Published: 10:50 AM - 12-12-11
Artemisa, Cuba- The discovery of an ancient pirate lair in western Cuba is helping local historians and archeologists learn more about these sea dogs in colonial times.
In the town of Oceguera, located near a railroad line between the village of Mangos Dulces and the town of Pijirigua, local historians and speleologists found the ruins of a mansion where a group of pirates lived. In underground tunnels, they found the remains of bottles of English wine, demijohns of gin from the United States and 19th-century fine china, according to historian Luis Formigo.
Apparently, the pirates would take their booty, presumably stolen from ships sailing along the southern coast or shipwrecks, and hide them in underground caves, one of them located directly underneath the old mansion, built of stone slabs and French beavertail tiles. The researchers found the ruins on the grounds of a farm on a site that used to be a large hacienda.
The researchers found abundant evidence of items that were contraband at the time, because they were from countries with which Spain did not trade at the time, and Cuba as a Spanish colony was forbidden from doing so - including England. These items included medicine bottles, iron tools, and pottery, which they probably sold to the owners of nearby sugar mills and coffee plantations, Formigo said. Most of the pottery they found is white or pearl-colored, decorated with quills or transfer prints, which were very common during that period.
The scientists had based their search on a book by Miguel Blanco Velásquez (1885-1968), Los Piratas de Oceguera (The Pirates of Oceguera), which describes a gang of pirates and smugglers that operated in the seas south of what is now Pinar del Rio province and Havana, and that hid its booty in the caves of Oceguera before selling it to traffickers in stolen goods.
The location would have been a very convenient one for the pirates, given its short distance from the ocean (7 miles), the capital and Vueltabajo (tobacco-growing region in Pinar del Rio), and nearby coffee and sugar plantations - which would have provided customers for the stolen goods.