No need to blink twice, you read right! There were pirates in Coloane and not that long ago either. Unlike their Caribbean counterparts, the pirates of the Coloane were not as flamboyant.
Truthfully, for much of the 19th century, piracy was very common. In 1910, considerable efforts were put into saving a group of Chinese children kidnapped by pirates. These pirates lived off extorting the many fishermen villages along the coast. It is thought that they offered protection in exchange of money and would occasionally attack smaller boats for bounty. Historians believed that they were fishermen who, in times of need, turned to piracy to make ends meet.
Kidnapped children and the bombing of Coloane
In the summer of 1910, the Colonial government was forced to take action. However, it was seen affairs that would normally not fall under the Portuguese jurisdiction. Officially, it says that the owner of a Macanese newspaper contacted the Portuguese governor at the time after receiving a complaint. This version is contested by some Chinese historians by the way. This complaint was that a group of 18 Chinese children had been kidnapped by a band of pirates.
After the pirates retreated to Coloane, the governor decided to employ considerable force as the group was extremely well-armed and organized. The incident was not taken lightly by Canton, who saw it as a provocation. Coloane was not part of the Portuguese enclave and the Chinese government saw it as an attack.
There’s a monument in the main square of the village, just in front of St. Xavier church of Coloane. If you look closely, there’s small text written in Portuguese and Chinese on it. The text refers to the “glorious efforts” of the Portuguese army on the 13th of July 1910. In fact, 45 men plus a gunboat called “Macau” was brought specifically from Hong Kong and attacked the island on that day.
The fight went on for 10 days and stopped when Marques sent word to Lisbon. The message was that all of the 310 pirates had either been captured of fled the island for good. Coloane was bombed as a result and some of its inhabitants incarcerated, charged with helping the pirates. All 18 children were saved and sent to the hospital São Rafael which is the Portuguese Consulate today.
Official exchanges within the government prove that, to some extent, the Portuguese government did see Coloane as part of its territory. Therefore, they saw no need for expansion. However, to this day, several sources suggest that this was not the view of neither the inhabitants nor the Canton government. Macau is a unique city whose population, beliefs and even history seem to exist and cohabit parallel realities. We believe this is a major part of its charm.
Feature photo credit: Hoje Macau