Isla Mujeres’ Pirate Mundaca

The Pirate Mundaca is a well-known figure to those who frequent Cancun’s ‘Jolly Roger Pirate Ship’ tours as he is a fictional character who strides through the Galleon during each show. But did you know that there was a real Pirate Mundaca?

Historian Fidel Villanueva Madrid has written an article for the magazine “Pioneers” which suggests that he was more than just this. Fermín Antonio Mundaca was in fact a real life, first class pirate who practically ruled Isla Mujeres in his day. Check out what we now know about Mundaca;

Early Years of Pirate Mundaca

Fermín Antonio Mundaca was born on October 11, 1825 in Villa de Bermeo in Spain. Madrid thinks that the first few decades of Mundaca’s life were spent learning about navigation and architecture.

Pirate Mundaca the Slave Trader

Nobody knows much about the first years of Mundacas life, but we do know that when he burst into history he did so on Isla Mujeres, most likely on the run from authorities following some crime or other. Some think this may be to do with his illicit slaving activities. Whatever the case, Mundaca chose to make Isla Mujeres his home. There are some whisperings about the relationship he had with the Yucatan government. Some think he may have acted as a slaver selling Mayans to Cuba.

Isla Mujeres

A mere 2 years after his surfacing in Isla Mujeres the pirate Mundaca had firmly established himself. It is said that he fell in love with a beautiful woman who lived on Isla Mujeres, and that it was his desire to impress Prisca Gómez Pantoja, otherwise called “La Trigueña” (the Brunette), that caused him to build Vista Alegre. His home, now referred to as Hacienda Mundaca, covered around 40% of the Island and included orchards, large gardens, wells, arches and even a tomb for Mundaca! Sadly he was never buried there; Mundaca died 200 miles away in Merida.

A Reclusive Pirate?

All reports suggest that he was a solitary kind of person who had little contact with anyone other than his servants, plantation workers and business contacts.

Unrequited Love

La Trigueña was the supposed focus of the pirate Mundaca’s attentions, and if the reports of her are true it’s easy to see why. She was said to have skin the color of honey and eyes that were olive colored and it was thought that all the men of the island were in love with her. She never returned Mundacas affections, however, and legend has it he died of a broken heart while in Merida.

If you’d like to know more about Fermín Antonio Mundaca you can check out the article from which we got our information:

Pirates of Viking Descent

The Vikings were the forerunners of the pirates found around Britain and Scandinavia during the Golden Age of Pirates. There were a few big differences, however, between the Vikings and the pirates that would follow in later centuries.

Pirates of Viking

What makes Vikings Pirates?
Firstly, Vikings did not limit themselves to attacking other ships, in fact they specialized in raiding villages and islands. They were adept fighters and sailors, and their favored tactic was to land, raid, and leave with stunning brutality and speed. This is what they did to the Island of Landisfarm in the 8th century. They were able to get their long-boats much closer to the shore than many others because of their shallow draft and narrow deck; they are designed to get in and about the narrow fjords and inlets of the Vikings home countries.

Vikings, pirates and Religion
The reason for their warlike nature can be traced back to the Vikings religion. The Vikings didn’t believe in just one God, but in a Pantheon of Gods who were largely dedicated to warfare and the honour of the battlefield. They believed that those men and women who fought well and died on the battlefield would be rewarded in the afterlife via admittance to Valhalla. This militaristic focus can be seen clearly in the way they treated their weapons.

Weapons fit for pirates and vikings
A Vikings weapons were often named, given personalities, and treated with the utmost respect. They were prized possessions, and a lot could be deduced about a Viking warrior by studying his or her weapon. For example an axe which was heavily engraved had probably been owned for a long time, and depending upon what the runes said you could learn a little about where it and its owner had been. A warrior of high status might have these runes filled in with silver to create an ornate and valuable weapon.

Unlike the pirates of later years Vikings didn’t live on their ships; they launched from fishing villages in their home countries and returned their once their voyage was over.

What is the Pirate Code?

If you watch any pirate film, or read literature, then you’ll find that there are plenty of mentions of the Pirate Code. Even Jack Sparrow, the character portrayed by Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean, makes a mention of it as a decree that joins all pirates. A kind of common law.

