HISTORY OF THE TAINO INDIANS
Taíno Indians, a subgroup of the Arawakan Indians (a group of American Indians in northeastern South America), inhabited the Greater Antilles (comprising Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], and Puerto Rico) in the Caribbean Sea at the time when Christopher Columbus' arrived to the New World. The Taíno culture impressed both the Spanish (who observed it) as well as modern sociologists. The report addresses the historical origin, cultural, religious myths and spiritual beliefs, and the Tribe structure of the Cacique Agueybana.
Upon arrival of the Spaniard settlers, Father Payne attempted to convert the Indian population to Christianity, and the Indians were gradually exterminated until the African slaves arrived from Africa. The Arawaks were the original Indians who came from South America. The Arawaks were of great influence on the Tainos. The settlements in the Antilles were in no-sequential order. The report is based on findings by archeologists during several investigations of the remains and artifacts from the Taino Indians found in Ceremonial Parks.
Caribbean, 200-1200 AD
"Pre-Taino" is not an ethnic name but merely a general label for a relative time period. Its usage varies. Here, for simplification, it includes all the Ceramic Age prior to the Taino period, but elsewhere it might refer to only a shorter period immediately before the Taino development.
A distinct migration began when pottery-makers traveled down the Orinoco River in present Venezuela and out to the Caribbean islands, populating islands from Trinidad to Puerto Rico between 500 BC and 200 BC. Islands were not necessarily settled in sequential order. The earliest Virgin Islands Ceramic Age dates so far known are close to AD 200. The ceramic tradition that arrived in the islands with this migration is called the Saladoid Series by archaeologists. It endured for several centuries, until about AD 600-700 in the Virgin Islands.
From approximately AD 600 to 1200, archaeological cultures of the Virgin Islands were not yet well known. There are changes in pottery, other artifacts, food remains, and settlement locations, but the causes and dates of these transitions are still largely undefined. Culture may have gradually evolved from its preceding state, or it possibly received influences from new migrants from South America initiating cultural changes. A new pottery tradition is called Ostionoid, which persists into the Taino period.
Most pre-historians see in these later centuries the beginnings of characteristic Taino cultural traits, at least in the Taino heartland area of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (now occupied by the Dominican Republic and Haiti). Archaeological similarities indicate that the Virgin Islands shared a culture or ethnic identity with eastern Puerto Rico, and perhaps had connections to the Leeward Islands. It is likely that trade and other interactions brought various peoples into contact with one another across longer distances throughout the region as well.
They hunted little mammals or lizards with sticks, and birds with stones. They had domesticated a breed of dog, which they used for hunting and occasionally as food. Since the sea provided them with a great bounty, they developed much more efficient ways of fishing and navigating. On the island favoring sight navigation, they did not embark on long sea faring expeditions as the Polynesians did in the Pacific ocean. If they lived in round dwellings, there also existed in rectangular houses with porches reserved for dignitaries. The art of weaving was highly developed, and the cotton hammock in which they slept was one of the few long lasting contributions they made to European culture. They made good baskets and agricultural tools and sometimes sculpted wooden seats. Their pottery was extremely refined and of real artistic value; even though they ignored the potter's wheel like all pre-Columbian American Indians.
Their clothing was limited to short skirts for women; the cut, color and way of wrapping them indicated their social class and age. Men and women wore ornaments, usually composed of strips of cotton tied up above their knees and around their upper arms.
At their feasts they danced to the sound of flutes and drums. They played a game, somewhat similar to soccer, except that the raw rubber ball had to be tossed with the head, shoulder, elbow or more professionally, by the knee. Their minstrels, called Sambas, sang comical or sad stories of war and/or peace times.
The Arawaks were "animists," which means that they believed in the inner connection of the two worlds (the visible and the invisible one) and in the existence and survival of the soul with the environment (trees, rivers, etc.). They adored the sun, moon, stars, and springs. The Butuous, their respected priests and medicine men, are, according to Metraux, the ancestors of present-day Haiti's "docteurs-papier' or ('Docteur-Feuilles')." The Arawaks believed in eternal life for the virtuous. In Hispaniola they situated their "heaven" in a remote part of the island, where the elected would go to rest and eat the delicious Haitian "apricot." Very little is known abut their political organization. Substantial kingdoms existed and their Kings - the Caciques- exerted absolute power on their subjects.
The quiet and peaceful Arawaks have totally disappeared from the face of the Earth. This was accomplished in a very short time after the arrival of the Europeans. Aside from the animals imported by the Europeans (in particular the pigs) that were left free to roam and devastate the tuberous crop of the Arawaks, many were killed in the defensive wars they undertook to preserve their freedom. Others, after being ruthlessly enslaved and submitted to a meager diet of cassava and sweet potatoes, died from malnutrition and overwork in the mines or plantations. Finally, the rest of them died after contracting European diseases from which they were not immune. Their disappearance was so swift and the need for cheap and able labor was so great that 30 years after Columbus' landing the massive deportation of Africans had started.
Who were the Caribs? They first entered the picture as a rumor that Columbus heard from the Taino. "All the people I have met here," he entered in his diary, "have said that they are greatly afraid of the 'Caniba' or 'Canima'." Actually we cannot know what Columbus was told because he had a remarkable ability for seeing what he wanted to see and hearing what he wanted to hear. And, after all, the Caniba could be "nothing else than the people of the Great Khan, who must be very close by."
Ovideo y Valdez suggested that the word meant 'brave' in the Taino language. As much as a century later 'Carib' was still sometimes used as an adjective to describe different tribes. Thus, in 1620 Vasquez de Espinosa could say: "The island of Granada is thickly peopled with Carib Indians called Camajuyas, which means lightning from heaven, since they are brave and warlike."
By then, somehow, Columbus' 'Caniba' were being called 'Caribe'. The English used 'Caribbees' 'Charibs' or 'Caribs', the French used 'Caraibes' and, for those on the mainland, 'Galibis'. Father Raymond Breton, who lived among the Indians in Dominica from 1641 to 1655, said, however, that the men called themselves 'Callinago' and the women called themselves 'Callipunam'. Today, among anthropologists, the favored name is 'Kalina' but those still living in St. Vincent call themselves 'Garifuna'.
