After the Spanish had driven the early French settlers and hunters off the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and Dominican Republic) in the early 1630's, the refugees began to establish the nearby location of Tortuga island to the Northwest, a 25-mile-long, turtle-shaped island with rich land, fresh water and ideal defense locations.
Pirates in the Caribbean
Tortuga Island- Isle de la Tortue
These men were known for the meat that they barbecued (French for smoked meat is viande boucanee), and so eventually were named... Buccaneers. When these hunters learned that piracy was more profitable than selling meat, they were soon making regular raids on the Spanish ships sailing the local trade routes.
An early French governor named Jean le Vasseur used his training as an engineer to build a 24-gun fort by the harbor which helped to repel Spanish attacks. French governors preferred to use the buccaneers for local defense, as the British governors were later to do at Port Royal, and Tortuga Island became well-known for those men calling themselves the Brethren of the Coast. The most notorious among the pirates of Tortuga was Francois L'Ollonais, a psychopath whose method of choice was often horrible tortures and murder. Sir Henry Morgan started his career of piracy from this very island.
Beginning in the early 1670's, Tortuga Island entered a period of decline after a series of Spanish and French raids, when some buccaneers went south to the better market in French Saint Dominique and some were drawn east to expand the defenses of Port Royal, Jamaica.
Tortuga Island Today-
Now the territory of Haiti, the island with a population of 30,000 has been governed in large part by a Catholic church mission since 1977. Ferryboats arrive daily from nearby St. Louis du Nord with tourists who visit the main villages, caves, ruins and beaches.