Roberto Cofresí

Puerto Rican Pirate
   

Born: June 17, 1791

Died: March 29, 1825


 

Roberto Cofresí (June 17, 1791-March 29, 1825) born Roberto Cofresí y Ramírez de Arellano in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, is Puerto Rico's most famous pirate and is better known as "El Pirata Cofresí".

There are two stories about where Cofresí's father came from. The first version is that his father was a German named Franz Von Kupferschein, who changed his surname to Cofresí because it was easier for the people of Puerto Rico to pronounce. The second version is that his father was Francisco Cofresí from Trieste, Italy.

Monument of Roberto Cofresí

 

 However, one thing is certain and that is that his mother was Maria Germana Ramirez de Arellano from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. She died when he was four years old. Cofresí went to primary school in his hometown. As a young child, raised on the coast with the sounds of the waves pounding on the beach, Cofresí spent hours and days daydreaming about someday becoming an adventurous sailor in the seas. Those dreams were mostly inspired by the tales that he heard from the sailors who visited his town. Cofresí had a small boat, which he baptized "El Mosquito" (The Mosquito).

Cofresí married Juana Creitoff from Curaçao in the San Miguel Arcangel Parish of Cabo Rojo. They had two sons, who each died soon after birth. In 1822, Cofresí and Juana had a daughter, whom they named Maria Bernada.

 

Cofresí would set out to sea in his schooner, "Ana", with a crew made up of men from Cabo Rojo, and attack ships that did not fly the Royal Spanish flag. The people on the coasts of Puerto Rico are said to have protected him from the authorities and, according to the Puerto Rican historian Aurelio Tio, Cofresí shared his spoils with the needy, especially members of his family and his friends. He was regarded by many as the Puerto Rican version of Robin Hood.

Cofresí's earrings on display at the American Museum of Natural History

 

The Spanish government received many complaints from the nations whose ships were being attacked by the Pirate Cofresí, as he became to be known. The government generally turned a blind eye to piracy against the ships of other nations, but now felt compelled to have Cofresí pursued and captured. On one occasion Cofresí and his men attacked eight ships, among them an American vessel. In 1824, Captain John Slout, commander of the U.S. schooner "Grampus", engaged Cofresí in a fierce battle. Cofresí was captured along with 11 members of his crew, and they were turned over to the Spanish government. Cofresí was jailed in El Castillo del Morro in San Juan.

Cofresí was tried by a Spanish military court, found guilty and, on March 29, 1825, executed by firing squad. He is buried in the Old San Juan Cemetery (Cementerio Antiguo de San Juan). His widow Juana died a year later.

It is believed by some that part of Cofresí's treasure may still be hidden in the caves of Sabana Seca, close to a restaurant called "La Guarida del Pirata Cofresí" (Pirate Cofresí's Hideout).

There is a monument to Cofresí in Boquerón Bay in Cabo Rojo. It was sculpted by Jose Buscaglia Guillermety. The town of Cofresí, 10 km west of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic and, was named after him, and many poems, songs and books have been written about him:

 
  • "El Marinero, Bandolero, Pirata y Contrabandista Roberto Cofresí" (Spanish) by Walter R. Cardona Bonet

  • "The Pirate of Puerto Rico" by Lee Cooper

  • "El Mito de Cofresí en la Narrativa Antillana" (Spanish) by Robert Fernandez Valledor

  • "Das Kurge Heldenhafte Leben Des Don Roberto Cofresí" (German) by Angelika Mectel

  • "Roberto Cofresí: "El Bravo Pirata de Puerto Rico" (Spanish) by Edwin Vazquez


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