But if the linguists have clouded the issue of Arawaks with their palaver about Arawakan language speakers, they have also demystified the vulgar ideas about the Carib race since we are told these 'Caribs' spoke a dialect of the Arawakan language family. In other words, linguistically the Caribs were really Arawaks and ironically, according to the linguist, Douglas Taylor, "the various but similar words referring to 'Carib' may go back to an ancestral kaniriphuna, meaningful in Arawakan but not, I think, in Cariban."
Either way, such was the impression created by the Lesser Antillians that the Spanish and other Europeans took the matter of their eating humans quite seriously. For instance, the story was spread in the 16th century that some Dominican Caribs, after eating a Spanish friar, all fell ill. Thereafter, the Spanish, whenever they stopped off at the Carib Islands, made sure to dress their sailors in sackcloth just in case. The Caribs, it was thought, found Spaniards to be stringy and grisly, as opposed to the French who were rather delicious and the Dutch who tended to be fairly tasteless.
For all its seeming detail, Spanish knowledge of Kalina culinary habits was actually negligible, far more so than that of the French. It is true that the Kalina and the Lokono raided each other's settlements for captives or revenge. And there was practiced, by both tribes, some degree of ritual cannibalism. In the 17th century account of Adriaan van Berkel who lived with Lokono in Berbice, and the 16th century account of Luisa Navarrete who was a Kalina 'slave' in Dominica, both tribes after successful raids killed one or two male captives in a victory ritual and put pieces of their flesh into the pot. An arm or a leg was preserved to remind them of their hatred of the enemy. That was more or less the extent of it.
There has never been found any archaeological evidence that would indicate widespread and systematic cannibalism, evidence such as scorched human bones, bones with knife or saw cuts or which are unnaturally fractured, or bones widely scattered. Nevertheless, such niceties were less than appreciated by the conquistadors who needed slaves. And if Queen Isabella had in 1503 prohibited any man "to arrest or capture any Indians... or to do them any harm or evil to their persons or possessions," she had also consented to the exception of "a people called Cannibales ...(who) waged war on the Indians who are my vassals, capturing them to eat them as is their custom." What could be more practical for a Spaniard, then, than to discover as many 'Canni-bales' as there were Indians? After all, the Queen had explicitly ordered that "they may be captured and taken to these my Kingdoms and Domains and to other parts and places and be sold."
In her order Isabella specifically mentioned the coast of Tierra Firme in the region of Colombia, an area that was only visited once previously whom Rodrigo de Bastidas had peaceably received. The Queen's information, it seems, had come from Uraba la Cosa who deliberately misled her to justify his 1504 voyage of plunder and slaving from Cumana to Uraba. "If they were cannibals in those days," queried the French pirate- priest Pere Labat (1722) who knew the Caribs of Dominica intimately, "why are they not cannibals now? I have certainly not heard of them eating people, whether Englishmen with whom the Caribs are nearly always fighting, or Allouages Indians of the mainland near the Orinoco with whom they are continually at war."
The symbolic cannibalism, which, it seems, certainly existed, must have declined, ironically, after the Europeans arrived on the scene. Thereafter, war ceased to be a ritual and became a matter of desperation. No Indian needed a white arm or leg to invoke a hatred for the new enemy. By Race and History, Article ID 234
Tainos in the Greater Antilles Caribbean, AD 1200-1500: The dates for this period are widely used general estimates because V.I. sites have not been sufficiently dated to provide more specific information. Much information about the Tainos comes from Spanish accounts. Archaeologists believe it is valid to extrapolate that information back into late prehistoric times for sites that have similar artifacts.
Some archaeological sites of the Virgin Islands have typical Taino traits such as the stone-lined ball court at Salt River on St. Croix. Artifacts from other sites also indicate that these islands were included in the Taino realm at least for some period. The Tainos may have abandoned the V.I. before 1493, however, due to the advancing Island Caribs.
During this time period in the Lesser Antilles, the non-Taino peoples are not well identified. It is likely that they were diverse, with varying ties to South America and established communities possibly struggled to hold territories against an influx of newer immigrants like the Island Caribs.
The name "Taino" was recorded by the early Spanish but did not come into use as an ethnic label until much later. (The Spanish simply used "Indios" or Indians.) Taino evidently was a Tainan word of self-reference, but its relation to a specific social grouping is undetermined.
Taino culture was characterized by advanced political organization, elaborate ceremonial life, and well-developed art. Taino contacts undoubtedly extended to a wide region beyond that which they occupied. Even the Taino heartland, however, was not ethnically homogeneous. On Hispaniola the Spanish reported that a people called the Ciguayo spoke a different language and had a distinct culture, restricted to an area of the north coast.
Igneris Indians: The first inhabitants of the area were presumably the Igneris Indians who came from South America. They must have settled here at about the beginning of the Christian era, near the third century. Slowly, the Taíno Indians occupied and shared the places acquired by the Igneris.
The Taínos, at approximately 800 years before the Discovery of Puerto Rico, had constructed the "bateyes" or Ceremonial Parks. Here they use to celebrate their "Areytos" or traditional festivities, their sports and other important events. There is evidence that they constructed structures (bohíos) in the Ceremonial Center although their living quarters were not built there.
Taino Indians: The Arawakan achievements included construction of ceremonial ballparks whose boundaries were marked by upright stone dolmens, development of a universal language, and creation of a complicated religious cosmology.
Another confusing aspect about this terminology is that the primary languages of the historic period Island Caribs and the South American Caribs are thought to be related to two different language families. While the South American Caribs speak a language in the Cariban family, the Island Caribs' historically recorded principal language is classified in the Arawakan language family. That differentiation presents a good reason to use distinguishing labels for the two groups. (The language situation is complex, however. It was not recorded until the 1600s, after much contact and change. At that time there were two or three languages used within an Island Carib village, including a men's language apparently classifiable in the Cariban family.)
"Kalina" or "Calina" is another name sometimes used for the Island Caribs, as well as for the mainland people, and it probably was in use at the time of contact as a close cognate of the name written as "Caribe" or "Cariba" by the Europeans.
Island Caribs are known from the early reports of invading Europeans. They reported on them as adversaries, however, but recorded little information about their culture. It was not until almost a century and a half had passed that French missionaries among the Island Caribs recorded detailed aspects of their life and language. By that time, Island Carib culture had been greatly changed by interactions with the Europeans and others and by the incorporation of the Tainos, Africans, and probably others into their communities. The culture of today's Carib people of the Antilles has naturally continued to change. Therefore it is very important, when referring to Caribs or Island Caribs, to specify the time period intended.
