The great usurped treasures of American lands filled with greed the hearts of many captains and nations who raided huge ships and riches, including Ecuadorians’.
Piracy is defined as an organized looting or maritime banditry, either to another ship or to a coast. The vessel may be private, but when the looting is ordered or authorized by a State towards an enemy vessel, the act is called a privateer.
This “activity” became a means of wealth and freedom for those who practiced it and at the same time a threatening tool in the eyes of European governors, who made several riches of their enemies and colonies. Ecuador was not exempt from these attacks.
As the last Main Port, before the route north to the now Panama Canal, Guayaquil had several visits by pirates who stopped to stock up. To take care of their attacks, they built trenches and counted on mangroves and rocks to be an effective protection.
In one of those stops, the pirates stayed for something else. In 1687, under the command of the Englishman George D’Hout and the Frenchmen Picard and Grogniet they attacked the city. One of the battalions entered where the Peñas neighborhood is today to reach the Planchada fort and the fort of San Carlos.
Today, the rocks of the fort remain as evidence of that assault, looting and fire against Guayaquil, which was emptied after many fled and so many others were taken hostage when they retired to Puná Island.
From there they requested a ransom for the hostages, which Quito was willing to pay. However, pirate ships flew from the Island escaping the plague.
According to the writer Sebastián Donoso, author of the book “Pirates in Galapagos”, the Enchanted Islands were the lair of the pirates. All expeditions from England, France and Holland escaped to the islands to take refuge and, it is believed, to bury part of what they had stolen. Among the names of the first pirates to step on the Islands, Donoso highlights Bartholomew Sharp and John Cox, from England; Pierre Le Picard of France and Franz Rools of Holland.
To survive, in what was then an arid and hostile territory, visitors had to resort to ingesting turtle meat, iguanas and sea lions. Fresh water was only found on Floreana Island, then known as Santa María de la Aguada. It is said that these groups were the ones that first explored the islands and that, years later, it would be the whalers who killed a large part of the giant tortoise population.
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