Dutch Admiral Piet Hein’s conquest of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628 still speaks to the imagination. He took advantage of the lack of wind to lure the Spanish fleet—with its precious cargo of South American silver destined to finance mercenary armies in Europe—into Cuba’s Bay of Matanzas, where the ships ran aground on sandbanks. After firing a salvo of shots across the bow, the Dutch boarded and the Spanish surrendered, without a single fatality. The booty included 177,000 pounds of silver, 66 pounds of gold, 1,000 pearls, 37,375 animal hides, 361 cases of sugar, and 3,000 sacks of indigo and carmine dyes.
Villagers in Aragon, Spain commemorate this naval battle with a masked dance. Artist Dick Verdult films this ritual as an over-the-top costume drama, accompanied by electronic music, lending a comical tone to this tale of strategic deceit and ignoble loss. Praise is heaped upon both the winning and the losing party in this violence-free conflict, which eventually freed two continents from war.