Archaeologists have not reached any agreement about the identification of pre-Columbian Island Carib villages. Consequently there is no agreement about the length of time they had been in the Lesser Antilles before Columbus reported them there in 1493. At that time they occupied several islands and, on Guadeloupe at least, they held captives taken from Puerto Rico. Tainos reported that the Island Caribs attacked them in the Greater Antilles. The natives who fought against Columbus' crew in 1493 at the island commonly identified as St. Croix are usually interpreted as Island Caribs (although there is not universal agreement on any point related to the issue). No Virgin Islands archaeological site, however, has been identified as an Island Carib village.
Most scholars have viewed the Island Caribs as an expanding population that was gradually annexing islands in a movement from South America toward the Greater Antilles. Strong trade relations were maintained with the Guianas region. Some ethno-historians have suggested that the biased reports of Europeans may have so exaggerated the differences between Island Caribs and Tainos as to create a false identity for the former. The widely held view, however, is that certain distinctive Island Carib traits are indicative of a distinct ethnic identity. Certainly Island Caribs were unique in their ability to repel European invaders for decades and to retain their identity in the face of rapidly changing culture.
The Spanish-Indian Fusion
Cuba Since 1510: Among the first conquistadors and among the new Spanish arrivals, particularly the men from the Canary Islands and Galicia, many were known to take one or more wives among the Indian villages. There were noted alliances and nuclei of mestizajes stemming from these early intermarriages. In Santo Domingo, they settled along the Yaque River and into the Marien region. This "nascent, native feudalism . . . claimed hegemony over whole tribes and was a subtle breakaway from Columbus's factoria system."
The concubinage system set up by the old chiefs and some new Spanish men, both in Cuba and Puerto Rico, and the"guatiao" (exchange of names ceremony) in Santo Domingo created a few somewhat ordained mestizajes, one that would sustain a core of indigenous traditions to modern times. There were incidents of sympathetic individual Spanish men marrying Indian women and thus removing the caciques and their particular tribes from the encomienda system. The Spanish did this mostly to gain labor advantages and at times as a way to remove themselves from the central authority altogether. For the remaining Indian caciques, it was a way to marry their remaining people and take status as one of the new people, neither white nor pure Indian Taino, but with at least the ability to establish families and hold land. The comendadores took after this practice whenever they could.
One Cristobal Rodriguez (nicknamed "La Lengua") a well-known Spanish-Indian interpreter was exiled for arranging the marriage of a cacica to a Juan Garces, "probably with the intent to remove her tribe from the encomienda system. Very few Indian communities, deep in the highest mountain valleys, managed to survive in isolation in Cuba for nearly five hundred years. These are the communities of Caridad de los Indios and others in the Rio Toa region.
In Cuba's Camagucy province, Vasco Porcallo de Figueroa, a particularly vigorous lieutenant from Narvaez's army took dozens of Indian wives and spawned a generation of more than a hundred mestizos. Rather than continue to fight, Camagucybax, the old cacique of the savanna organized marriages from among his people and Porcallo's children. Later, Porcallo invited some fifty Spanish families to send young men and women to settle in Camaguey where he coupled his mixed offspring to the new arrivals. They named the new mixed generation "Guajiro," a Taino word possibly coined by the cacique Camagucybax and meaning "one of us" or "one of our countrymen."
Porcallo and his fellow conquistadores provided no gentle model of "pater familias." Powallo's rule was so brutal that many Taino families in the region committed suicide rather than submit to his encomienda. Near Baracoa, Cuba at a coastal village named Yumuri, a promontory stands in mute tribute to the many Taino families who, according to local oral history, jumped to their deaths off its cliffs while taunting their Spanish pursuers.
Taino Culture Before Spanish Arrival, Caribbean, 1490’s: Taino culture was dominant throughout the Caribbean, a sea and island world that was in turn the cradle of Taino civilization. In agriculture, seafaring and cosmology, Ciboney and Guanahatabey (western Cuba), Macorix and/or Ciguayo (Bohio) and even Carib (Lesser Antilles) all followed the material and much of the psycho-spiritual framework of the Taino. The original Caribbeans spoke Arawak. The people of the Arawak language family still comprise one of the more widespread American Indigenous cultures, with relatively large kinship nations in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins of South America. Throughout the Caribbean, usually in remote mountain ranges and coastal promontories, remnant groups and communities of Taino-Arawak and Carib descendants survive to the present. Aspects of the animistic and material culture of the Taino-Arawak have been adopted by the mestizo populations of the Caribbean and are interwoven into the Euro-African fabric of the islands' folk universe.
The word Taino meant "men of the good," and from most indications the Tainos were good. Coupled to the lush and hospitable islands over a millennium and a half, the indigenous people of "La Taina" developed a culture where the human personality was gentle. Among the Taino at the time of contact, by all accounts, generosity and kindness were dominant values. Among the Taino peoples, as with most indigenous life ways, the physical culture was geared toward a sustainable interaction with the natural surroundings. The Taino's culture has been designated as "primitive" by western scholarship, yet it prescribed a life way that strove to feed all the people, and a spirituality that respected in ceremony most of their main animal and food sources as well as the natural forces like climate, season and weather. The Taino lived respectfully in a bountiful place and so their nature was bountiful.
The naked people Columbus first sighted lived in an island world of rainforests and tropical weather, and adventure and fishing legends at sea. Theirs was a land of generous abundance by global terms. They could build a dwelling from a single tree (the Royal Palm) and from several others (gommier, ceiba), a canoe that could carry more than one hundred people. The houses (bohios) were, and are today among Dominican and Cuban Cuajiros, made of palm tree, trunk and thatch lashed together in a rectangle or sometimes a circle pattern. The islands still have millions of royal and other useful palm trees, from which bohios by the hundreds of thousands could be built. The wood of the Royal Palm is still today considered the most resistant to tropical rot, lasting untreated as long as ninety years.
