Una identità in movimento

Diego Grillo: the first Cuban pirate

Isván Manuel Cano Hidalgo

For a long time it was widely believed that Diego Grillo was missing, then he appears in England as a wealthy businessperson. In the taverns with his old fellow sailors, he recalls the adventures that led him to become a legendary personage: the first and most notorious of all pirates born in Cuba.

Seeing the horizon line on the sea, he evokes the bloody battles, the damages caused in the American waters during the last quarter of the 16th century and a good deal of the 17th century too.

The beginnings

Everything began when a Spanish conqueror in his voyage to "terra firma" met a young and sensual African slave woman. Diego Grillo was born form that union in Havana by 1555. Considered one of the most controversial figures of piracy's history, born slave like his mother, Diego escapes when he is 13 years old and finds shelter in the mangrove swamps. There he waits for a scope to flee from captivity once and for all. Afterwards, he joins a band of Spanish buccaneers that trafficked in the Caribbean sea.

Francis Drake: his protector

After four years sailing through the waters of the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean sea, when he had gotten certain experience as sailor, Diego is captured by pirate Francis Drake near the Isle of Pines, Cuba in 1572.

His adventurous fearless spirit, his bold resolution and his defiant attitude expressed in the way he looked at people, inspiring respect among those who faced him, seemed to have convinced the terrible "thief of the seas" on how valuable would be to have such a man in his crew. So Drake takes Diego Grillo under his protection and brings the youngster to England.

Already in Europe, the Cuban pirate fights under the commands of the Count of Essex and other English gentlemen. When he is 22 year old, Diego Grillo is the court's favorite man, being welcomed by the Monarchs themselves who confer him various honors for his duties to the British crown.

After five years in England, he returns to the Caribbean in an expedition organized by Drake. Then he is the second in charge.

Time did not pass much when Diego Grillo becomes the boss of that mission. In 1595, when his protector dies, the Cuban pirate comes back to England, gold and fame travel with him.

The last raid

After a break from sea adventures, Diego appears in the Antilles accompanied by Cornelio Jols, nicknamed "Wooden Leg" .

This Grillo-Jols partnership unleashed its most bloody instincts attacking the Spanish ships with no mercy killing all prisoners they captured.

In his adventures, Diego Grillo makes one of the greatest exploits in piracy history by capturing a 11 ships convoy.

For any one else this could have been enough to take it off amassing a tremendous wealth and fame, but not for Diego Grillo. The infamous pirate wanted to make his "last raid".

Nuevitas' harbor, north Camagüey province, was the haven of the ships that sailed to Spain loaded with plenty of treasure.

In 1619, after having meticulously planned the assault, Grillo took a six frigate convoy by surprise in the entrance of that harbor. The filibusters won that battle and most of the Spanish crew died.

The spoils of that assault seemed to have been very substantial because he was not longer seen in the Caribbean sea and there were people who believed he disappeared some miles off Nuevitas' coasts.

The true is that Diego Grillo settled down in England, enjoying forever his condition of being the "first Cuban pirate"

Página enviada por Isván Manuel Cano Hidalgo
(4 de enero de 2007)

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