Papiro enrollado 2

What was the Pirate Code?
The pirate code was, at the most basic level, a code of conduct that had been drawn together and been agreed by the pirates themselves. This was designed to keep them in line, and to provide some form of Government. The pirate code, however, was enforced on a ship to ship basis. Unlike on legitimate sailing vessels where the sailors follow Navy or Merchant Navy rules and regulations, the crew would decide together what rules were required.

Somewhat different to national laws imposed by Monarchies and Governments, the Pirate code was not a formal, blanket law. It not only changed from ship to ship, but also from voyage to voyage to make sure that it represented the views of the crew at large. It was common for pirates to swear an oath to follow this code; they might swear on a bible, a cannon, crossed swords or even a human skull. What’s more all who were on board had to give this oath, even if they weren’t crew members. Stowaways and prisoners were required to sign or face torture or even death! Nice, right?

Though the particulars changed there were some common articles that could be found on many ships consistently. They were;

● No fighting on the ship, unless it was in battle or self-defence.
● No women (though this was not always observed).
● No gambling with cards or dice.
● Pirates must be armed and ready always.
● All goods, food, and beverages would be divided equally among the crew. Only the Captain and Quartermaster received a larger share (they got a double share each).
● Pirates who lost a limb would get an extra half share.
● All pirates get one vote as to the next destination and mission taken.
● All crew members follow and respect the orders of the Captain and Quartermaster.

If you’re ever tempted to think that being a pirate would put you out of the reach of the law then remember that all pirates were subject to rules and regulations. The Pirate Code applied to everyone.

Viking Pirates and their Ships

The Viking longboat is one of the most iconic ships in pre and early medieval history; the striking silhouette is hard to forget. But why were they so widely used as battle ships by the Vikings? Well they were slim, hardy boats with shallow drafts which meant that they were able to get very close to the shore, and they were able to manoeuvre through close spaces.

Viking Pirates and their Ships
The iconic dragon heads that were attached to the tall, slim, stems at the front of the boats were removable. Though these are the forerunners of the figureheads seen on many pirate ships in later centuries, the Viking animal heads had spiritual, and practical uses for the ship. The Vikings believed that these animal heads protected the ship from the dangers that the sea held, but they would remove them upon return to their homes so as not to scare off the guardians of the towns and villages themselves.

Each Dreki had 60 oars, but no galley slaves; the warriors themselves were expected to be fit and strong enough to row the single-masted vessel and still fight when needed. This was all a part of the mentality of strength, honour and skill that came with the Viking religion. Their belief was that glory and skill on the battle-field, as well as a good death, would gain them entrance to the feasting halls of Valhalla.

As far as pirates go, the Vikings were undoubtedly the elite, though they had their differences. For a start they lived mainly on land, and they targeted settlements as well as other ships. But their consummate skill as fighters, and indeed as sailors mean that any considerations about the history of piracy would be incomplete without at least a few words spared for the Nordic warriors that terrorized large swathes of Europe for hundreds of years in the early medieval era.

Reference: Gail Selinger, W. Smith Jr. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates, Penguin Press 2006

5 Prosperous Pirate Strongholds

The seas and oceans once used to be the playground of many notorious pirates who chanced upon sea travelers for the purpose of deceit and plain robbery. In turn, the Caribbean, the Gulf Of Mexico and the coasts of Africa also served as hideaways for these sea criminals.

When pirates were not on the seas, they were in safe harbors located within pirate strongholds or hidden coves, resting on their laurels and getting ready for their sneaky moves for snatching more loot. Some of these safe havens were just makeshift hideouts, providing shelter away from the watchful eyes of the public and the authorities. However, more successful pirates targeted small coastal villages and larger towns, making them pirate strongholds where piracy and privateering became an acceptable trade.

Here are five of the history’s most dreaded pirate strongholds and some of the flamboyant buccaneers who built them.

