Amaro Rodríguez Felipe
|Amaro Rodríguez Felipe y Tejera Machado|
|Born||3 May 1678 (or 1695 according to other sources)
San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
|Died||14 October 1747 (69 years)
San Cristóbal de La Laguna
|Base of operations||Atlantic|
Amaro Rodríguez Felipe y Tejera Machado (3 May 1678 or 1695, in San Cristóbal de La Laguna – 14 October 1747, in San Cristóbal de La Laguna), more popularly known as Amaro Pargo, was a famous Spanish pirate. He was one of the most famous pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy, and one of the most important personalities of 17th-century Spain.
He was noted for his commercial activities and for his frequent religious donations and aid to the poor. In his role as a privateer, he dominated the route between Cadiz and the Caribbean, on several occasions attacking ships belonging to enemies of the Spanish Crown (mainly England and Holland), earning recognition in his time as a hero and coming to be regarded as "the Spanish equivalent of Francis Drake". Because of his service to the Spanish Crown and country, he was declared a Caballero hijodalgo in 1725 and obtained certification of nobility and royal arms in 1727.
For years there has been speculation as to the reason behind the nickname of Rodríguez Felipe's privateer Pargo. Traditionally. it has been believed that this pseudonym means that the raider was "fast", "elusive in battle" and "moving in the sea as the aforementioned fish", the red porgy (also called Pargo). More recent theories rooted in popular tradition have also attributed the nickname to the facial features of a corsair.
But today, other theories have emerged. Professor at the University of La Laguna Manuel de Paz and researcher and librarian Daniel García Pulido view Rodríguez Felipe's nickname as not having to do with his face resembling a fish, but with the nickname of his family's clan.
Rodríguez Felipe was born in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, on the island of Tenerife (Canary Islands) on 3 May 1678 (though other sources show his birth on the same day, but in the year 1695). Despite this, the first date is accepted as the more likely one.
He was baptized by the priest Manuel Hurtado Mendoza in the Iglesia de Los Remedios (Church of Our Lady of Los Remedios, today a cathedral in the city). His godfather was Amaro López. He was the son of Juan Rodríguez Felipe and Beatriz Tejera Machado. He had seven brothers. Three of his sisters entered the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena in the city. His family was affluent, possessing property both in and around the city.
Amaro lived with his family in the Plaza de San Cristóbal in La Laguna (also called "Plaza Tanque de Abajo"). The family had several possessions and houses, most of them located close to the political, economic, and religious center of the city, around the current Plaza del Adelantado (then called "Plaza de Abajo").
In 1701 he boarded as second lieutenant on a ship, the Ave María, nicknamed La Chata (The Barge), which was boarded by pirates. This ship was a galley of the King of Spain than to the route between the Caribbean and Cadiz. He advised the captain to feign surrender in order to start a battle from which they emerged victorious. In gratitude, the captain would give Amaro his first ship. With it he began his business activities, including participation in the African slave trade in Latin America. For this, Amaro Pargo obtained from King Philip V of Spain the Letter of marque.
Trader and privateer
Amaro Pargo's participation in the West Indies Fleet is observed from 1703 to 1705, and at this time he is mentioned as "captain" and "master" of the frigates Ave María and Las Ánimas. He is mentioned sailing between the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Havana, and other vessels of their possession are cited; Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, Santo Domingo and Santa Águeda (this last nicknamed El Gavilán). Later in 1737 he is mentioned as the owner of El Mercader de Canarias, captained by John Plunket, and as sharing ownership with another merchant vessel of La Laguna, Don Pedro Dujardin.
He conducted his affairs with a well-maintained fleet and also with many residences. Amaro Pargo led to America his own ships laden with wine of Malvasía (which were from his own harvests) and brandy (also his), and sold in Havana and Guyana. On the way, he attacked all ships belonging to enemies of Spanish Crown, mainly British and Dutch, making off with booty, which he later brought back to Spain. Amaro Pargo fought against some of the best known pirates of his day, including Blackbeard. He also traded in other products such as various textiles and even nuts. These products were brought from the Canary Islands to the Indies.
