Disney got it wrong.  And since today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day , I thought we should set things straight about the real pirates of the Caribbean.

First of all, let me pay respects to the thing they got oh so right – Johnny Depp.  I mean really, who else when asked to create the main character for a series of Big Budget Pirate Movies would say, “Hmm, how about I make him an effeminate lush,”? He is awesome! Long live Captain Jack.

But what of the Imperial Governors from whom the pirates plunder?  What with their bright red coats and all that pomp and circumstance, don’t they seem a bit…British?  So, friends at Disney- here’s a history lesson for you: The British were the Pirates. Consider the following famous swashbucklers:


WikiThreads' photo of Captain Morgan.

Long before he shivered the timbers of rum bottles everywhere, Captian Morgan raided Spanish settlements across the Caribbean. Photo by WikiThreads.

Sir Henry Morgan, a Welsh pirate who harassed Spanish settlements in the Caribbean in the 1600s with the approval of British authorities, even managing to become Governor of Jamaica. Today he sells us rum.

Blackbeard, a Brit named Edward Teach who terrorized the West Indies and American coast in the early 1700’s.  He was said to have regularly tied lit fuses under his hat in order to create a frightening sight for his enemies.  Indeed!

Calico Jack, the British pirate named Jack Rackham is believed to be the first to fly the “Jolly Roger” (skull and cross-bones) flag. After plundering the Bahamas for a spell he was eventually hanged in Jamaica.

Evidence of a Pirate Past

Evidence of a pirate past can still be seen in the fortifications which dot the Caribbean today.  Many aren’t terribly large or imposing, but they are strategically placed.

sunhorseflower's photo of anti-pirate fortifications in Guatemala.

Castle of San Filipe, built in 1652 to protect villages on Guatemala’s largest lake from looting pirates. Photo by sunhorseflower.

Above: A fort from the Spanish Colonial Era protects the port of San Antonio de las Bodegas on the shore of Lake Izabal, Guatemala.  The lake is connected to Caribbean Sea by the Rio Dulce and San Antonio was a favorite target for English pirates.  At night, a chain would be stretched from the opposite shore to the Castillo to block unwanted ships from coming up river.

born1945's photo of Morrow Castle.

Morro Castle at the entrance of Havana Harbor, cerca 1950. Photo by born1945.


Havana: Perhaps no city had more to protect than Havana.  Due to its geographic placement, Cuba was the perfect place for the Spanish to launch their conquest of the New World from.  An administrative hub, gold and silver laden ships would stop in Havana before carting their conquered treasures back to Europe.  The place was a pirate’s dream.


ego2005's photo of a canon protecting Havana's harbor.

Protecting Havana from Pirates. Photo by ego2005.


Enjoy talking like a pirate and remember (can’t take credit for this- saw it on a tee-shirt):

To err is human, but to Arrrr! is Pirate!