The Capture of Maracaïbo

Piracy / Video Games Links

Another story of piracy? But yes, of course.
I announce the piracy and play the lanyard – I can say this word, it means something to you? to me, yes.– : why?
Because, when I tell you that it is possible to target a whole season of shows on a huge theme in video games, and I leave you with Pirates of the Caribbean and maybe Treasure Island in your head, it’s a bit short for a season.

So I’m playing the long game.
The finale – the show I’ve had in my head for …. several months, I’m saving it for the show I’d so love to see performed on stage and in e.sport.

Maracaibo, before being a modern city in Venezuela, was a village along the lagoon.
Behind it: the forest, the good old big rain forest – and swamps.
In front, on the other side of the lagoon, Gibraltar.
There was no gold in this area, no El Dorado either – but people didn’t live so badly there, trade was prosperous.

To protect their cities, the Spaniards had locked the lagoon: two islets protect the entrance and form a gully. So building a fort and equipping it with 16 cannons was an obvious choice.
The junkyard dogs of the time – the French in the lead, the English following closely – could only break their teeth – the villages were protected.

I’m telling you now that my head is falling off and my eyes are burning? Never mind, I promised the story for tonight.

One morning in May 1667, the lagoon swarmed with Indian pirogues speeding by – for some frightening news: French pirates had landed landing forces and were attacking the Fort.

The villagers felt the nasty taste of worry rising in their throats. But what? What would these barefooters do against 16 cannons and a well-trained, well-fed military?
Facing them were 7 pirate ships: it was a war expedition.

You could hear the clash of battles – and the clash would not stop.
The people became really scared – and when the horrible smoke rose on the horizon, there was no more doubt: the French had broken the lock, they were coming.
The village was immediately abandoned – all the dugouts, all the boats loaded with families and … the gold of each family. Direction; the village in front, Gibraltar.
Some did not trust the boats – they were too full – what to do when the French saw them?
They went into the forest – with their gold.

In Maracaibo, only the poor were left.

Finding neither girls – to recover from the war – nor gold, the French pirates took a big anger – a really big one.
Then the poor people told what they knew: those who had gone to the forest, those who had gone to Gibraltar.

Those in the forest were found very quickly – I don’t know what happened to them.
I don’t know if I want to know.
It got better.
Then the French played at being Hannibal in Capua: the houses were filled with food, goods, more or less precious objects.
They took advantage.

Meanwhile the Spaniards didn’t wait for death.
The governor of Gibraltar expected the pirates to arrive.
6 Indian runners had left for the real big city, full of real garrison: Merida. 120 kilometers of mountain forest – 5 days later, the garrison of Merida arrived in Gibraltar.
The French were still drinking in the village opposite.

To reach Gibraltar, there was only one road.
So, while the pirates were making the French, the inhabitants of Gibraltar designed two defenses.
First of all they broke their road, they put traps, holes, everything they could to prevent the passage
And above all, they “invented” a false “real road” – which led straight into swamps from which there was no way out.

When the pirates finally arrive, the whole village, the whole troop, waits with anguish.
Then the miracle: the French pirates have been caught – they have taken the wrong road – they are going straight to the swamps, straight to death.
The relief was immense.

The disappointment was terrifying.
In the swamp, these men, who were not so afraid and did not panic so quickly, simply cut branches to walk on.
The city walls were not far away – the assault was shouted – and the villagers saw those pirate devils melting down on them, driven mad with rage – near the city, the ground was stable, no need for machetes: they ran.
But the troops were watching: the French were decimated by fire.
They retreated – the defeat was bitter.
But not enough to discourage them.

They set out again, and this time they took the real road.
It was long – it was dangerous – but it was almost inexorable.
From the ramparts, the Spaniards were firing.

So the pirates went back the wrong way – the Spaniards ran, fired from the other side.
The village was nothing but smoke, nothing could be seen.
It was orders and counter-orders.

Do you think the pirates lost?
The Spaniards, locked up in Gibraltar, were victorious.

But… the pirates knew the taste of blood, the intoxication of victory, the need to finish off the enemy, especially if that enemy is scary.
They played with the Spaniards – enough to make them believe with certainty that they had won.
When the Spanish troop went out to finish off the remaining pirates they saw, they sank into the mud.
They moved on anyway: what the French had done, they could do.

Is this really going to be the end of the story? 50 dead, 100 wounded on the pirate side – 300 dead on the Spanish side, including all the officers and governors of the city.

After the looting – and the girls – it was a matter of leaving with their heads held high: they only left when they obtained a ransom to free the city from their vile presence.

And now dare to tell me that a story like that wouldn’t make all the young people sit up and take notice?
Yes – there’s no love story – it doesn’t go over well with the pirates.
But when it comes to adventures… when it comes to scenery… when it comes to suspense… you get what you want, especially if you insist on the true/false amateurism of the protagonists, which can make for a breathtaking scene.

The ultimate advantage I see in a theatre production over a movie production – is that movie pirate stories are so kitschy that the theatre can win every time – because the theatre doesn’t have to worry about realism. And that, as the ultimate cheat code, is brilliant.
I still don’t understand why this ultimate code isn’t exploited more. It should be.

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Featured Image : Maracaïbo lake, Venezuela

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