This systematic looting of enemy ships sometimes escalated into battle; it is documented that once Amaro Pargo boarded a great ship from Jamaica, triggering a clash between the privateer Snapper and the captain of the ship with sabers and pistols and which ended with the captain seriously wounded and Pargo with only a cut on his fingers. He also fought against Turkish pirates in waters off the Canary Islands.
Pargo became romantically involved with the Cuban Josefa María del Valdespino, with whom he had an illegitimate son, but did not marry. This son was named Manuel de la Trinidad Amaro. He founded a chaplaincy for the needy and allocated 3,000 reales for the poor in the prisons.
Access to the nobility
On 25 January 1725 Amaro Pargo was declared Caballero hijodalgo. In addition, Pargo obtained the actual certification of Nobility and Arms also given in Madrid on 9 January 1727, by Juan Antonio de Hoces Sarmiento, who was chronicler and king of arms of Felipe V of Spain.
Friendship with Sister Mary of Jesus
Moreover, because of his beliefs as a fervent Catholic, he was responsible for important works of charity for churches, religious institutions, and the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios (Parish Church of Our Lady of Los Remedios), now the Catedral de San Cristóbal de La Laguna (La Laguna Cathedral). He began a deep friendship with the nun Sister Mary of Jesus, who gave the privateer spiritual advice. After her death in 1731, Amaro paid for the extravagant sarcophagus in which the uncorrupted mystic now rests. In addition, Pargo, who always considered the nun a saint. The initials of Amaro are inscribed in the sarcophagus.
The privateer attributed many of his exploits to the miraculous intervention of the nun, including an episode in which the nun saved his life in Cuba, without her body leaving the convent, that is, by the phenomenon of bilocation.
Over the centuries those searching for romance have wanted to see a deeper meaning in the friendship that joined the privateer and nun. Balbina Rivero, author of Amaro Pargo, el pirata de Tenerife, suggests that interpretation in his book. Others reject it, including the author of El Sarcófago de las tres llaves, Pompeyo Reina Moreno, saying their friendship was based on devotional reasons.
Death and inheritance
Amaro died 14 October 1747 in his hometown. According to chronicles, his funeral was "very solemn" and during the funeral procession transferring his body to his burial site eight stops were made on the street, slowed down by the crowd that accompanied the procession.
He was buried in the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Convent in La Laguna, in a family tomb.
In the marble headstone is engraved the family shield, and under it a skull winking his right eye with two crossbones. At his death his estate was substantial, and the natural son Manuel de la Trinidad Amaro appeared in La Laguna demanding his part, but the rest of his heirs rejected his claims.
Treasury of Amaro Pargo
Pargo wrote in his will that had a box that he kept in his cabin. This carved chest contained silver, gold jewelry, pearls and precious stones of great value, chinese porcelain, rich fabrics and paintings, adding that they were itemised in a book wrapped in parchment and marked with the letter "D". The whereabouts of this book are unknown.
In the centuries since, people have speculated as to the whereabouts of the treasure. The house of Amaro Pargo in Machado (in the municipality of El Rosario) was sacked over the years by treasure hunters. It has also been suggested that the treasure is in the so-called Cave of San Mateo in Punta del Hidalgo northeast of Tenerife, a cave that served to hide their loot.
Despite all these efforts, this treasure has not yet been located.
In November 2013, the exhumation was carried out by a team of archaeologists and forensic scientists from the Autonomous University of Madrid, to carry out a study on the pirate, including DNA tests and the recreation of his face.
According to historic records, Pargo was buried alongside his parents and a black servant. It was discovered, however, that apart from these, there were six more people, as well as some incomplete remains of babies. It is believed that some of these people were nephews or great nephews of Amaro Pargo, although it is known that the babies were not related to the privateer. The fact that they are buried together with the corsair is possibly due to a custom that took root all over Spain and the Canary islands to bury unbaptized children next to an adult, in the belief that the adult would guide them to Heaven.
The exhumation was funded by the French video game company, Ubisoft, for the fourth instalment of the saga titled "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag". According to a supervisor of the company that financed the exhumation, Pargo was "a character who in his time had the same reputation and popularity as Blackbeard or Francis Drake".
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