Today, Tampa, Florida will be “invaded” by pirates. Every year about this time, Tampa celebrates the Gasparilla Pirate Fest notionally in honor of Jose Gaspar, reputed to be the “Last Buccaneer.” It is described as “a swashbuckling good time” involving silly costumes, parade floats and heavy drinking. This has been going on in Tampa since around 1904, when some of the city’s elite formed the ‘Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla’ and staged a mock invasion by Jose Gaspar and his crew.
Who was Jose Gaspar? He is claimed to be a pirate who is said to have raided the west coast of Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In fact, he is entirely fictional. There is no historical record of his existence and the first stories of his exploits did not appear until the 20th century. At least no one is claiming that he sailed with a ship full of cannibal rats, not yet anyway.