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Sep 27, 2005

Pirate museum looks at unique part of nation’s heritage

Story PictureAs many of us seek to delve deeper into our ethnic and cultural roots, there’s one body of early Belizeans that seems to have been lost in the shuffle. I’m talking about those much-maligned seafarers called pirates. And while it’s doubtful that any modern-day citizen of the Jewel will be agitating for pirate’s rights, one family is proudly waving the skull and crossbones.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Pirates have invaded Fort Point, thanks to the efforts of the Gonzalez family of Corozal. The Jolly Roger was hoisted in March of this year as the history buffs sought to create a museum dedicated to the life of a pirate.

Artie Gonzalez, Proprietor, The Pirate Museum
“When the tourists get off the boat, they really aren’t interested in buying anything as much as experiencing Belize. They say: I can take a tour anywhere because I want to see what the people are like, what’s the history, what’s the feel. So that was the whole idea behind this, just to be a cultural exchange between the people off the boat and Belize.”

Catering mainly to cruise ship passengers, the idea is to inform and entertain visitors about the Belizean connection to the Caribbean’s most notorious occupation.

Roberta Gonzalez, Proprietor, The Pirate Museum
“What does Paul Revere have in common with Belize? The most famous church in the United States, the old North Church in Boston we all learn as school children in the U.S., The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the poem, and the wood for the steeple came from the Baymen here in Belize. And so when I called the Old North Church to ask for information I said thank you for your help and they said, hey, thank you for your steeple. And they actually have a Bay Pew in the church and anybody from Belize can identify themselves and has a special place to sit in the Old North Church.”

With her reefs offering perfect shelter to sea faring bounty hunters, it is believed that Belize was a pirate’s playground.

Dalton Gonzalez, Pirate Researcher
“I’m working on a book about the pirates of Belize and I tell about the famous pirates that came here, like Sir Henry Morgan. We have a hotel named after him in San Pedro called Captain Morgan’s Retreat, but few people know that Belize itself was Captain Morgan’s retreat and there’s legends about him here. Also, two famous pirates, Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet, came to Belize and spent a week on Turneffe having a party. We call it Pirates’ Spring Break in Belize.”

Today visitors to the Pirate Museum can play dress up, drink free rum, and check out the competition, just like the old good days.

Lorraine Ack, Manager, The Pirate Museum
“They would stand and look around, read all the facts and they say, oh wow, we nevah know pirates were here in the Caribbean as well, even Belize. So, they love the rum, they love the costumes, they love the posters on the wall, they do love it.”

The museum is still a work in progress with expansion plans set to include displays exhibiting the feats of female pirates. And speaking of pirates and women, the proprietors say research has dug up some interesting possibilities.

Lorraine Gonzalez
“Blackbeard is called the King of Pirates. He was probably the most famous pirate and he hung out in Belize and a lot of people don’t know this. My son plays that part of Blackbeard, that’s the character he does. Blackbeard had sixteen wives all up and down the Caribbean. So we like to say that a lot of people walking around Belize could be the great, great, great, great grandsons and granddaughters of the King of Pirates, Blackbeard.”

Entrance to the museum is free of cost.


Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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