Avast ye, landlubbers! Legend has it there is lost treasure buried by pirates hundreds of years ago beneath the sands of Yucatán’s subtropical paradise beaches. Gold rings, buckles, crosses, brooches, cufflinks, bracelets, rosaries, and encrusted emeralds are just some of the booty you adventurers might dig up along the pristine coastline.
Hordes of swashbuckling pirates stole from Spanish galleons laden with doubloons on their way to the Old World. While some retrieved their hidden prize, others never returned. That’s why so many tourists flock to Yucatán’s beautiful beaches every year looking for long-lost pirate treasure!
One of these gems is the quiet port village of Dzilam de Bravo, which has a hidden fortune buried somewhere under its coastline just begging for rediscovery. The fearsome French pirate, Jean Lafitte, dubbed The Hero of Orleans for assisting the United States against the British, is said to have landed there with a chest filled with treasure. Shiver me timbers! Apparently, the riches that lie within would line the coffers of any pirate for the rest of their days, me hearties.
But let me tell you about the scurvy dog, Lafitte. He was a dashing, charismatic, and devilishly witty Gentleman Pirate. Although he enjoyed drinking, gambling, and women, he also had a reputation for adopting more aristocratic manners and dress than most of his fellow pirates. Lafitte was notorious for toying with the major powers and switching allegiance, regularly raiding along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean as a privateer. He even founded his very own pirate colony, before it burned to the ground as he escaped with his crew on his favorite vessel, The Pride. He was the true Jack Sparrow.
Stories passed down through generations say Lafitte landed at the port of Dzilam de Bravo with a giant chest of gold as he took flight from his enemies. They claim he rushed to Isla Pájaros, around 300 meters offshore from the beach, and buried his stolen treasure with the idea of returning in the future. Before the island was lost to a hurricane in 2002, people feared approaching it because of a dreaded curse: locals spoke of the ghost of a headless black slave who protected Isla Pájaros, and several tourists also reported spotting a spooky figure from across the bay. As the legend goes, Lafitte said to his men:
“I will leave my treasure here, but only one of you will stay to take care of it. Who wants to stay?”
A black slave on his crew raised his hand, but Lafitte’s eyes quickly sparkled with greed before he ruthlessly blew his head off. A dead man tells no tales. It is said the black crewman sometimes appeared at sunset to guard the treasure belonging to his treacherous master. Although the island has since disappeared, many still believe the booty remains hidden under the sand around Dzilam de Bravo’s beaches.
Visitors will find a monument called The three crosses dedicated to the deeds of the notorious pirate who may have left more than just treasure and stories. Some residents say Lafitte arrived at the port with his wife, Lucía Allen, and later fell in love with an inhabitant of Dzilam de Bravo. That’s why the corsair was such a regular visitor to the port. Several original inhabitants of the small port village even believe their fairer complexion and clearer eyes definitively prove that pirate blood runs through their veins.
The legend surrounding Lafitte’s death and his lost loot involves a long list of claims behind his final resting place and lost booty. Citizens of Dzilam de Bravo assure their remains lie buried in Yucatán, just like his stolen prize. Nevertheless, whether the bones of this buccaneer lie in Davy Jones’ locker or under the sands of Dzilam de Bravo, his death and his undiscovered gold remain unknown. Will you be the one to find Lafitte’s hidden treasure?
By Mark Viales
International freelance journalist from the Rock of Gibraltar. A singer/songwriter with a passion for travel and fluent in four languages.
Fotografía por Yucatán Today and Rosenberg Library para su uso en Yucatán Today.
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