Pirates and Corsairs

The island suffered violent attacks by pirates and buccaneers, and the cruelest of them all was the one that happened between the 16th and the 27th of August 1617, perpetrated by an Algerian fleet of eight ships. 900 inhabitants were taken to Algiers, leaving behind only 18 men and 7 women who hid in caves in the hills and “matamorras”, which are grain stores that were dug in the floors of some houses.

Their vulnerability was aggravated by the extreme abandonment by the populations, their geographical isolation and the length of the beach that facilitated the attacks and made surveillance difficult. The only remaining surveillance place was from Pico do Facho, which signaling was made by day through bundles of branches and at night by burning torches and bonfires.

Military resources were always scarce and the first true bastion of the island, the São José Fort, was built already in the eighteenth century, in the time of Marquês de Pombal. This was joined by two defensive positions in Pico Castelo.

The main purpose of these attacks was to capture Christians to be sold as slaves. Embodied and young men, women in fecund and eligible age, as well as children, were chosen for being an easier carrier of the propagation of faith.

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