and privateers to steal what they could from the rich new colonies.
In the Caribbean Sea, an area that has hundreds of islands and is impossible to control. They even created their pirate associations and their centers of concentration, provisioning and entertainment. Relying on French and English ports, they set out to raid Spanish ships and coastal colonies.
Later, English pirates
The first pirates to settle around the Spanish Canary Islands were French. Later the French pirates moved towards the Caribbean Sea where they found small islands where they could settle and attack the Spanish ships.
Robert Baal led expeditions that endangered towns such as Cartagena and later Santa Marta, which were attacked in 1544.
The English pirates who became privateers when supported by England prepared expeditions that looked like pirate armies. Such was their number and strength that they successfully attacked important cities of the time such as Cartagena, Portobelo, Santa Marta, Chagres, between 1586 and 1596.
Famous corsairs were Hawkins and his nephew Francis Drake who did not hesitate to attack small or even intimidate the inhabitants of large towns.
Morgan razes some Spanish colonies
The Englishman Henry Morgan, the greatest danger
Led by Morgan, they set out on one of the greatest pirate expeditions.
Morgan landed in Port Royal coming from England and descendant of a military family and in a short time he knew how to make a place for himself among the pirates taking advantage of his military knowledge.
Being a person with few scruples, he did not hesitate to use women and children, priests and nuns to take over cities such as Portobelo, protected by several military forts. Leaving Jamaica in command of more than 3,000 pirates and almost 50 ships, he managed to occupy Portobelo using captured prisoners of the clergy as human shields.
Emboldened by the feat, with the help of French buccaneers and with the support of an English ship, he managed to enter Panama.
Pirates, Corsairs and even Admirals.
French, English and Dutch attacked the coastal towns.
The French did not remain on the sidelines, although they did not have as much importance over time, due to the proliferation of English pirates. The nobility also participated in the French pirate expeditions.
Initially sent by Francis I who encouraged privateer ships. The Baron de Poinise, who attacked Cartagena de Indias, stood out. Pirates such as Spring, Colb, Dampier became famous. Admirals such as Hoosier, Vernon and Kinhiesel also participated in expeditions with more or less success.
Many deserters ended up as pirates
Kidnapped by the Navy and pirates
The English navy had the power to force Englishmen to embark if it needed reinforcements. Raids in the taverns and streets of the ports were common. Once on the ship, they could no longer flee. Many of the new crew did not even know how to swim.
If any of these forced sailors could desert, they would join the pirates. At other times when they finished their time in the navy they also did so of their own free will.
The discipline was so harsh and the living conditions extreme. So they took every opportunity to defect. When pirates took over a ship, sometimes some of the sailors would join them. Others, against their will, were forced to become pirates.
When the English Navy needed sailors, it simply kidnapped them and took them on board. There was a service for the capture of Englishmen near the coastal areas, supported by the Law. The patrols in charge of it, went around the territory and kidnapped any man between 18 and 50 years old.
What was initially supported by the judges to get rid of criminals, became commonplace. These patrols had no consideration and any Englishman who came across them could be taken prisoner to a ship.
In the navy, the few who survived often deserted, especially in the navy. The harshness of seafaring life on warships and the harsh and unforgiving discipline was for many unbearable.
Countries and the obligation to serve at sea
This practice was not only used by the English Royal Navy, similar but not so blatant methods were also the norm in other countries. France also had its Compulsory Conscription Act, but there were many methods for
Leva Patrols, to obtain crewmen.
The Act provided that Englishmen could be conscripted (forced) to join the English Navy. The Compulsory Conscription Act allowed ships to be filled with forced sailors.
If this number of men was not enough, the Captain of the ship himself would mount his own Leva patrol. The kidnapped men disappeared without a trace. Their families knew nothing more about them, nor where they had gone. Sometimes they would find out what had happened many years later if the abductee returned to the place.
Mutinies and continuous desertions
This forced conscription, together with the terrible living conditions on the ships favored discontent and desertions. To such an extent that the men only went ashore in small groups under guard to stock up on water and food.
If they could not swim, they were not taught to swim.
The forced recruits from land to inland were not taught to swim to avoid desertions in the ports. For this reason, when a man fell into the water, it was difficult to save him, since he could not collaborate because he did not know how to swim.
Caribbean, strategic zone of America
Places of obligatory passage
Main places and zones of Pirates according to the historical epochs, to watch the maritime traffic. Pirates were adapted to the dangers and maritime routes of greater traffic and wealth.
