The Legend of the Treasure of Matanceros

The founder of Akumal, Pablo Bush Romero, wrote the following high-adventure, historically founded piece of literature. His daughter, Laura Bush Wolfe, of Club Akumal Caribe and Lol Ha Restaurant, provided this chapter in Pablo Bush’s book, Under the Waters of Mexico, to Sac-Be to be printed in August 2004.

Below is the legend of the Treasure of Matanceros, which Carlos Vidal transcribes as he heard it from several old residents of Cozumel. The participants, sea captains Patricio Rivera (now deceased) and Don Claudio Canto, are people very well known on the island.

crew unloading boat
In the year 1900 the schooner Libertad, belonging to Captain D. Patricio Rivera, was sailing through the waters of the Caribbean trading with the Indians, who at that time inhabited the coasts of the Territory of Quintana Roo and the Island of Cozumel. Their schooner was going as far as the English Colony of Belize.

During one of those trips, as they were leaving the docks of the Port of Belice, a Frenchman approached them wanting to see if the captain could take him to the coast of Quintana Roo, saying that he was willing to pay for his passage by working on board as a sailor. As the ship needed another seaman, the captain had no objection to taking him on.

Once on board, the Frenchman learned that the schooner was headed for a place called Ináh, situated opposite the coast of the Island of Cozumel, where a boat had run afoul loaded with logwood, which at that time had great value in the colonies where they traded. Then the Frenchman asked the captain if they would pass by a place called "Matanceros." The captain answered that they would pass close to it, as it was on the way to Ináh. But, they could not land and go ashore at this place since it was very close to the Indians of Tulum, who were constantly at war with those they called "Mexicans" or "Huaches." He said that they only traded with the English, but they would find some way of coming as close as possible to the place so the Frenchman would have a chance to see it. Then the Frenchman told the captain and the rest of the crew that he had a map he was willing to share with them, showing the place where a ship, which was supposedly English and which had traded with the Indians of Brasil, had run aground when a tempest had forced them to come close to the shore; when the crew went ashore and hid the great treasure they were carrying in a safe place, they were nearly all killed by the Indians who inhabited that area. Only one of them was saved, who later made the map.

map of the Central American Caribbean coast

While the schooner was cruising around the lighthouse of Punta Herrero, in the Bay of Espiritu Santo, they found a canoe belonging to fishermen who told them that in the shoals of Chinchorro, a boat had run afoul loaded with merchandise and it had been abandoned. So, the captain decided to change his course and set out for Chinchorro, where they actually found the ship and transferred the merchandise to the schooner with the intention to sell it in Belice. On the way, the Frenchman unfortunately came down with a fever and on arrival at port had to be placed in a hospital.

The ship's cook, who was only a child and who did not know what the Frenchman had told the captain and the rest of the crew, gathered all the French-man's belongings together among them the map of the treasure and stuck them in a bag which he took to the hospital where the Frenchman was interned.

The captain of the schooner decided to return immediately for Chinchorro to see if there was still time to take from the wreck whatever remained, telling the Frenchman that on his return he expected to find him well so that they could go and look for the famous treasure.

On his return the captain was met with the sad news that the Frenchman had died and that several days before his death a sailor had come to take his bag and belongings, and no one knew who this man was.

The captain bewailed the loss of the map, which he had held in his hands and seen with his own eyes. Time passed. The captain continued to trade with the Indians and the colonials, until one day he was called urgently by one of the sailors who had been a member of his crew when the Frenchman had sailed with them.

The Story Continues >>>

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