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. 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
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.
also map of Los Roques.