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Moses Cohen Henriques (born in 1595) was a Dutch pirate of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish origin, operating in the Caribbean. The total haul of his raid on the Spanish is estimated to be about 1 billion USD in today's value.[1][2][3]


Early life

Henriques was born to a Converso family. His family was forced to convert to Christianity.[3]His family immigrated at a certain stage to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the family returned to their Jewish faith.[3]

Dutch Navy and privateer

Henriques helped Dutch naval officer and folk hero Admiral Piet Pieterszoon Hein, of the Dutch West India Company, rising in the ranks and become Hein's right hand man. He helped Pieterszoon Hein capture the Spanish treasure fleet in the battle of the Bay of Matanzas of the Cuban coast, during the Eighty Years' War, in 1628.[1]

Part of the Spanish fleet in Venezuela had been warned because a Dutch cabin boy had lost his way on Blanquilla Island and was captured, betraying the plan, but the other half from Mexico continued its voyage, unaware of the threat. Sixteen Spanish ships were intercepted; one galleon was taken after a surprise encounter during the night, nine smaller merchants were talked into a surrender; two small ships were taken at sea fleeing, four fleeing galleons were trapped on the Cuban coast in the Bay of Matanzas. After some musket volleys from Dutch sloops their crews surrendered also and the Dutch captured 11,509,524 Dutch guilders of booty in gold, silver, and other expensive trade goods, such as indigo and cochineal, without any bloodshed. The Dutch did not take prisoners: they gave the Spanish crews ample supplies for a march to Havana.

Dutch colony in Brazil

Henriques after the war went to scout the Portugese colony of Pernamcumbo in the Brazilian coast. He did this as a spy, in preparation for a Dutch invasion.[3]

Henriques then went on to lead a Jewish contingent in Brazil as part of the Dutch invasion in 1630. He led a contingent of 3000 men to capture the colony. Henriques was instrumental in turning the area into an area for Jewish refuge, During the Dutch rule, Henriques was one of those who brought a rabbi to the colony, the first in the new world. as well as built the first mikve and synagogue (the kahal zur Israel syanagogue) in the new world. However in 1954, when the Portugese recaptured the area, Henriques and other Jews fled the area because of the restart of persecution of Jews by the Portugese.[4]


After the Portuguese Empire's recapture of Northern Brazil in 1654, Moses fled South America and in order to survive difficult times ended up as a trusted advisor to Henry Morgan, the leading pirate of the time. He established his own pirate island off the Brazilian coast, in order to take revenge against the Spanish and the Portugese.[2]Even though his role as a pirate was disclosed during the Spanish Inquisition, he was never caught and never faced trial.[1][2][3]

After the English conquest of Jamaica, Henriques came to the island and lived there. In Jamaica, Henriques helped establish the Jewish community in Jamaica. Henry Morgan, who became the governor of Jamaica gave Henriques a full pardon in 1681.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Moses Henriques - Jewish Pirate -". Retrieved 2023-12-30.
  2. ^ a b c "The Jewish Pirates Who Ruled the Caribbean". Mental Floss. 2015-06-03. Retrieved 2024-01-02.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Week, Jew of the (2021-12-29). "Jew of the Week: Moses Cohen Henriques | Jew of the Week". Retrieved 2024-01-08.
  4. ^ Week, Jew of the (2021-12-29). "Jew of the Week: Moses Cohen Henriques | Jew of the Week". Retrieved 2024-01-15.