Age of Pirates

Pirate Encyclopedia: Port of Cartagena

Known as one of the great treasure ports of the Spanish main, the Port of Cartagena was a prime target for English and French pirates. Named after the Spanish City of Cartagena, Cartagena de Indias or La Heroica (The Heroic) was founded in 1533 as one of the first ports on Colombia's Atlantic coast. By 1543, the city was flourishing, in part due to its prominence as a stop for the Spanish treasure fleet.

Robert Baal, a French buccaneer, was one of the first pirates to prey on the busy city, extorting 310 kilos of gold from the governor before taking to the seas again. The attack prompted a quick response from the King of Spain, who ordered the construction of a series of walls and castles. By the time construction was finished, more than 50 years later, the port of Cartagena had become the best-protected city in South America. While there were other pirate attacks during the construction (the most famous being the failed occupation by John Hawkins in 1568 and the bloody attack by Francis Drake in 1572), most pirates rarely ventured into the city, preferring to prey on Spanish galleons loaded with gold, silver, and silk as they were leaving port.

It wasn't until 1697 that the Baron of Pointis was finally able to break into the city again, aided in part by local slaves that surrendered their weapons in hopes of freedom. More construction ensued, and by the time the next attack came around, in 1741, Cartagena was able to resist the 350 bombs that English Admiral Edward Vernon dropped onto the city. After a bloody fight and numerous loses, Vernon suspended the attack and left for Jamaica.

That defeat marked a defining moment for Cartagena. No other major attacks were attempted on the city until the beginning of the 19th century, when the war of Independence took over Colombia.

Cartagena holds the undesirable record of being the only city besides Veracruz, Mexico historically authorized to traffic in black slaves. In 1610, among failed pirate attacks, Cartagena also became one of few cities in the new world where the Spanish Inquisition condemned and burned people at the stake for witchcraft.

Copyright 2006 CleverMedia
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