1) Port Royal (Caribbean)
Port Royal was the most frequented port for criminals of all colors. Robbers, prostitutes and pirates of different calibers made the late 17th and early 18th centuries the “Golden Age of Piracy.” While the prevalence of piracy and privateering, Royal Port in Jamaica quickly became a safe haven for buccaneers, because of a deal struck between its governors and privateers/pirates who offered them protection against Spanish invasion. This was in the mid 1600’s, when it became a major staging ground where British and French pirates led by their state appointed ship commanders, disrupted many Spanish shipping operations in the Caribbean and in the Atlantic. One of the most popular “legitimate” captains was Sir Henry Morgan, a Welsh captain. He made Port Royal his stronghold, where his forces set forth for strikes on Spanish strongholds of Portobello, Cartagena and Panama City.

2) St. Mary’s Island (Africa)
Although it was very common to see stylish sea captains and peg legged pirates littering pirate strongholds on the islands of the Caribbean, it was in the Indian Ocean where most pirates flashed their trades and where the most successful. The Island of Madagascar in the late 17th century, was a home for well equipped thieves and was used as a base for attacks on Asian and European shipping. The St. Mary’s Island, situated on the northeast coast was a place where the looting group led by pirates like Captain Kidd, Thomas Tew and Henry Every, stored their booty and got their supplies.

3) Tortuga (Caribbean)
During the 1600s, this island with rugged terrain served as a home and pirate stronghold protecting many criminals who victimized Spanish treasure ships returning to Spain from the new world. Most of these raiders were actually French pirates from the nearby island of Hispaniola (now Haiti) whose method of meat curing called “boucaner,” is actually the source of their dreaded nickname: buccaneers. These buccaneers turned to the profitable trade of piracy after fleeing Hispaniola, then settled down in Tortuga around 1630. Jean le Vasseur was one of these famous pirates who made Tortuga his pirate stronghold. He even built a 24- gun castle known as Fort de Rocher, which stood as a watch guard for the island’s harbor.

4) Clew Bay (Ireland)
This was Grace O’ Malley’s pirate stronghold. She was perhaps the toughest lady pirate dedicated to intimidation and plundering. During the times when Ireland was ruled by a dozen of local chieftains, O’Malley defied the laws and became a leader of a deadly seafaring group. Also known by the alias “Granuaile”, she directed hundreds of men and about 20 ships in fiery attacks against opposing groups and trading ships. The gallantry of this one strong woman was evident when she led a counterattack on the forces that besieged her castle in 1574. This made the enemy’s ships retreat in defeat.

5) New Providence (Caribbean)
This Bahamian island of New Providence stood in the center of the most important trading lanes between Europe and the West Indies; the reason why lawless criminals made this island its nestling place. Its capital of Nassau was notoriously known as a maintenance area and a supply center of the marauder’s ships before sailing on a looting spree. Hardcore pirates like Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet and Charles Vane have been regular customers of this criminal infested island. Today, however, this once pirate stronghold is a popular cruise stop and home to the most luxurious hotels in the world.

Best 5 Isla Mujeres Attractions

When you visit Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, whether it’s for a day or for a few weeks, you can be sure that you won’t ever run out of things to do! In fact there are so many things to do that you might find it difficult to choose which Isla Mujeres Attractions are right for you and your companion(s). With that in mind we have made a list of the best 5 Isla Mujeres attractions and activities!

Best 5 Isla Mujeres Attractions

1. Isla Mujeres Pirate Adventure
This family orientated day cruise is one of the best Isla Mujeres attractions, and will, undoubtedly, be the highlight of any stay in Cancun or on Isla Mujeres. Leaving from Cancun, the Jolly Roger pirate ship will take you on a fun filled day of adventure on the high seas. Over the course of the cruise you will be able to go swimming, snorkeling, sun-bathing and enjoy organize games on the deck and beach.

2. Mayan Temple to Ixchel
One of the most historically engaging Isla Mujeres attractions, this small Mayan temple is supposed to be the reason that the Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) got its name. Legend has it that when the Spanish landed here they found the island littered with statuettes of women, in honor of the Goddess, and so gave the island its name. Though this temple is small, and is not the most well-kept or preserved Mayan ruin in the area, it is a key part of the island’s history and you’d be missing out if you didn’t see it.

