BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Tread lightly in this part of the country. There are rumors of pirates and in particular the ghost of Jean Lafitte.
Jean Lafitte was born in Bordeaux, France or Santo Domingo which is modern day Haiti. One thing is for certain, as a young boy he and his family traveled from Santo Domingo to the New Orleans area in the 1820’s.
Jean and his brother, Pierre, took on an immediate business of piratry and became very, very good at it. The one island that he settled on was perfect for piratry.
He was a thorn in the side of the U.S. customs agency at the time because he would bring in merchandise that should have been banned by the Embargo Act of 1808. He would slip it in and send it out into the New Orleans area without paying duty.
Lafitte had gained the ire of Louisiana Governor William Claiborne but there was a war coming on with the British and Andrew Jackson was smart enough to take this man, his crew and his boats. With all of that they became the United States Navy and saved New Orleans.
After the war with Britain the next war on the horizon was Mexico with Spain. Lafitte was hired by Spain to be a spy against Mexico. As any good pirate would do, he switched around and got to a point where he was robbing Spanish vessels on his way down to this area.
At the time he came through around 1821, 1822 it was very primitive here and on the old charts there were four wells. The water well in Laguna Vista is one of them and Lafitte had to have drunk water with his men at this well.
Jean Lafitte’s real resting place in this area, his home was in Playa Bagdad at the mouth of the Rio Grande River. It was perfect for pirating because Lafitte could go up the river and settle.
The waters of the Gulf of Mexico were very lucrative for John Lafitte until Spain’s war with Mexico. The revolution cut off his lifeline and there were no longer treasure vessels going around the coast and back to Spain.
Lafitte decided to go for greener pastures. He through this area and went on his way to the Caribbean. The likelihood of you being intercepted by a pirate’s vessel was pretty good in those days and the rest is history.