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Who was Josť Gaspar?
Spanish pirate Josť Gaspar, who was also known by the
nickname Gasparilla, is said to have been actively involved in pirating and
pillaging during the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth
He has since then passed into legend and the Gasparilla Pirate
Festival celebrates him annually in Tampa, Florida which was one of the places
he was said to have raided and where he is a very popular legend.
Gaspar was said to have served in the Spanish navy on which it is perpetrated
that he led a mutiny sparking him to embark on his pirating career. His initial
crimes are said to have involved kidnapping a maiden for the ransom money and
some to have involved plans to burgle the crown jewels. A jilted lover is
alleged to have spun untrue yarns of his crimes to exact revenge which is later
said to have resulted in his arrest, escape and the exacting of his own revenge
on the nation by turning to piracy.
Stated as having had his own island called Gasparilla Island is the Gulf of
Mexico where he hoarded his wealth of raided treasures. He killed male prisoners
and kept women prisoners as potential concubines/slaves or held them for ransom
Another legend interwoven with the legend of Gasparilla is the one of Useppa or
Josefa. A young lady often said to be a Spanish princess she was reportedly
carried off by Gasparilla but refused his advances. In a fit of rage he beheaded
her and it is said her headless ghost still wanders Gasparilla Island's beaches
apparently searching for her head. The Old Port Boca Grande Lighthouse is near
her haunting ground and is also reportedly haunted by yet another ghost, the
daughter of one of the innkeepers.
In the year 1821 Gasparilla was ready to retire from piracy but decided to
attempt one last act of piracy. Together with his crew Gasparilla intended to
loot what they though was a British merchant navy ship but what in actuality
turned out to be a pirate hunting vessel. Gasparilla's ship was badly damaged
though the pirate himself decided to take his own life rather than be captured.
In his own words "Gasparilla dies by his own hand, not the enemy's!" He chained
himself to the anchor and jumped to his death in the sea. Juan Gomez was a
pirate of his crew who lived on to propagate the tale of Gasparilla while most
of the others were either killed or captured and then executed.
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