The Tainos lived in the shadows of a diverse forest so biologically remarkable as to be almost unimaginable to us, and, indeed, the biological transformation of their world was so complete in the intervening centuries that we may never again know how the land or the life of the land appeared in detail. What we do know is that their world would appear to us, as it did to the Spanish of the fifteenth century, as a tropical paradise. It was not heaven on earth, but it was one of those places that was reasonably close.
The Taino world, for the most part, had some of the appearance that modern imaginations ascribe to the South Pacific islands. The people lived in small, clean villages of neatly appointed thatch dwellings along rivers inland and on the coasts. They were a handsome people who had no need of clothing for warmth. They liked to bathe often, which prompted a Spanish royal law forbidding the practice: "for we are informed it does them much harm," wrote Queen Isabella. Their general physical appearance was consistent with the appearance of other Indians of the Americas. They were rarely taller than five feet six inches, which would make them rather small to modern North American eyes. They painted their bodies with earth dyes and adorned themselves with shells and metals. Men and women chiefs often wore gold in the ears and nose, or as pendants around the neck. Some had tattoos. From all early descriptions the Tainos were a healthy people who showed no signs of distress from hunger or want.
Taino Village, Caribbean, 1490’s: The Tainos, whose color was olive-brown to copper, reminded Columbus of the people of the Canary Islands, who were neither white nor black. He noted their thick, black hair, short in front and long in back, and that it fell over muscular shoulders. On some islands, the women wore short cotton skirts after taking a permanent man but in others all the people went naked. In parts of Cuba and Santo Domingo, some of the caciques, villages or clans and nation chiefs, wore a type of tunic on ceremonial occasions, but they saw no apparent need to cover their breasts or genitals and they were totally natural about it. The Taino had plenty of cotton, which they wove into mats, hammocks and small sails and numerous "bejucos" or fiber ropes.
The Taino islands provided a vast array of edible fruits. The Arawaks made specific use of many types of trees and plants from an estimated floral and faunal range of 5,800 species. The jagua tree they used for dyeing cotton, the jocuma and the guama for making rope, the jucaro for underwater construction, the royal palm for buildings and specific other trees for boats, spears, digging tools, chairs, bowls, baskets and other woven mats (in this art they flourished), cotton cloth (for hammocks), large fishing nets and good hooks made of large fish bones. Inspecting deserted seashore camps, Spanish sailors found what they judged to be excellent nets and small fishing canoes stored in watertight sheds. Further upriver in the villages, they saw large fields of corn, yucca, beans and fruit orchards covering whole valleys. They walked through the squares of villages, all recently swept clean, where they saw many kinds of drying tubers, grains and herbs, and sunlight-tight storage sheds with shelves packed with thousands of dried casahe or cazabi torts. In one village, sailors found large cakes of fine wax, a local product.
The Taino were a sea-going people and took pride in their courage on the high ocean as well as their skill in finding their way around their world. They visited one another constantly. Columbus was often astonished at finding lone Indian fishermen sailing in the open ocean as he made his way among the islands. Once, a canoe of Taino men followed him from island to island until one of their relatives, held captive on Columbus's flagship, jumped over the side to be spirited away.
Among Tainos, the women and some of the men harvested corn, nuts, and other roots. They appeared to have practiced a rotation method in their agriculture. As in the practice of many other American Indigenous eco-systemic peoples, the first shoots of important crops, such as the yucca, beans and corn were appreciated in ceremony, and there are stories about their origins. Boys hunted fowl from flocks that "darkened the sun," according to Columbus, and the men forded rivers and braved oceans to hunt and fish for the abundant, tree-going jutia, the succulent manati, giant sea turtles and countless species of other fish, turtles and shellfish. Around every bohio, Columbus wrote, there were flocks of tame ducks (yaguasa), which the people roasted and ate.
Father Bartolomé de las Casas, the Spanish friar who arrived on Columbus' heels and lived to denounce the Spanish cruelty toward Indians into the next century, wrote (exaggeratedly but impressively) about "vineyards that ran for three hundred leagues, game birds taken by the tens of thousands, great circular fields of yucca and greater stores of dried fish, corn fields and vast gardens of sweet yams.” Tainos along the coasts of Española and southern Cuba kept large circular corrals made of reeds, which they filled with fish and turtles by the thousands. In parts of Puerto Rico and Cuba, Jivaro and Cuajiro fishermen used this method into the 1950s. The early Taino and Ciboney of Cuba were observed catching fish and turtles by way of a remora (suction fish) tied by the tail. (Fernandez Mendez, Eugenio, Los Corrales de Pesca Indigenas de Puerto Rico, Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertoriqueña, Oct. 1960.)
The Taino world of 1492 was a thriving place. The Taino islands supported large populations that had existed in an environment of Carib-Taino conflict for, according to archeological evidence, one and a half millennia, although the earliest human fossil in the region is dated at 15,000 years. Tainos and Caribs may have visited violence upon one another, and there is little doubt they did not like each other, but there is little evidence to support any thesis that genocidal warfare existed in this world. A Carib war party arrived and attacked, was successful or repulsed, and the Tainos, from all accounts, returned to what they were doing before the attack. These attacks were not followed up by a sustained campaign of attrition. The Taino existence was not threatened, from these accounts, more than a modern American's existence is threatened by street crime.
Bohio was the Taino name for Española, now Santo Domingo/Haiti. It means "home" in Taino, was in fact home to two main confederated peoples: the Taino, as the predominant group, with three cacicasgos, and the Macorixes, with two cacicasgos.
There was also one small cacicasgo of Ciqueyo Indians on the island when Columbus arrived. The three main Taino caciques were named Bohequio of Jaragua, Guacanagari of Marien, and Guarionex of La Vega. The two Macorix caciques were Caonabo, of Maguana, at the center of the island and his ally, Coyacoa of Higuey. Mayabanex, also a good friend of Caonabo, was cacique of the Ciguayo country. The three Taino caciques were relatives and allies and had good relations. The Taino of Jaragua had a particularly good agriculture, with efficient irrigation systems that regularly watered thousands of acres of all manner of tubers, vegetables and grains. The Macorixes and Ciguayos were strong warriors, known for a fierce dexterity at archery. They balanced the scale with the peaceful Tainos, who often fed them, and for whom in turn the Macorixes and Ciguayos fought against the more southern Carib. Caonabo, a Marorixe cacique was married to Anacaona, a Taino and sister of Behechio.
