Pirates in sight!

One windy winter afternoon I went into the Bodega Sergio, where it is common to find fishermen, dockers and other salty people. There was a customer of a certain age at the bar with a blue rag coat and a ring in his ear who was telling in a hoarse voice a story that no one attended with much interest, but that caught my attention.

He said that when the ground we stepped on was an immense lonely beach, sails of pirate ships had been seen on the horizon, one of them with the black flag of the skull and the two crossed cutlasses designed by the famous pirate Calico Jack. He explained to anyone who would listen that when he was going to be rehabilitated and the viceroy was processing a pardon that would erase all his pending cases with justice, he fell in love with the tremendous Anne Bonny in a tavern in the port of New Provision, in the Bahamas. She asked him to take her with him and set sail again in search of fortune. As the pirates considered women on board to be bad luck and were very superstitious, Calico Jack passed her off as a man and Anne Bonny fought fiercely in every raid on the ships they came across and became a fearsome pirate. The fable said, in the warmth of the bar and with a red wine the color of blood, that for some unknown reason pirates came to disembark on the sandy area where La Barceloneta would later be built. I thought maybe they came to bury their loot in the sand far away from their misdeeds so they would never be found.

I left the bar thinking it was a seductive story, but impossible. The pirates of those times, like Blackbeard, Francis Drake or Anne Bonny herself, operated in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from the waters of the Mediterranean.

One morning, walking through the neighborhood with a good fisherman friend, from the Huguet tribe, we went in to order some nets at Hilados Donado, a naval rope store opened in 1942. Entering Donado is like going through the door of time. The number of ropes, nets, and twine of all sizes spreading a penetrating smell of hemp, cotton and esparto grass transported you to a port warehouse of a time when the trades of the sea were handmade.

On a shelf I see some handmade cord bracelets finished with knots. A green one catches my eye and the clerk familiarly tells me it is Anne Bonny’s bracelet. As I open my eyes like an owl, he laughs. Obviously, it’s too new to be the real bracelet worn by the 18th century Caribbean pirate who pretended to be a man, but he tells me it’s a tribute to her. He shows me another one with the name of another legendary pirate, Mary Read. There are bracelets of Black Beard, another with the name of the Welsh pirate Howell Davis, the French pirate Jean Laffite or Edward England, the most compassionate pirate of them all… and so on until twenty or so.

It surprised me in a store of naval effects in the neighborhood they have marine bracelets with names of pirates, but the employee simply shrugged his shoulders without further explanation. I walk out with the Calico Jack bracelet on my wrist as I turn the corner of what used to be Almirante Cervera street and I see someone watching me. It’s a badly shaved guy with a ring in his ear wearing a long blue rag coat that seems to have lived many nights at sea. We look at each other for a moment, he smiles enigmatically and starts walking towards the beach, perhaps to wait for the pirates who one day will come back to rescue what is theirs.

More articles