It wasn’t long before pirates got word that hundreds of Spanish ships were moving through the Bay of Honduras and those pirates began attacking the ships and raiding the settlements for all of the gold and valuables they could carry. The famous Dutch pirate, Van Horne led most of the raids while both English and French pirates joined the plundering. Some descendants of these early pirates still live on the island today in the village of Port Royal.
Soon after the initial pirate raids, the Spanish sent war ships to rid the island region of pirates. In 1650, under the command of Francisco Villalva Toledo, they attacked. The pirates were successful in defending Port Royal, that is, until the Spanish returned with reinforcements and conquered the port for their own. Then, in 1742, the English settled Roatan once again and held the Spanish off for 30 years. During this time, they created new villages, many which still stand today, just under different names including Calkett’s Hole, now called Coxen Hole and Falmouth Harbor, which is now called Oak Ridge.The Spanish eventually regained control over the island in 1782 when they destroyed most of the villages in their raids. While this prompted the English to leave the island in 1788, their return in 1827 marked a new era for Roatan. With slavery outlawed and much of the local region in ruins from raids, over farming and increased population growth, it looked as though things would settle down on Roatan, at least for a while anyway.
While ownership of the island has changed hands several times during its history, it became known for its fruit and sugar cane crops rather than its embattled past. Today, Roatan’s primary source of income is tourism as it welcomes thousands of tourists to its shores every year. There are still many pirate stories and tales about the many ghosts which still populate the areas where pirate treasure is thought to be buried.
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