It is true that Caribbean Indian peoples fought with each other, taking prisoners and some ritually eating parts of enemy warriors, but even more often they accommodated each other and as "discovery" turned to conquest, they allied as "Indians," or, more properly, as Caribbean Indigenous peoples against Spanish troops. As a peaceful civilization, the Taino caciques apparently made diplomatic use of their agricultural bounty to appease and tame more militaristic groups.
Taino Culture Development: Taíno culture was the most highly developed in the Caribbean when Columbus reached Hispaniola in 1492. Islands throughout the Greater Antilles were dotted with Taíno communities nestled in valleys and along the rivers and coastlines, some of which were inhabited by thousands of people. The first New World society that Columbus encountered was one of tremendous creativity and energy. The Taíno had an extraordinary repertoire of expressive forms in sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, weaving, dance, music, and poetry. Their inventiveness and dynamism were also reflected in their social hierarchies and political organization. Ethnologists have shed further light on Taíno daily life, myths, and ceremonies by gathering comparative data from contemporary societies with similar cultures in Venezuela and the Guianas. The Taíno legacy survives today not only in the ethnic heritage of the Caribbean people, but also in words borrowed from their language, such as barbecue, canoe, hammock, and hurricane. Also, their legacy includes customs related to ancient traditions of weaving, hunting and fishing, song and dance, and in a cuisine based on yuca, beans, and barbecued meats and fish.
Until recently, the Taíno have been peripheral to the study of pre-Columbian societies. Scholars focused on the high cultures of the mainland, such as the Inka, the Aztec, and the Maya because they were organized into political states. The chiefdoms (cacicazgos) and chiefs (caciques) of the Taíno seemed less worthy of attention. Archaeologists now realize, however, that by the time of the conquest these chiefdoms had evolved into complex political entities that resembled true states. Art historians recognized that objects made by the Taíno - ceremonial seats (duhos), ball game belts, scepters, sculptures of spirits and ancestors, zemis, pottery, ritual objects used in cohoba ceremonies, and ornaments of semiprecious stones, gold, shell, and bone all had parallels in Mesoamerica and South America. Most importantly, it has become clear that the Taíno worldview was distinctly pre-Columbian in its conception of the universe. The following map illustrates the network of Cacique Agueybana and the location of each tribe in Puerto Rico. Taino Tribes and their Principal Chiefs in the Year 1493: "The Jatibonicu Tribal Homeland is the Heart of the Motherland Borikén."
Pre-Columbian Cultures: Pre-Columbian cultures perceived the world and everything in it as alive with supernatural power, including features of the landscape -- mountains, caves, rivers, trees, and the sea - as well as the souls of animals and people. The earth was a thin interface between the watery depths and the expanse of the heavens, a flat disk floating in the vast cosmos of water and stars. In the center of its surface, an imaginary circular hole, known as the fifth direction, connected the earth to the sacred spaces above and below it. The fifth direction was part of a vertical opening, a supernatural shaft, which went from the bottom of the sea through the earth and into the center of the heavens. Many pre-Columbian societies associated the fifth direction with the Ceiba, the World Tree, whose roots grew from the depths of the sea and whose branches supported the heavens. The Ceiba is still regarded as sacred in Mesoamerica, South America, and the Caribbean.
Spiritual Beliefs: The spirits that presided over the cosmos included a creator and many others associated with rain, wind, the sea, human fertility, and the successful growth of crops. At the beginning of time, these spirits blanketed the cosmos with invisible layers of geometric designs, symmetrical motifs that covered the faces and bodies of people, animals, communities, the earth, the heavens, and the sea. These designs, the cosmic tissues of connectedness that unite the universe, could be "seen" only by caciques and shamans during cohoba ceremonies. Illness, bad crops, and natural disasters such as hurricanes were caused by destructive spirits that ripped holes in the geometric fabric of the world.
The Taíno believed they were descended from the primordial union of a male "culture hero" named Deminán and a female turtle. Similar creation stories persist among contemporary societies in Venezuela and the Guianas. Images of turtles and figures with turtle attributes are omnipresent in Taíno art because, in their mythology, the wife of Deminán, Turtle Woman, was the ancestral mother, and the Taíno traced their kinship relations through her. Dualism and the unity of opposites are important themes in pre-Columbian art, ideas that were expressively depicted by the Taíno. Deminán himself wears a female turtle carapace on his back and thus represents the union of male/female and father/mother in the same figure. The theme of the duality is further illustrated by beautiful ceramic vessels that combine symbols of life and death and images of male and female fertility.
Taino Ancesters: Like other pre-Columbian cultures, the Taíno venerated their ancestors. The dead were usually buried under their houses, but caciques and other high-ranking nobles were given special funerary rites. After exposure to the elements, their skulls and long bones were cleaned and preserved in carved wooden urns or large calabash gourds hung from the rafters of houses. Although the souls of the dead resided in the otherworld, they returned to earth at night and were dangerous to the living. Night-flying creatures such as owls and bats were regarded as their messengers. Many objects made by the Taíno bear images of skulls, bats, and owls, reflecting their connection to the realm of the spirits and the ancestors.
Three Pointers: In addition to these evocative objects, the exhibition includes a selection of three-pointers (trigonolitos), enigmatic stone objects that are particularly characteristic of Taíno art. Small three-pointers have been excavated by archaeologists at sites with early dates (400 - 200 B.C.) in South America and in the Caribbean, but these examples pre-date their widespread appearance among the Taíno. Spanish accounts from the time of contact make tantalizing references to trigonolitos, but fail to pinpoint their true significance. Modern scholars have debated whether these triangular stones represent mountains, volcanoes, breasts, phalluses, manioc shoots, or all of these at once. Some three-pointers may depict the yuca spirit; others combine multiple images and suggest the visions that caciques and shamans experienced under the influence of cohoba.
Hallucinogens: Throughout the ancient Americas, rulers and shamans used hallucinogens to connect with the spirits of the otherworld. Only those in touch with the supernatural realm could heal the sick, predict the future, ensure the fertility of the world, and resolve the larger problems of existence. Natural hallucinogens were regarded by pre-Columbian cultures as sacred and endowed with inherent force. Their preparation and ingestion were associated with elaborate rituals, and they were consumed only by people.
