Los Roques In The Colonial Time. Hot
Discovery and colonial times.
Little is known on the activities done by man in Los Roques in times of discovery and European conquest. There is no doubt that previous to the discovery these islands had already been sighted by European navigators. However, it was not until 1589 when the then governor of the Venezuelan province ordered the formal take over of these islands on behalf of the colony. In the beaches of Los Roques and other Venezuelan islands, wood crosses were set up and mass was held. These acts could have been originated by the need to strengthen the defense of the Venezuelan coast form the constant incursions of filibusters (Pirates). However, apparently there were no effective follow up actions and they were merely political actions done by colonial authorities. As a matter of fact during colonial times, these islands never became part of the socioeconomic texture of the mainland province.
As a result of official neglect, Los Roques and other adjacent islands were visited by pearl searchers and pirates. The former did not find pearls in Los Roques and the latter did find a perfect refuge and ideal beaches for the overhauling of their ships. It is a paradox that we owe William Dampier, English buccaneer of the XVII century, the most interesting description of Los Roques, its landscape and its fauna.
During the XVI and until XVIII centuries salt was one of the most coveted resources in world markets and its exploitation in Venezuelan salt mines was strictly controlled by colonial authorities.
The salt mines in Cayo Sal, located in the southwest of Los Roques archipelago had been exploited from pre Hispanic times. However, it was not until the late XVIII century that colonial authorities set up a small customs house in this island to charge for the extraction rights of this resource.
In the western part of the island there are still dikes built of coral stones that crossed inside lagoons and made salt production easier. On the shores of one of these lagoons, great amounts of coral stones were found which turned out to be the foundations of a small wooden rectangular house. Behind the house a dump was found with a wide variety of waste food, fragments of Spanish ceramics, cutlery, pots and tools. It all seems to indicate that these are the remains of the above mentioned customs house and the extraction of salt during the latter part of the XVIII century.