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Piracy in the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean came about because of how the New World was discovered.

Christopher Columbus not only sailed under the Spanish flag, he acted as an ambassador of God, and the Catholic Church in particular, in his discoveries.

Consequently, the Pope was allowed to carve up the New World. Anything 100 leagues west of the Azores was declared Spanish territory and trespassers would be shot on sight.

This division, however, overlooked the tip of Brazil, and the Portuguese were allowed to settle there. (And it was from Brazil that sugar was introduced to the Caribbean.)

The Caribbean became contested territory as other European countries became aware of the gold being plundered from the Indians by the Spanish.

  

The British were especially interested, sending in privateers under contract to the government to steal what they could. These included such well-known historical figures as Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh (who later had a cigarette named after him).

The French, too, sent in freelancers, some more interested in pillaging Spanish settlements than in exploring for their own gold. These raiders were called pirates.

However, the true buccaneers of the Spanish Main originated on Hispaniola. These pirates sold cured beef to passing ships. They became known as "buccaneers" because the oven they used for smoking meat was called a "boucan."

The buccaneers gradually grew in number and spread out through the islands, looking primarily for Spanish ships to attack. Then they would return to ports like St. Thomas and Port Royal in Jamaica to sell their spoils.

Despite the bloodthirsty tales told by survivors of pirate raids, the buccaneers were actually a pretty good outfit to work for.

Calling themselves Brethren of the Coast, they sometimes took remarkably good care of one another, supplying compensation for a lost limb or eye and caring for the wounded out of the booty they captured.

One of the most notorious pirates was Henry Morgan, who headquartered in Jamaica 's pirate stronghold of Port Royal. Operating in the late 1600s, this notorious cutthroat invented the tactic of attacking towns inland as well as long the coast.

After becoming quite wealthy, Morgan double-crossed many of his buccaneers, then switched to an even more dubious profession, politics. He became the Lt. Governor of Jamaica and helped rid that region of pirates.

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