Que es mi barco mi tesoro,
que es mi Dios la libertad,
mi ley la fuerza y el viento,
mi unica patria la mar.
- Jose de Espronceda, "Cancion del pirata"
Throughout the centuries, piracy has captured the imagination of his-
torians and fiction writers alike. Portrayed as daring adventurers at sea,
heroic rebels against authority, bloodthirsty villains, or comical Captain
Hooks, pirates have sprung from facts and myths into legends that have
fascinated readers of all ages. The enchantment continues even today.
One has only to surf the Internet to explore the many Web sites filled
with images of flags, treasures, and weapons, as well as brief biogra-
phies of some of the most renowned pirates, articles on their favorite
torture methods, lists of Hollywood films, or a rundown of the latest
pirate conventions being held.1
The history of piracy is as old as the history of trade. As far back
s.c. in the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Indian
Ocean, maritime bandits, or "enemies of the human race," as Cicero
called them, emerged to make a profit from preying on those who trans-
ported goods from one point to another. In the Caribbean, piracy was
particularly widespread and vigorous, lasting almost three centuries.
Shortly after Columbus's first trip, the French sailed to the New World
in the hope of establishing their own stronghold. As the Spanish were
quick to expel all foreign settlements from their newly claimed territo-
ries, raids by the French and the English, and later by the Dutch, soon
began. Although officially terminated at the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury, piracy in the Caribbean continued, albeit in a much more diffused
As piracy became a staging of the past, a body of fictional portray-