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Roche Braziliano

Copyright 2001, David Stapleton

There is not a wealth of information out on the web or in print on this pirate, most comes from the Exquemelin's book and is reworded in other works. I am afraid this is much of the same, although with my own slant to it. P-)

Roche, alternatively spelled Rock or Roque, is said to have come to Brazil when there was a Dutch colony prior to 1654, when the Portuguese forced them out. At that time he is said to have moved to Port Royal in Jamaica and served as an ordinary seaman. After quarrelling with the ship's captain he and some others took the ship's boat and became buccaneers. Their first prize was a ship out of Mexico carrying gold and silver, which they brought to Jamaica.

Some time later, it is unclear how long or how active he was, he was captured by the Spanish and imprisoned in Campeche, Mexico. Attempting to use fear on his captors, he wrote a letter, supposedly from other buccaneers, stating that if anything happened to him, the pirates would fall upon the town and kill every Spaniard and loot the town. The ploy may have worked for Roche was not hanged in Campeche, but he was shipped off to Spain for trial and probable execution. Somehow he managed to escape while in Spain and managed to make his way back to the Caribbean and Port Royal.

Returning to Campeche in 1669, his ship ran aground and only a few crew escaped (one figure says 30) with little more than a few muskets. They made for a known buccaneer rendezvous on the Yucatan peninsula called Sad Gulf (modern Punta Holbox). However, they were overtaken by Spanish cavalry and forced into a running battle as they tried to escape; the buccaneer's musket fire may have kept the Spaniards at bay long enough to allow the buccaneers to escape in some canoes. This is somewhat of an anomaly, if the pirates had canoes, why do we get the impression that they were walking when the Spanish cavalry caught up with them? The buccaneers could easily have pushed to sea and not have had to deal with the cavalry at all. If they were on foot, where did they, so fortunately, run across the canoes so they could escape? Here is my take on a possible solution to this quandary:

Having run their ship aground and barely escaped with their lives, the buccaneers, being seamen, would have looked for the first possible chance to put to sea again. Toward this end they would have either stolen some native canoes or piraguas, or possibly made their own, depending upon time and proximity of natives. Whichever, the Spanish cavalry arrived inopportunely early forcing the stranded buccaneers to fight a delaying action while loading the canoes and setting to sea.

Having once again set to sea, Roche was not idle as he captured a small local ship and used it to Spanish merchant loaded with merchandise and silver. He and his crew then returned to Jamaica. There is no record of his death.

Aside from various tales of his brutality to friend and foe alike, that's about it. The stories go that he would roast Spaniards tied to a wooden spit between two fires much as one would roast a pig. Another quote from Exquemelin says that while on a drunken binge in Port Royal, he would wander the town and attack the first person he ran across and hack off an arm or a leg. My guess is that Exquemelin embellished a little to better sell his book. Roche was a product of his times and wouldn't have been the first or last to visit cruelties on the Spanish, but running about town hacking limbs off the townsfolk would have probably gotten a few people annoyed and spelled the end for this buccaneer.


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