Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pathetic Pirates: The Other Rock

My daughter is in love with one man - her Dad - and infatuated with two others: Wolverine (the cartoon character, not Hugh Jackman) and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. When I told her I was doing a post today about a pathetic pirate she asked who. When I said "A guy named Rock," she came unglued. It took me five minutes of exposition and showing her the picture above to get her to calm down. Mr. Johnson, your honor as anything but pathetic was ably defended by my ten year old before the sun even crested the mountains. Just FYI.

The buccaneer pictured above was known as Rock Brasilliano in English and Roche Braziliano in French and Spanish. He was born in Holland some time in the early 17th century and emigrated to Brazil in mid-century with other beneficiaries of the wealthy West India Company of Amsterdam. Rock, a sturdy little guy who got his nickname because of his stocky build, settled in to what he hoped would be a nice life as a colonist in South America. Too bad the Vatican had other ideas.

In 1654 the Pope rather arbitrarily turned Brazil over to the Portuguese and ordered that all "heretics" be unilaterally booted from the country. Interestingly, only Protestants fell under the heretic umbrella (the natives, no doubt, being too darn useful as slaves to scatter hither and yon) and Rock was one of them. Now a man without a country Rock, like so many of his fellows, made his way to the Jamaican city of Port Royal. The change over from Spanish to English rule occurred not long after and within a year our Puritan privateer Christopher Myngs made things very comfortable for the local buccaneers.

Rock was not the kind of guy to get "right to work", though, as he had a little substance abuse problem that really got in the way of his buccaneering. According to sources in Port Royal Rock, though not a good looking or particularly well kept individual, was the soul of fellowship and manners when he was sober. The problem was that sobriety seemed to be a difficult bird to catch for the Rock.

When Rock was drunk even his associates took the long way around to avoid him entirely. He was known to fly off into a rage for no more reason than a person looking at him funny or refusing to share a glass with him. It was not uncommon for Rock, in a drunken rage, to, choke, pummel, cut off digits or limbs and in some cases kill. The general word in Port Royal was that, if Rock gave you the stink eye, it was best to just submit. Putting up a fight would probably mean death. Refusal to do so might mean you would keep you fingers and toes. Maybe.

The more civilized side of Rock made him a reliable Captain and it may be that he did not drink at sea - although that's probably stretching it. He had some marginal success raiding Spanish merchants off the Yucatan Peninsula until his ship was captured and he and his crew were secured in the dungeons at Campeche, Mexico. Rock, clearly sober at the time, wrote a letter to the Governor of Campeche posing as the Captain of a pirate fleet that was en route to destroy the city if the prisoners were not released. This was during the famous raids of the buccaneer navy of Captain Myngs and doubtless the Governor felt inclined to avoid the worst and take no chances. He publicly ordered a stay of execution for Rock and his men, but loaded them onto a galley bound for Spain where their punishment could be dealt out safely.

Somehow, Rock managed to escape from the Spanish galley - although the fate of his men is unknown - and make it back to Port Royal. Rather than learn from his mistakes, Rock got right back on the horse, got a new ship and crew and headed for Yucatan. He was again captured by the Spanish and transferred to the fortress at Campeche. This time the Governor was on to his game. He turned Rock over to the Holy Inquisition as an unrepentant heretic and the real fun began. The torture went on for days, Rock being a strong guy, but finally our buccaneer broke down. Some historians say that he revealed a stash of treasure on an island off the Carolinas. But there is no real record of what became of Rock after he was consigned to the Inquisitors. One has to imagine that, in the usual fashion of the Church/State arrangement established in Europe, Rock was returned to the Governor for execution. The Church surely couldn't be responsible for killing a man, after all.

Rock Brasilliano was one of the fringe buccaneers whose legendary crazy and one brilliant turn with the Governor of Campeche meant we know his name today. Maybe if he had looked more like our modern day Rock he would have done a little better for himself. I'm pretty sure my daughter would say so.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! So that's it? He fooled the governor and escaped... only to be captured again, tortured and killed? Wow, he really was pretty pathetic, especially for a guy named "Rock"... Oh well, I guess we can't all be superheros. I know I'm sure not one.

Pauline said...

Ahoy Timmy! As we know, not everyone grows up to be an astronaut... Especially not back in the day.