Cohoba Ceremony: The most important sacred substance for the Taíno was cohoba, a psychoactive powder ground from the seeds of trees native to South America and the Caribbean. The Taíno sometimes mixed cohoba with tobacco to maximize its effect. Taíno shamans took cohoba to cure illnesses for individual patients. The most important sacred substance for the Taíno was cohoba, a psychoactive powder ground from the seeds of trees native to South America and the Caribbean. The Taíno sometimes mixed cohoba with tobacco to maximize its effect. Taíno shamans took cohoba to cure illnesses for individual patients and to ensure the well being of the community. Caciques took cohoba to communicate with zemies (spirits and ancestors); they acted as the primary intermediaries between people and the supernatural realm. Before ingesting such hallucinogenic mixtures, caciques and shamans fasted and purged themselves with vomiting spatulas of wood and bone in order to consume the "pure foods" of the spirits. Then, they inhaled their concoctions from small vessels and trays, using delicately carved snuffers of wood and bone.
Taino Interpretation of the Cohoba Ceremony: The Taíno believed it was possible to travel to the supernatural realm during cohoba-induced trances. One of the strongest psychoactive substances used in the pre-Columbian world, cohoba is still taken by shamans in the Amazon Basin of South America. The effects of cohoba make the user see the world in an inverted way: people, animals, and objects appear upside down; movements and gestures are reversed; and perceptions are marked by constantly shifting shapes and kaleidoscopic colors. Everything is the opposite and the inverse of the here and now, intensely colored, and completely mutable. Many Taíno works associated with the cohoba ceremony, especially the vomiting spatulas, are exquisitely carved with fierce animals, upside-down images, and skeletal figures from the otherworld. Thus spatulas are unique in the corpus of pre-Columbian art.
Cohoba Ritual: Ceramic figures on duhos illustrate stages of the cohoba ritual, from the initial use of the spatula to the aftermath of stupor, fatigue, and spiritual exhaustion. Once the hallucinogen was inhaled through snuffers, the cacique or shaman would sit on his duho, elbows resting on knees, body hunched forward, lost in the thoughts and images that would result from cohoba's swift effect. In this position, caciques and shamans communicated with spirits and ancestors. The duhos themselves probably had inherent supernatural power, which "centered" the user in the fifth direction—in the center of the cosmos—a concept important to pre-Columbian societies.
Hierarchy of Deities: There was a hierarchy of deities who inhabited the sky; Yocahu was the supreme Creator. Another god, Jurakán, was perpetually angry and ruled the power of the hurricane. Other mythological figures were the gods Zemi and Maboya. The zemis, a god of both sexes, were represented by icons in the form of human and animal figures, and collars made of wood, stone, bones, and human remains. Taíno Indians believed that being in the good graces of their zemis protected them from disease, hurricanes, or disaster in war. They therefore served cassava (manioc) bread as well as beverages and tobacco to their zemis as propitiatory offerings. Maboyas, on the other hand, was a nocturnal deity who destroyed the crops and was feared by all the natives, to the extent that elaborate sacrifices were offered to placate him.
Myth and Traditions: Myths and traditions were perpetuated through ceremonial dances (areytos), drumbeats, oral traditions, and a ceremonial ball game played between opposing teams (of 10 to 30 players per team) with a rubber ball; winning this game was thought to bring a good harvest and strong, healthy children.
Hierarchy of the Tribes: The Taíno Indians lived in theocratic kingdoms and had hierarchically arranged chiefs or caciques. The Taínos were divided into three social classes: the naborias (work class), the nitaínos or sub-chiefs and noblemen which includes the bohiques or priests and medicine men and the caciques or chiefs; each village or yucayeque had one.
Cacique Agueyana: At the time Juan Ponce de León took possession of the Island, there were about twenty villages or yucayeques. Cacique Agüeybana was chief of the Taínos. He lived at Guánica, the largest Indian village in the island, on the Guayanilla River. The rank of each cacique apparently was established along democratic lines; his importance in the tribe being determined by the size of his clan, rather than its war-making strength. There was no aristocracy of lineage, nor were there titles other than those given to individuals to distinguish their services to the clan.
Personal Traits: Their complexion was bronze-colored; they had average stature, dark, flowing, coarse hair, with large and slightly oblique dark eyes.
Dress Costume: Men generally went naked or wore a breechcloth, called nagua. Single women walked around naked and married women an apron to over their genitals, made of cotton or palm fibers, the length of which was a sign of rank. Both sexes painted themselves on special occasions; they wore earrings, nose rings, and necklaces, which were sometimes made of gold. Taíno crafts were few; some pottery and baskets were made, and stone, marble and wood were skillfully worked. The Taíno did not wear much clothing, but they decorated themselves with designs using pottery stamps coated with red, white, and black pigments obtained from plants and colored clays.
Craftsman Skills: Skilled at agriculture and hunting, the Taínos were also good sailors, fishermen, canoe makers, and navigators. Their main crops were cassava, garlic, potatoes, yautías, mamey, guava, and anón.
Agriculture Techniques: The Taíno exploited their natural resources and developed efficient techniques of agriculture, hunting, and fishing. Naborias, the common people, performed most of the labor involved in the cultivation and gathering of food. Although root crops, beans, and squashes supplemented the Taíno diet, yuca (manioc) was the staple food. After grating and straining to remove its poisonous juices, this nutritious tuber was mixed with water and cooked into thin cakes (cazabe) like tortillas that could be filled with fish, meat, and vegetables. They utilized a stone grater for the preparation of yuca, a mortar for grinding it into flour, and the flat, ceramic plate (burén) on which cazabe cakes were cooked. Although it is commonly believed that three-pointers were placed as fertility charms in the mounds (conucos) where yuca was grown, there is no archaeological evidence or written record of this practice from the sixteenth century.
The Taíno also cultivated fruits such as guava, papaya, and pineapple, as well as beans, squash, chile peppers, tobacco, and cotton. They supplemented their agricultural products by hunting birds, a small forest rodent known as the hutía, manatees, and reptiles such as turtles, iguanas and snakes. They also ate a small dog and harvested edible marine life, including conch, oysters, lobsters, and crabs. Fish were abundant and were caught with bone and shell hooks, large mesh nets, and bows and arrows. Canoes, some large enough to carry one hundred people, were used for deep-sea fishing as well as for trade among the islands. Long distance travel by canoe was done from March to August, guided by the North Star and the constellations of the Milky Way.
