Known as “The Grand Archvillain” Don Miguel Enriquez was a famous Puerto Rican entrepreneur, pirate hunter, pirate, and privateer during the early 18th century.
Enriquez was born during the 1670s or 1680s to a free mulatto named Graciana Enriquez. His father is the subject of discussion with it often being considered someone of influence–particularly of Catholic clergy–who could force Graciana’s silence. Of Graciana’s four children Miguel Enriquez was the youngest.
Of his education, Enriquez learned to read and write very early. He was also a talented craftsman as a child working as a shoemaker at 10 years old. As a teenager, he entered the military and served in an all-mulatto unit. Enriquez had affairs with many local women and fathered several children.
ENTRY TO PRIVATEERING
During this period in Puerto Rico, there was a campaign to take out foreign pirates operating in the island’s waters. Governor Gutierrez, a military man of reputation, was installed partially because he would be effective at tackling such a problem. Basically, he was a wartime leader and he had a plan for the Spanish crown: a union of privateers and a semi-navy to protect the protect the colony’s coast.
With a letter of marque and little disregard for one’s life and lives of their crew, privateering could make a brave soul very wealthy. Gutierrez’s suggestion was for the system was that privateers took a ship armed and fitted to take out and plunder pirate ships. Half of the gains went to Spain while the rest went to the crew. Spain green lit the experiment and the ship’s construction occurred between 1704 and 1707.
It’s unknown exactly the degree of Miguel Enriquez’s experience in seafaring and naval combat. During the early 1700s, he was doing work in a similar capacity for Governor Gutierrez. During this period he had been awarded a letter of marque which meant he could hunt pirate ships and the enemies of the Spanish crown. It was this second target that would bring in fistfuls of cash for Puerto Rico and Enriquez.
Another reason he was picked: he was mulatto. If things got messy between and a political incident could be caused the governor had his scapegoat ready. As it would happen, Enriquez excelled at this task as well.
While he didn’t have a great deal of naval experience to start, the experience he picked up and his mind for business resulted in huge gains for everyone involved. Since the 1700s was a hotbed for pirate activity each of the European superpowers of the time had a stake in the Caribbean. As a result, Governor Gutierrez kept Enriquez and other Spanish-aligned privateers on alert for an invasion, especially from Britain.
This caused an uptick in activity around Puerto Rico and a double-sided coin situation. On one side: he had a letter of marque and was in service to the Crown. The other side: he was merely a pirate who was a little too effective at his job.