Cannibals. Conquistadors. Buccaneers. Pirates.
Visions of cartoon characters dancing around a cauldron with an explorer tied inside.
Balboa gazing on the Pacific Ocean. De Leon and the fountain of youth. Pizarro conquering the Incas. Henry Morgan, in red, drinking spiced rum. Smoke curling around Blackbeard as his cutlass slashes through the air. … all children’s tales that mean nothing.
Today, we do not know who any of these people were, how they came to do what they did, or why they did it. The struggle for power, freedom, and wealth that shaped the Caribbean for two and a half centuries has, since John Barrie created Peter Pan, been relegated to the same literary section as Barney the Dinosaur; yet, underneath the soil of the modern world, the roots are still there. I started pulling them up on St. Croix, and the roots led to more roots, and more. Islands connected, nations connected, and legends came to life.
Officially, St. Croix has flown seven flags over the last 500 years. Before the American flag and the Danebrog, the Spanish came for gold, the Dutch to trade, the English to raid, and the Knights of St. John to be in charge. The French built a colony only to watch it die of fever. During all of those years, Pirates, Conquistadors, Freebooters, Filibustiers, Corsairs, Buccaneers -whatever you call them- ruled the Caribbean and called St. Croix home, stealing at sea whether they had ‘permission’ to do so or not, and paying no attention at all to whatever European flag was flying.
It is time to recognize our eighth flag. It was black. This is the untold story of St. Croix and a Caribbean long forgotten.