Pottery: Whether for daily use, ceremonies, or areytos, almost everything made by the Taíno reflected their spirits, myths, and religious beliefs. Pottery vessels and the few remaining examples of Taíno textiles bear geometric motifs that mimic the invisible cosmic designs laid out at the beginning of time (cover and back). Duhos, mortars, and body stamps in the form of turtles refer to the myth of creation. Pestles, pottery, and amulets carved as owls and bats represent the messengers of the dead. A recurrent motif found on many works such as ceramic bowls, stone collars, body stamps, and duhos, is the circle symbolic of the fifth direction, the imaginary central hole that connected the earth to the cosmos.
Taíno pottery reached an expressionistic level comparable to that of the most advanced ceramic cultures on the mainland, and used the same techniques. To strengthen the fabric of the fired pottery, clays were first tempered with sand, ash, crushed shell, or vegetable fibers. Vessels were formed using the coil method in which strips of wet clay were laid vertically in concentric circles for cups, bowls, and jars, or horizontally for plates and flat-bottomed vessels. Modeling with the hands smoothed and fused the coils together. Potters also used their fingers to shape, pull, and gouge motifs, and incised fine details with pointed tools. When thoroughly dry, groups of vessels were fired together in large open pits. The corpus of Taíno ceramics also includes body stamps.
The upper class of nitaínos made all objects of wood, stone, gold, shell, bone, and pottery. A variety of Taíno stone graters, mortars, and pestles have been found by archaeologists, ranging from simple everyday household types for grinding yuca and other tubers and making dyes, to richly decorated examples that were probably used to grind cohoba powder from seeds. Stone knives and axes were both tools and weapons. Petaloid axes, stone celts hafted into wooden handles, were used to clear land, carve canoes and other wooden objects, and perhaps to cut manioc roots. Wood was fashioned into a variety of household articles, as well as into spears used in warfare. Musical instruments of wood, played during ceremonies and areytos, included maracas, rattles, and hollow-log drums of various sizes.
Zemi: The beaded zemi, which returns to the New World for the first time in five hundred years, is the most remarkable work of art produced in the Caribbean between the arrival of Europeans and the decline of Taíno culture some thirty years later. This brightly polychromed sculpture depicts a human figure with an alert face and an intense expression. On the reverse is a second face with empty eye sockets and skeletal features emblematic of Taíno spirits from the realm of the supernatural. Wrongly identified as an African work until 1952, this dazzling object's exact meaning remains an enigma.
The zemi consists of a wooden frame covered by crocheted cotton embellished with green and blue beads of European glass and disks of Caribbean shell and seeds. The figure's brown face, carved from the horn of an African rhinoceros, has curly black hair and white shell eyes with dark pupils. The skeletal face has large hollow eyes inlaid with sheets of native gold and mirrors of Venetian glass. Mirrors also decorate the circular ear spools. A full-sized beaded belt emblazoned with Taíno designs encircles the base. Another belt, probably made by the same artist, is now in the Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna. Both the beaded zemi and the belt attest to a vibrant but vanished ancient tradition of woven and beaded textiles with geometric motifs.
The valuable components and exquisite workmanship of the zemi suggest that it was made for a high-ranking cacique by a master Taíno artist. Forcefully conceived and elegantly crafted, it combines ideas and materials from three distinct cultures together into a stunningly original work of art. The beaded zemi heralds a new phase in Caribbean art and culture and reflects a multicultural sensibility that persists to this day.
Special Tools: The upper class of nitaínos made all objects of wood, stone, gold, shell, bone, and pottery. A variety of Taíno stone graters, mortars, and pestles have been found by archaeologists, ranging from simple everyday household types for grinding yuca and other tubers and making dyes, to richly decorated examples that were probably used to grind cohoba powder from seeds. Stone knives and axes were both tools and weapons. Petaloid axes, stone celts hafted into wooden handles, were used to clear land, carve canoes and other wooden objects, and perhaps to cut manioc roots. Wood was fashioned into a variety of household articles, as well as into spears used in warfare. Musical instruments of wood, played during ceremonies and areytos, included maracas, rattles, and hollow-log drums of various sizes.
Religious Artifacts: Although much of their art has not survived, the extant works of the Taíno are finely carved and richly detailed with motifs expressive of their worldview. As in other pre-Columbian cultures, there was little distinction between the secular and sacred spheres of existence. Whether for daily use, ceremonies, or areytos, almost everything made by the Taíno reflected their spirits, myths, and religious beliefs. Pottery vessels and the few remaining examples of Taíno textiles bear geometric motifs that mimic the invisible cosmic designs laid out at the beginning of time (cover and back). Duhos, mortars, and body stamps in the form of turtles refer to the myth of creation. Pestles, pottery, and amulets carved as owls and bats represent the messengers of the dead. A recurrent motif found on many works, such as ceramic bowls, stone collars, body stamps, and duhos, is the circle symbolic of the fifth direction - the imaginary central hole - that connected the earth to the cosmos.
Calendar System: They had no calendar or writing system, and could count only up to twenty, using their hands and feet.
Personal Possessions: Their personal possessions consisted of wooden stools with four legs and carved backs, hammocks made of cotton cloth or string for sleeping, clay and wooden bowls for mixing and serving food, calabashes or gourds for drinking water and bailing out boats, and their most prized possessions, large dugout canoes, for transportation, fishing, and water sports.
Housing: Caciques lived in rectangular huts, called caneyes, located in the center of the village facing the batey. The naborias lived in round huts, called bohios. The construction of both types of buildings was the same: wooden frames, topped by straw, with earthen floor, and scant interior furnishing. But the buildings were strong enough to resist hurricanes. It is believed that Taino settlements ranged from single families to groups of 3,000 people.
Caribs/Taino Indians Encounter: About 100 years before the Spanish invasion, the Taínos were challenged by an invading South American tribe - the Caribs. Fierce, warlike, sadistic, and adept at using poison-tipped arrows, they raided Taíno settlements for slaves (especially females) and bodies for the completion of their rites of cannibalism. Some ethnologists argue that the preeminence of the Taínos, shaken by the attacks of the Caribs, was already jeopardized by the time of the Spanish occupation. In fact, it was Caribs who fought the most effectively against the Europeans, their behavior probably led the Europeans to unfairly attribute warlike tendencies to all of the island's tribes. A dynamic tension between the Taínos and the Caribs certainly existed when Christopher Columbus landed on Puerto Rico.
