Tortuga is a small
island about six miles off the coast of Hispaniola. Originally
claimed by Spain, the French arrived in 1605 and chased the
Spanish farmers off. Escaping
the political and social pressures of France, they found a new
life in the woods and valleys, hunting the herds of cattle and
pigs that had been introduced by the Spanish.
They cooked and dried strips of meat and over open stoves
or barbecues in the fashion of the Arawak Indians, and it was
the French word for this process, boucaner (meaning
to smoke-dry or cure), which gave these wild men the new title
of Buccaneers. They would trade the meat to passing ships, along
with fresh produce, and so eke out an existence.
Many buccaneers saw
themselves as enemies of Spain
and would lie in wait for Spanish ships sailing through
the area. They would push out in canoes and stealthily board
larger vessels. At
first they seized Spanish fishing boats, and then used these to
capture ships. Eventually
they had full-sized vessels of their own and began to raid
Spanish shipping in earnest and soon built a formidable force.
1630ís, the Spanish tried to rid Hispaniola of buccaneers, and
many buccaneers turned to piracy.
Just a few miles away, Tortuga had become a
well-fortified haven for fugitives of all nations, and numbers
Eighty percent of all European shipping passed through
the Windward and Leeward Passages, so Tortuga was well located
to serve as a pirate base.
During the 1680ís, the English
Royal Navy made an effort to suppress piracy, which weakened the
buccaneer world. While pirates continued to haunt Tortuga, by 1688 it had
ceased to be the favored anchorage of the Caribbean.
Golden Age of Piracy
of the Caribbean