3. MUSA underwater museum
Few cities can claim to have such a unique attraction, let alone one that is also beneficial to the local wildlife. Cancun and Isla Mujeres have such an attraction; the underwater showrooms of the MUSA museum consist of sculptures that have been placed onto the seabed. Over time these works of art have become a man-made reef that you can dive down and explore.

4. Captain Dulches Nautical Museum and Beach Club
Capatin Dulces is a hidden gem on Isla Mujeres. The museum is free to enter, and you can take a twenty-five minute guided tour of the exhibits which include photographs, anchors, miniature scale model ships and other interesting tid-bits. The history buffs among you will love it, and everyone else will be delighted by the food and adjacent beach. A great Isla Mujeres attraction for all the family.

5. Rent a bike, scooter, or golf cart
These methods of transport allow you to see the island at your own leisure, and are definitely the best way to see everything. If you do nothing else but explore in this manner, you will have an amazing time.

If you can recommend a top Isla Mujeres attraction, leave your comment and share your recommendation below.

What did Pirates Drink?

When we think of pirates, it is normal to immediately think of sword-fights, huge ships, and, of course, rum.

What did Pirates Drink?
Since the origins of organized piracy right through to more modern times, pirates have always been boozers. In fact it is almost impossible to think of any pirate who was teetotal! And while the pirates of the sixteenth and seventeenth century were famous for more than their drunken brawls it’s their legendary drinking capacity that is most often represented in the media!

In answer to the question: what did pirates drink? Most accounts will tell you that rum was the principle drink on board any pirate vessel, though there are instances where ale and beer were served to buccaneers! Ale was, however, usually only available on shorter journeys, or at the beginning of a journey as it would go off in time.

Why was rum the preferred pirates’ drink?
The reason for the prolific nature of rum on board pirate ships was a little more pragmatic than certain hedonistic depictions would have you believe! Water would quickly stagnate on longer journeys, some of which could take months, and the ingenious pirates would add alcohol such as brandy, wine or, yes, rum to “disinfect” the water and cover up the stale taste. This meant that even the water that pirates drank was mixed with alcohol!

Rum gained popularity amongst English sailors and pirates after Jamaica, a country known for its production of rum, was captured by the British Royal Navy in 1655. Brandy was more commonly a French and Spanish drink so it was only natural that the English would switch to rum when the option was available. This meant that they could avoid trading with their enemies, French and Spanish traders, while still sweetening the stale water found on a long voyage!

You see pirates were so much more than salty sea dogs; they were clever political movers too!

“Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum …”
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Jobs on a Pirate Ship

Life aboard a pirate ship was a hard one, that much is certain; constant exposure to weather, storms, hard work and the ever looming threat of scurvy didn’t make for soft living. With that said there are a few, quite common, misconceptions about how pirates lived aboard their ships.

Hierarchy and Jobs on a Pirate Ship

Many of the misconceptions about life on a pirate ship concern the authority of the ship’s Captain. Unlike the naval Captains of the time who was chosen by Government and had almost absolute authority aboard the ship, a Pirate Captain was elected by the crew and could be replaced just like any other member. This meant that members of a Pirate crew had more say in the ships affairs, battles and choices than serving soldiers or merchants! It also meant that they got a share of the booty found, rather than a flat wage like others, so the more profitable the ship was, the more they earned!

Aboard a Pirate ship there would be quite a few different kinds of people, all with their specific roles, duties and privileges. Obviously there was the Captain but, below him, there was also the Quartermaster who took on the role of protecting the crew from each other. In order to do this he would settle disputes, punish minor infractions and represent the crews wishes and needs in talks with the ships Captain. If the Captain decided to keep a ship that was captured in battle it would be the Quartermaster who captained the captured vessel until it was sold or disposed of. On board there would also be a surgeon, to deal with injuries, a Boatswain to keep the ship and stores in good order and repair, a carpenter to fix any damage and any number of Able Bodied Sailors to keep it moving.

These men would work in conjunction with their other colleagues, such as the sailing master and master gunner, in order to keep the ship running smoothly. A well ordered ship meant an easy (easier) life for the pirates aboard.

