Although not the only Cuban city to suffer constant attacks from pirates, irresistibly wealthy Camagüey was one consistently plagued, with buccaneers regularly rampaging through the city before retiring to the northern cays or the Isla de la Juventud to hide their spoils. To confound pirates, the centre of Camagüey was built as a web of narrow and twisted streets rather than the usual colonial city plan, with roads laid out in a regular grid pattern; however, the design did not deter the invaders, who left many legends in their wake. The first pirate to arrive was the singularly unpleasant Frenchman Jacques de Sores in 1555, who roamed the farms on the north coast stealing cows, cheese and women. (These last he would abandon violated in Cayo Coco to the mercy of the elements.) In 1668, English buccaneer Henry Morgan – the terror of the Caribbean seas – and his men managed to occupy the city for several days before making off with a hefty booty of gold and jewels belonging to the Spanish bourgeoisie. With a dashing show of irreverence, he is also reputed to have locked the town elders into the Catedral de Santa Iglesia to starve them into revealing the whereabouts of their riches. Struggling to reassert itself eleven years later, in 1679 the city fell prey to the wiles of another Frenchman, François de Granmont. Nicknamed El Caballero (the gentleman), he sacked the city and captured fourteen women. After nearly a month of occupying the town he marched to the coast and released all the women unharmed, thus earning his nickname.

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