Similar to the Caribbean islands, Cancun has a history intertwined with pirates and Spanish colonizers. Even though in the 17th and 18th centuries Cancun was not a prosperous city, the coast of the Riviera Maya was dotted with shipwrecks and tales of pirates who embarked on romantic adventures with local women.
Along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, pirates would hide in the dense jungle vegetation and stash their treasures on the shores before setting out in search of more booty. According to records, the last known traditional pirates rumored to have a hideout in Cancun were the brothers Pierre and Jean Lafitte, who were said to have established their lair at Punta Cancun.
Isla Mujeres, located off the coast of Cancun, is one of the most famous places associated with pirates.
The island used to be a hub of activity for privateers, who would leave their women on the island while they set off in search of treasures. It is even speculated that the name of the island, “Isla Mujeres,” originates from this practice.
The Pirate Ship Jolly Roger in Cancun
One of the current icons that connects us with this pirate past is the Jolly Roger ship in Cancun. This pirate ship is inspired by the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’s flagship during his first voyage to the Americas.
The Santa Maria, the largest of the three galleons, was built in Cantabria, Spain, and was owned by Juan de la Cosa.
The story of the Santa Maria is as intriguing as that of the pirates. Unfortunately, it met its end on the shores of Haiti on Christmas Day in 1492, after festivities and excessive alcohol consumption.
It is claimed that the crew members became so intoxicated that one by one, they all fell asleep, except for a cabin boy who was left in charge of the ship. What happened to that young man from the cabin remains an unsolved mystery.
Cancun, this modern paradise in the Mexican Caribbean, hides a history rich in mystery and adventure. From the era of pirates sailing its coasts to the legacy of the Santa Maria, this region continues to astonish its visitors with narratives that reach back to bygone times.
The next time you dive into the waters of Cancun or explore its white sandy beaches, remember that beneath the glistening surface lies a past filled with intriguing stories waiting to be discovered.