Facts of Latin American History

Separating Myth from Reality

Historians often have to separate fact from fiction in their work. This can be hard to do, as often sources are scarce, compormised or inaccurate. It only becomes more difficult when a person becomes a legend like Blackbeard or a folk hero like Pancho Villa. Here are some famous Latin American people and events and the truth behind the myths.

Pancho Villa
Pancho Villa. Photo by Casasola

Pancho Villa was a Mexican warlord who had his own private army during the Mexican Revolution. His unique combination of charisma, cleverness and ruthlessness made him a force to be reckoned with and a hero to the common man. Villa has become a legend: here we will separate the myth from reality. More »

Captain Henry Morgan
Captain Henry Morgan. Artist Unknown

Everyone loves pirates! They had peg legs, hook hands, drank rum and buried gold everywhere. Right? Not so fast! Turns out that much of what you know about pirates is wrong. More »

Christopher Columbus. Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, 1520
Let's see...Christopher Columbus persuaded Queen Isabela to sell her personal jewelry to finance his journey, which he undertook to prove that the world was round, not flat. He discovered America and then went home and told everyone he had found a New World. Right? Actually, all of that is wrong...including his name. Learn more! More »
Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts. Engraving by Benjamin Cole (1695-1766)
Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts was perhaps the greatest of the pirates of the so-called "Golden Age of Piracy," which lasted roughly from 1700 to 1725. During his brief career, he took hundreds of ships and made a fortune before falling in battle. Who was this ruthless man? More »
Olmec Colossal Head
Olmec Colossal Head. Photo by Maricarmen Ramirez

At the dawn of Mesoamerican Civilization, the mysterious Olmec culture developed along Mexico's Gulf Coast. The Olmec were masterful sculptors and their society paved the way for many more to come. More »

The Death of Montezuma
The Death of Montezuma. Painting by Charles Ricketts (1927)

Montezuma, Emperor of the Aztecs, failed his people when they needed him most by not realizing the threat posed by Hernan Cortes and his band of ruthless conquistadors in 1519. There is much, much more to the story of Montezuma, however. Fact #4: he was a great warrior and general! More »

The Ancient Maya were once considered one of the more mysterious cultures of the ancient cultures of Mexico, stargazers who built majestic cities in the dense jungles of the Yucatan. Much research has been done on them, however, and a new picture of their civilization is coming to light. Who were the ancient Maya, and why did they disappear so suddenly? More »

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Blackbeard and the Queen Anne's Revenge. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Blackbeard was, by all accounts, neither the most ruthless nor the most successful pirate of his generation. He may have been the most feared, however, and it is his name which has become synonymous with piracy to this day, centuries after his death. What was different about Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, legendary pirate? More »

Simon Bolivar
Simon Bolivar.

When you're as legendary a man as Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of northern and western South America, sometimes facts tend to get a little misplaced. Who was Simon Bolivar, what did he do and why do South American politicians still fight over his political legacy? More »