In the seas and oceans there are maritime routes. These routes are sometimes obligatory passage areas for ships, because of their shelters, places of sea currents, others allow to shorten the time of navigation etc..
For this reason the ships are complicated and even lengthened if they do not pass through places like the Horn of Africa, Indonesian Islands, Somalia, Philippine Islands or Malayas.
Many islands full of pirates
Some islands have become famous for their history related to the treasures of America, such as Turtle Island, Bahamas Islands, etc., others for the routes of the Orient, Madagascar Island, etc.
But an infinity of other islands have lived and still live from piracy. A number of small islands in the Philippines or Malaysian islands have been a refuge for pirates and continue to be so.
Each era and had its own area
Seas and times: Ancient, Middle and Modern times
From ancient times, Greek and Roman, the coasts of Greece and what is now modern Turkey were attacked by pirates. Later, the rich Greek colonies of Anatolia suffered.
Piracy was reduced with the Roman expeditions that cornered the pirates little by little until they were practically exterminated.
During the Middle Ages, as the two shores of the Mediterranean were occupied by two different civilizations, Christian and Muslim, the perfect justification was found for someone from each side to get rich by attacking, robbing and enslaving those who practiced the other religion.
The discovery of America marks the beginning of the Modern Age, and the Caribbean islands were an ideal place to board ships with riches bound for Spain and other European countries. Later the pirates moved on to the Indian Ocean which is the place of traffic between the East and the West.
Many countries participated in piracy
Depending on the time, one nation or another
In each historical epoch there were one or another country that practiced piracy. Some countries succeeded others in the practice of the very lucrative activity of piracy.
In the values of past times, attacking the neighbor, stealing everything you could were even valued, aggressiveness, conquest were rewarded by the Kings. That is why it is not surprising that pirates and privateers were rewarded and became heroes of a country.
In Antiquity: Cilician pirates became famous. The Greeks expanded their territories through piracy and later sent real armies to conquer Asia.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages, Viking attacks from Northern Europe endangered areas of the Atlantic and even reached the Mediterranean. On the other hand, by sailing the rivers from the North, they reached the Black Sea, at the end of the Middle Ages the Turkish and Berber pirates initially. And then the Barbary corsairs in the service of the Ottoman Empire.
In the Caribbean during the 16th and 18th centuries, French and English pirates attacked Spanish ships and possessions in America. The French were the first to discover the great riches carried by Spanish ships and began piracy in the Caribbean Sea.
But the rule was always the same, to try to get rich by stealing from their richer and more powerful neighbors.
The Island of Hispaniola guarded and surrounded by 3 pirate islands.
The island is currently divided into two countries: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At that time it was the first island, already in the 15th and 16th century, where Spain established populations.
A rich island, surrounded by pirates’ nests.
Being this island a place of passage of the ships to Spain, the pirates sought their refuges in the small nearby islands: Tortuga, Saona and Vache. From these small islands they watched for the passage of galleons returning to Spain with great riches.
These three pirate-controlled islands were a good place to observe maritime traffic. Full of lurking pirates, ready to attack at any moment. The island of Hispaniola was initially the gateway to the American territories. But always guarded and surrounded by Vache Island, Saona Island, Tortuga Island.
The “Ile a Vache” in French means Cow Island and is located in Haiti a few kilometers off the coast. The proximity to Des Cayes (The Cays) makes it easy to visit the island and its environment full of shipwrecks,
Not in vain was one of the bases of fearsome pirates like Morgan who stalked the ships that were heading to or leaving the island of Hispaniola.
Nest of pirates
This small island, 20 km long and 5 km wide, has some reef areas that made it safer for pirates, since they could not navigate to it without danger. They used it as a base from which to attack the ships of the island of Hispaniola.
Tortuga Island, and the Brothers
The Confraternity of the Brothers of the Coast
Tortuga Island was their favorite place and even had French colonists who supplied and fed the pirates. But later other small islands located on the other side of the island of Hispaniola became important.
The great importance of the Cofradía de los Hermanos de la Costa for many decades made it a safe haven for pirates, among other things because it was fortified.
Tortuga Island, Vache Island, Saona Island
Surrounded by the three small islands
Tortuga Island controlled the passage of ships along one of the coasts of Hispaniola.
Vache Island is located at one end and Saona Island at the other. In such a way that being the shape of the island of Hispaniola similar to a triangle, it is surrounded by these three small islands.
Whichever route the galleons took to enter or leave the island of Hispaniola, they were always in danger. At each of the vertices was the presence of pirate shelters on these three small islands: Tortuga Island, Vache Island and Saona Island.