Coronado's Children and the Pirate Laffite Part 1

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Manage episode 259289868 series 89785
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Some lost treasures are legendary because of what is hidden. Some are legendary because of who did the hiding. Both types of captivating tales are found in the book Coronado’s Children. Published in 1930 and written by Texas folklorist and author J. Frank Dobie, Coronado’s Children is an enthralling collection of stories about buried treasure, Old West capers, and the often dangerous quest for a fleeting fortune by adventurous characters. Usually a blend of documented events and dubious oral history, these stories are not merely Tall Tales but testaments of a pioneering spirit that furthered the exploration of the American southwest and was foundational to the United States as a country. One such account that stood out to us was the legend of Jean Laffite and his brother Pierre. Spelled “Laffite” by the brothers themselves, but recorded in contemporary official US documents as “Lafitte,” theirs is a chronicle that begins and ends in mystery and everything in-between became firmly entrenched in the early history of Louisiana and Texas, from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Arriving in New Orleans around the time of the Louisana Purchase in 1803 from debated origins, the Laffite brothers soon established a blacksmith shop in the French Quarter, which still stands today. Not long after, they realized the real profit would come from using the shop to “fence” pirated goods stolen by the privateers who preyed on Spanish merchant ships in Barataria Bay. Using their natural business acumen, the Laffites would expand their criminal enterprises enough to make themselves some of the richest and most powerful men in the region. Even when their flagrant operations had threatened the sovereignty of the US government, Jean Laffite was able to gain at least temporary pardon and acclaim by greatly aiding then General Andrew Jackson to victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans. In a career of contradictions and double-dealings, Jean Laffite would enjoy such occupations as a prominent businessman, smuggler, military hero, spy, slave trader, and criminal mastermind, but popular opinion regards him most generally as a pirate, a moniker he detested. Whatever his actual life story is and the fate of his amassed fortune, his legacy is perhaps best described by J. Frank Dobie as, “Legend, Paradox, Mystery.”
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