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Context in the story:

Tanto miedo tenía/tuvo explicación en la noticia que corrió/corría como la pólvora desde varios días atrás: el temible pirata holandés Jorge Spitberg se acercaba/acercó por el Pacífico procedente de las costas chilenas, donde había hecho de las suyas. Seguramente con sus cuatro galeones y dos pataches bien artillados, y con ochocientos piratas a bordo, iba a acabar con la ciudad.

What does "había hecho de las suyas" mean?

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Hacer de las suyas means more or less to do something someone usually does, which is kind of inapropriate, but part of their personality and character. It is kind of naughty or bad behaviour. This misbehavior ranges from mischief, pranks or antics to neglectful behavior (drinking, swearing, etc.) to more serious "evil deeds".

El gato ha vuelto a hacer de las suyas. Mira, ha arañado el sofá

Juan ha vuelto a hacer de las suyas, ha llegado a casa borracho a las cuatro de la mañana

So in your contex a pirate is "haciendo de las suyas" which is what pirates usually do and we don't find pleasant looting, attacking ships and the like. You know, pirate stuff. That is what that guy had been doing in the Chilean coast.

So a possible translation would be:

[...] Jorge Spitberg was coming from Chilean coasts, where he had done his evils deeds

  • I concur that the phrase is mainly used for bad or inappropriate behavior. However, note that it can also be used in a positive way in the context of a competition or to depict a boldly character: "El goleador hizo de las suyas y anotó tres tantos"; "Mi padre hizo de las suyas y consiguió un nuevo contrato" – Krauss Jan 6 '17 at 8:49
  • Diego's answer is ok but to add one more example to @Krauss note on the positive sense of the expression it is also used when someone is unstoppable in some activity/sport/competition and can do as he pleases. i.e. Michael Jordan hacía de las suyas en la cancha. Well, being unstoppable and do as he pleases in some activity could also be negative as in the pirates example so I guess that's the full definition. :-) – DGaleano Jan 6 '17 at 14:48

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