- “Find it, we did. There be the chest. Inside be the gold. And we took 'em all. We spent 'em and traded 'em and frittered 'em away on drink and food and pleasurable company. The more we gave 'em away, the more we came to realize...the drink would not satisfy, food turned to ash in our mouths, and all the pleasurable company in the world could not slake our lust. We are cursed men, Miss Turner. Compelled by greed, we were, but now...we are consumed by it.”
- ―Hector Barbossa to Elizabeth Swann[src]
The Treasure of Cortés is a storied treasure featured in the 2003 film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It consists of 882 pieces of cursed Aztec gold in a stone chest. When the original attraction was revamped in 2006, the stone chest was added to the Disneyland ride.
According to legends, the Aztecs delivered the stone chest as blood money to stem the slaughter that conquistador Hernán Cortés wreaked upon with his armies. But because the gold fueled Cortés' greed, a curse was placed upon the gold: any mortal that removes a piece from the stone chest shall be damned to walk the earth as an undead gorror. The Aztec curse could be broken only if all the gold coins were restored and the blood repaid. The treasure ultimately ended up on Isla de Muerta, hidden from the world. Subsequent to becoming cursed, the crew of the Black Pearl partakes in Hector Barbossa's quest to return all the scattered pieces of the Aztec gold, including a medallion owned by either Will Turner or Elizabeth Swann. After the curse was lifted, Isla de Muerta was claimed by the sea, along with the treasure.
While the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was conquering the Aztec Empire, he was given 882 identical pieces of Aztec gold in a stone chest as "blood money paid to stem the slaughter he wreaked upon them with his armies." But instead of satisfying Cortés, it merely fueled his greed. So the heathen gods place a terrible curse upon the gold. Ultimately, the treasure of Cortés would end up in the caves of Isla de Muerta, an island of the dead that could only be found by those who knew where it was.
Isla de Muerta is specified as "an island of death" in the film's first screenplay draft, in which its history is expanded: a ship carrying Cortés' treasure ran aground on the island, all but one of its crew dead. The lone survivor hid the treasure ashore before dying. Over time, the dark magic of the treasure cursed the island itself over time.
The Aztec Curse
Because the greed of Cortés was insatiable, the heathen gods placed a curse upon the gold: any mortal who removed a piece of the gold from the chest would be punished for eternity. Those cursed were doomed to live forever as the undead, the moonlight eerily transforming them into living skeletons. The only way to lift the curse was to return all the Aztec gold pieces to the chest and a blood debt repaid to the heathen gods.
A reference to the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride was the dialogue, which would be the base of the Aztec curse:
- No fear have ye of evil curses, says you? Arrrgh... Properly warned ye be, says I. Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure?
The curse only affected those who specifically stole a gold piece from the chest. When a cursed individual steals from the chest, no new curse has been given. This is particularly noted after Barbossa used Elizabeth to lift the curse when, after returning the coin, he grabbed it straight from the chest and gave it to Elizabeth.
Throughout the first part of the film, the cursed treasure of Cortés was only mentioned several scenes. After rescuing a shipwrecked survivor named Will Turner, young Elizabeth Swann took a gold medallion from Will's neck, believing it to be a pirate medallion, and hid it from Norrington's men. Eight years later, while cursed pirates invaded Fort Charles, an imprisoned Jack Sparrow learned of the pirates' curse when he was grabbed in the moonlight. Aboard the Black Pearl, Captain Barbossa told Elizabeth, now his captive, a "ghost story" behind the medallion. One of 882 identical pieces of Aztec gold delivered in a stone chest to Cortés himself, it was blood money paid to stem the slaughter he wreaked upon them with his armies. But because Cortés' greed was insatiable, the heathen gods placed a terrible curse upon the gold. Barbossa also told of how he and his crew found and spent the treasure but learned too late that it was cursed, leaving them unable to satisfy their desires, and turning them into immortal skeletal beings whose true forms are revealed under moonlight. The curse can be lifted if the gold is returned, with a sacrifice of each pirate's blood. William "Bootstrap Bill" Turner, Jack Sparrow's only supporter during the mutiny aboard the Black Pearl led by Barbossa, sent a coin to his son, Will, believing the crew should remain cursed. Barbossa had Bootstrap tied to a cannon and thrown overboard, before realizing that his blood was needed to break the curse.
At Isla de Muerta, Jack Sparrow and Will Turner watched as Barbossa, believing Elizabeth is Bootstraps' child, anoints the last coin with her blood. But Barbossa and his crew then realize that Elizabeth was not the one they needed. As the cursed pirates argued among themselves, Will rescues Elizabeth and they escape to the Interceptor, leaving Jack behind. Ultimately, the Black Pearl was able to defeated the Interceptor and imprison its crew, and Will Turner handed himself over to Barbossa's crew. Barbossa agrees, but before returning to Isla de Muerta, he maroons Elizabeth and Jack on the same island Jack had been left on ten years earlier. However the two escaped the island by signaling the HMS Dauntless, and were able to convince Commodore Norrington to help rescue Will.
Returning to Isla de Muerta, Barbossa's crew prepared to perform the blood ritual once again. But before they could spill Will's blood, Barbossa's crew were in shock upon seeing Captain Jack Sparrow himself entering the cavern and persuades Barbossa to form an alliance, telling him to delay breaking the curse until they have taken the Dauntless, now moored off the coast of the island. Jack's plan goes amiss when Barbossa orders his undead crew to infiltrate the Dauntless from underwater. However, while Norrington discovered the Dauntless under attack, Jack frees Will before dueling with Barbossa, while Will fights Barbossa's remaining crewmen. Barbossa stabs Jack in the chest, but discovers that Jack is also immortal; he had stolen one of the cursed gold pieces while talking to Barbossa. Meanwhile, Elizabeth escapes and heads to the island alone to save Will. Near the end of the battle, when Barbossa attempts to kill Elizabeth, Jack shoots Barbossa in the heart as Will drops the last two coins, stained with his and Jack's blood, into the chest. Now mortal, Barbossa says, "I feel...cold," before he dies.
Back aboard the Dauntless, realizing the curse had been lifted, the remaining members of Barbossa's crew surrendered to Norrington's men. Meanwhile, Jack goes through the non-cursed treasure in the cave as Will and Elizabeth decided to return aboard the Dauntless.
The post credits scene takes place at Isla de Muerta, where Barbossa's dead body can be seen. Barbossa's pet monkey, Jack swims into the treasure cave and steals a gold coin from the chest, thus cursing itself once again.
By the events of Dead Man's Chest, it's learned that Isla de Muerta was reclaimed by the sea, taking with it both the cursed treasure and the hidden swag collected by Barbossa's crew. Only Barbossa's pet monkey Jack (now undead) survived this ordeal and found itself aboard the Black Pearl. The corpse of Hector Barbossa himself was only retrieved due to the intervention of the mystic Tia Dalma, who also restored him to life by the end of the film.
The cursed treasure appears in the game. The nature of the cursed coins were actually further explained in Kingdom Hearts II. Luxord explains that darkness of men's hearts is drawn to the medallions, which he is able to use to create a "Grim Reaper" Heartless from. The Heartless created from the curse had the ability to curse those who had no contact with the medallions.
The cursed treasure appears in the game.
The cursed treasure appears in the game.
The Cortés' treasure was based on the talk of a "cursed treasure" from the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride, particularly from the line, "Who knows when that evil curse will strike the greedy beholders of this bewitched treasure." In the 2006 revamp of the Disney ride, the stone chest from The Curse of the Black Pearl would appear in the treasure-filled caves of Dead Man's Cove as one of the movie-related media that was added into the ride.
Notes and references
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