Pirate Island Tortuga

  • 23.11.2020 21:47
  • Category: History
Photo: Getty Images

This is perhaps the most famous land object ever claimed by pirates. Tortuga is an island located in the Caribbean in the northwestern part of Hispaniola. In the 17th century, it became the first major pirate institution. Along with Port Royal, the island was the strongest and safest port of the pirates in the mid-17th century, from where they launched numerous attacks on the Spanish colonies.

Like much of the Caribbean, the island of de Tortuga was first claimed by the Spanish. In fact, it was first discovered by none other than Christopher Columbus himself, who discovered it on his first voyage on December 6, 1492. When the outline of the island emerged from the morning fog, Columbus remembered the shell of a turtle and named the place accordingly. "Island de Tortuga" means "island of turtles", simple and straightforward.

Photo: Getty Images

By 1625, a number of Spaniards were living on the island, and French and English settlers soon followed, who failed in their attempts to settle on Hispaniola. They constantly wandered from one place to another, until they finally found Tortuga as the safest place. French and English colonists began to establish plantations and populate the islands at short notice. In 1629, they were driven away by Don Fadrique de Toledo, who built a fort. Then most of the Spanish army left to drive the French out of Hispaniola, while the French and British returned, taking the fortifications left by the Spanish. After all, the Spaniards did not expect the scattered settlers to organize and return to the island and defeat the small remaining part of the Spanish army.

Spain's problem was that it was trying to lay claim to half the world — no labor to keep it. The British, French, and Dutch followed the pirate creed. If the land was far enough away and no one was watching it too closely, it was ready to be taken.

This was the era of piracy. Tortuga was a convenient place to collect ships and supplies before striking Cuba, Florida, or Hispaniola. Since 1630, the French, English, and some Dutch have occupied the island together, although when their peoples fought, they sometimes fought among themselves.

The level of chaos evident on the island can be indicated by this fact: African slaves were introduced in 1633, but the practice of importing them was discontinued only two years later because they "ran wild" there.

Photo: Getty Images

From 1630 the island of Tortuga was divided into French and English colonies. This provided a good base for pirate attacks as well as some other activities such as the slave trade. Tortuga saw two more successful Spanish raids in 1635 and 1638, and both times the pirates managed to hold onto their land.

In 1639, to finally establish a decent defense, the governor of neighboring St. Christopher (now St. Kitts) sent aid to Jean-Vasseur, who was appointed the new governor of Tortuga. He built a stone fortress "Fort de Rocher" on the highest elevation of the island. He was armed with 40 guns and was oblivious to any ships in or near the port.

By 1640, the French, English, and Dutch pirates of Tortuga called themselves the Brothers of the Coast and were causing havoc with shipping, often regardless of the nationality of the ships involved. The French exercised the greatest control over the island. In 1645, the acting French governor found a wonderful way to gain control of the pirates. He brought in about 1,650 prostitutes, hoping that the pirates would do something less belligerent.

Until 1665, Tortuga was temporarily captured by the Spaniards again, and then the island became part of the colony of Saint-Domingue. The new governor, Bertrand d'Ogeron, found it difficult to convince the pirates to accept him. However, he managed to further develop Tortuga by organizing the people and strengthening their defenses.

By 1670, European powers were no longer so comfortable supporting a wild, lawless pirate raid, and the era of pirates was in decline. Many pirates have turned to log and timber trading as a new source of income. Then a Welsh private trader named Captain Henry Morgan began his career and invited pirates to sail under his flag, ostensibly to protect the newly acquired British colony of Jamaica. The French forces also used pirates as mercenary weapons to improve their position in the Caribbean. Tortuga remained a neutral hideout and party place.

Photo: Getty Images

However, law and order grew slowly. By 1680, the British were banned from sailing under foreign flags, and many of the pirates who had worked for their respective naval forces for years began to do so officially and became permanent members of their countries' military.

Spain officially surrendered Tortuga as part of Saint-Domingue to France in 1697. Today Tortuga belongs to Haiti. The island is 40 kilometers long, seven kilometers wide, and the highest point is 464 meters above sea level. Locals call it Ile de la Tortue, which again speaks of the tortoise-like shape of the island.

Today, references to Tortuga can be found in video games such as: "Black Sails", "Assassin's Creed" and, of course, in the films "Pirates of the Caribbean", where it is the embodiment of pirate culture.

To quote Captain Jack Sparrow: "If every city in the world were like this, no man would feel unwanted." This can be considered the legacy of the 1,650 French women brought to the island.

Prepared by: Nikita Smirnov nikita_smirnov@tempting.pro