By Bernie Power with The Voice
Photo by Still Light Photography
The waters around the Island have a colourful and violent past, everything from passing Galleon Trains that bought wealth from the Americas to clandestine Nazi Navy operations. Whilst you enjoy a relaxing dip, think back, as only even as recent as fifty years ago, things were much different from the calm seas that you see today.
The First Europeans
Boats first bought Europeans to the Island in 1402. Fuerteventura is surrounded by water on all sides, yet we have still shied away from it. The indigenous people ‘The Mahos’ had no navigational skills and were not able to build boats, in fact, the only contact they had with the sea was to fish from the rocks or collect shellfish, which were a main part of their diet.
Locals were constantly under threat from Arab slavers, who regularly patrolled here, even then they would stay away from the Ocean and move inland for safety. Our wild West Coast was naturally well fortified and El Cotillo was the site of the first landing. There is nothing there now that shows the 250 years of frantic activity that occurred, but the Old Fishing Harbour can still be seen, although it is now no longer used. A new protected harbour with a defensive wall is used instead, and is situated in the next bay by ‘Fishermans Rock’ or Roque Del Pescador.
The Puerto de la Pena is a settlement in Ajuy. It is a strange beautiful, black sandy beach that now belays the history of Pirate attacks and frequent slave raids. One raid worth noting took place in 1593 and was so successful that they emptied the Island! Everything that came to Fuerteventura, legally, was shipped into the port and then delivered to the capital at that time, which was Betancuria. The waters all around the Island was full of Pirates, corsairs, privateers and many other men and women who preyed on the marine traffic; Helping themselves to the goods as trade by water increased. The waters around the Island were not a safe place to be at all!
You can still see the caves at Ajuy. They were used frequently by the pirates as hide outs and places to hide their booty. Their treasures were not often gold or silver, instead they stole goods from local trading vessels like spices, ropes, cloth and alike.
Sticks and Stones
It wasn’t even a good idea to live near the ocean either, as on the 13th of October 1740, a group of scurvy British Privateers arrived, armed with a freelance warrant to attack Spanish owned property. The area they chose to devastate was Gran Tarajal in the South of the Island. They desecrated churches and smashed their way through the villages. The locals decided to fight back and armed themselves literally with sticks and stones. They were successful and managed to kill 33 men and capture an additional 20. On the 24th November the privateers returned, but this time they met resistance from an armed population who bought guns with them too. As the history books state ‘They were killed to a man!’
Do you want to discover more? Want to get out and about and see Ajuy for yourself?