Explorers from Spain, Portugal, and France of the sixteenth century found many strange customs among the people whom they encountered along the coasts of South America and on the islands of the Caribbean.
Some of these they were able to adopt to their own advantage. One of the latter was a simple method for drying or smoking meat.
In this, four posts were set in the ground, with a wooden grating or grid for the meat set over the top, at sufficient height to be above the flames of a fire beneath. It was, no doubt, similar to the structure which the natives of Haiti called barbacoa (see BARBECUE).
French explorers then picked up the name, perhaps from the natives along other shores, as boucan. The device was easy to build and convenient to use. So French navigators, hunters, and explorers took to it quickly.
Those who used it called themselves boucaniers. But when French pirates began to replace the earlier navigators in the seventeenth century, boucanier, which had already become buccaneer in English, was the innocent name which they adopted for themselves.
It was through these buccaneers, sea rovers, or pirates, that western Haiti was wrested from Spanish control in 1697.