Who knew there were so many jobs on a pirate ship! Argghh!

Who’d Be a Wife when you can be a Pirate?

Historically, pirating like any job was considered as a man’s role, and women were left to bring up children and stay at home. In fact, women on board ship was considered bad luck by legitimate sailors and pirates alike, although there are many stories of women sneaking on board naval and pirate ships disguised as boys. However, some women took to piracy in protest against marriage, preferring to risk a life at sea as a pirate than giving in to society’s pressures.

Read all about women who preferred to be a pirate than a wife:

Sisters Rusla (The Red Maiden) and Stikla
These Norwegian sisters took to the seas as pirates, terrorizing the shores of Iceland, Denmark and the British isles. Famed for raiding ships, these women avoided marriage in favor of piracy. Rusla met a violent end at the hands of her brother King Tesondus, who had his sister beaten with the oars of her ship in revenge for having sunk his ship and leaving him for dead while Stikla preferred her warring status to being a married woman.

Alwilda’s fall into piracy is more like a fairy tale than a story of treacherous piracy. Legend has it that as a young princess, she was locked in a tower by her overprotective father. Suitors had to climb the tower and defeat the poisonous snakes that guarded her, but none were successful except Prince Alf of Denmark. However, once he reached her room, he discovered that her mother had helped her escape and she ran away to sea with a ship to avoid her impending marriage. Alwilda went on to command a ship crewed by women, made up from her maids and other women from court, and it wasn’t long before they turned to piracy.

Furious at her escape Prince Alf of Denmark pursued his prize, finally capturing the pirate princess. Legend claims that he was so taken with her beauty that he proposed immediately when he saw her, and she, so impressed with his bravery, finally consented to marriage.

Daring Pirate Women, Anne Wallace Sharp, (Lerner Publications 2002)
The Complete Idiots Guide to Pirates, Gail Selinger with W.Thomas Smith Jr. (Penguin 2006)

The Golden Age of Pirates Explained

The period between 1650 and 1750 is commonly called the “Golden Age of Pirates” for many reasons: the accepted and common practice of ‘privateering’ and a wealth of treasure laden vessels, among other factors, really made this the pirates ‘prime-time’ for booty. During the golden age of pirates, governments in Europe and their monarchs were more inclined to ignore piracy or, further still, legitimize it under the title of “privateering” when targeting enemy ships.

Privateering or Pirating?
A privateer was someone who acted with the blessing of the King or Queen but not necessarily in conjunction with the military. That is, privateers such as England’s Sir Francis Drake and Captain Morgan would take it upon themselves to attack enemy ships and take ports controlled by rival monarchs, claiming the loot as their payments in the name of their monarch. In this way,piracy was actually a legal and legitimate way to earn a living for many people in times of war during the Golden Age of Pirates. When peace fell once more the crews would continue their work as they had before, simply without monarchical support.

The abundance of Spanish treasure vessels, too, was a factor in this era’s ‘golden’ hue. Sailing to and from the Americas, these ships would carry huge amounts of gold and silver. When Britain and Spain were at war these ships then became legitimate targets for the British pirates who were protected by the title of privateer. Spanish, French and Portuguese galleons would predictably sail through the Caribbean islands to gather food and supplies for their long journey back to Europe making them easy to locate and target.

Rise of Democracy During the Golden Age of Pirates
During the 16th and 17th century, ships often ran according to a quasi capitalist/ democratic doctrine. This is sometimes, though less commonly, quoted as a reason for this era’s title as piracy’s golden years. In a large number of cases, the Captain was elected by the crew and, as such, mutiny was a real threat for bad or inefficient Captains. The crew also had a share of the profits, a rather revolutionary idea at this time when the Divine Right of Kings was very much in place and the feudal system was not long past, which meant that they also had a larger share of the power.

The Golden Age of piracy was short lived, for certain, but left a huge mark on the pages of history. It left behind larger than life legends and tales but it also left us some lessons; any Golden age might be fleeting and we should grasp them with both hands when they arrive!

References: (retrieved December 5, 2014)