Spanish Settlers: When the Spanish settlers first came in 1508, since there is no reliable documentation, anthropologists estimate their numbers to have been between 20,000 and 50,000, but maltreatment, disease, flight, and unsuccessful rebellion had diminished their number to 4,000 by 1515; in 1544 a bishop counted only 60, but these too were soon lost.
At their arrival the Spaniards expected the Taino Indians to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Spain by payment of gold tribute, to work and supply provisions of food, and to observe Christian ways.
Tainos Rebellion: The Taínos rebelled most notably in 1511, when several caciques (Indian leaders) conspired to oust the Spaniards. They were joined in this uprising by their traditional enemies, the Caribs. Their weapons, however, were no match against Spanish horses and firearms and the revolt was soon ended brutally by the Spanish forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León.
Taino Prehistoric Era: In order to understand Puerto Rico's prehistoric era, it is important to know that the Taínos, far more than the Caribs, contributed greatly to the everyday life and language that evolved during the Spanish occupation. Taíno place names are still used for such towns as Utuado, Mayaguez, Caguas, and Humacao, among others.
Taino Contributions to the Culture: Many Taíno implements and techniques were copied directly by the Europeans, including the bohío (straw hut) and the hamaca (hammock), the musical instrument known as the maracas, and the method of making cassava bread. Many Taino words persist in the Puerto Rican vocabulary of today. Names of plants, trees and fruits includes: maní, leren, ají, yuca, mamey, pajuil, pitajaya, cupey, tabonuco and ceiba. Names of fish, animals and birds include: mucaro, guaraguao, iguana, cobo, carey, jicotea, guabina, manati, buruquena and juey. Other objects and instruments include: güiro, bohío, batey, caney, hamaca, nasa, petate, coy, barbacoa, batea, cabuya, casabe and canoa. Words were passed not only into Spanish, but also into English, such as huracan (hurricane) and hamaca (hammock). Also, many Taíno superstitions and legends were adopted and adapted by the Spanish and still influence the Puerto Rican imagination.
Taino Tribal History: The traditional Jatibonicu Taino tribal homeland is composed of one very large central mountain territory. This tribal land base or region in the past was divided into three smaller villages by the former regional Governor of Puerto Rico, Don Diego Colon, of the Spanish colonial Government of Spain. In the 1500's the Jatibonicu tribal homeland consisted of three villages known as Yucayeques (villages). These villages are known today as the local municipalities of Orocovis, Morovis, Barranquitas and Aibonito. In Jatibonicu's territorial history, the colonial Government of Spain would come to further geographically divide this region. They would establish or create a fourth village known as Morovis, from one of the barrios or boroughs of the village that was formerly known by the Taino name of "Barros." The village of Barros was officially renamed to Orocovis to honor the memory of Principal Chief Orocobix in the year 1825. These pueblos or villages are located in the Central Mountain Range of what is known today as La Cordillera Central (the Central Mountain Range). Let us now depart on this enjoyable yet historical voyage of our beautiful island region of Borikén (the Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord) that is known today by its Spanish colonial name Puerto Rico.
The Jatibonicu Taino Tribal Nation hopes to establish inter-tribal competitions with official rules for interested participants. They would like to invite their fellow Lokono and other Arawak brothers from South America to take part in these Inter-Tribal Makebari games.
Arawaks and Columbus: The Arawaks were met by Columbus in 1492, on the Bahamas, and later on in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. In the fifteenth century and possibly for several centuries previous, Indians of Arawak stock occupied the Greater Antilles. It is not impossible that up to a certain time before Columbus they may have held all the West Indian Islands. Then an intrusive Indian element that of the Caribs, gradually encroached on the southern Antilles from the mainland of Venezuela and drove the Arawaks northward. The latter showed a decided fear of their aggressors, a feeling increased by the cannibalism of the Caribs.
Native American Presence: Columbus reached Cuba on his first voyage without realizing it was an island and discovered Ciboney, Guanahuatabey, and Taíno Arawak Indians. On other islands he found the Carib Indians, from whom the region takes its name. The recorded history of Puerto Rico began with the arrival of Columbus on November 19, 1493. Puerto Rico was inhabited by the aboriginal Indians named Taínos, who called their island Boriquén (or Borinquén). Since there is no reliable documentation, estimates regarding the number of Taínos have ranged from the unlikely figure of 8 million to the more realistic 30,000. The colonization of San Juan, the name given to the island by the Spanish, began in 1508 when Juan Ponce de León established the first settlement. The Taíno population decreased dramatically during the first period of colonization as a result of the spread of European diseases, various rebellions, and the encomiendas system, which was the regime of forced labor that distributed Taíno Indians among the settlers. Although the Taínos were legally exempt from slavery by royal decree in 1542, rebel Indians were enslaved and exploited by the colonists. By the end of the 16th century the Taínos were virtually extinct.
As throughout the Americas, the struggle for freedom dates back to the clash between two peoples and cultures, the European and the Indian, the latter ill equipped to match the economic and military strength of the former. Nonetheless, the Spaniards encountered strong resistance from the Taínos of eastern Cuba, led by an Indian chief who had been driven from the neighboring island of Hispaniola (comprising present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and who was killed at the stake in 1512. More resistance was encountered in the 1522-1533 rebellion led by Cacique Guama of Baracoa. Settlements established by runaways, called palenques, were refuge first to Indians fleeing their lands seized by the Spaniards and later to runaway slaves (see Maroonage in the Americas). The indigenous population was soon decimated. In 1526 the first shipment of African slaves was brought to Cuba, to labor primarily on the sugar and coffee plantations. The first slave uprising took place just four years later, and in 1533 there was a slave strike in the mines.
Arawaks Migration: Generally speaking, the Arawaks were in a condition between savagery and agriculture, and the status varied according to the environment. The Arawaks on the Bahamas were practically defenseless against the Caribs. The aborigines of Cuba and Haiti, enjoying superior material advantages, stood on a somewhat higher plane. The inhabitants of Jamaica and Puerto Rico, immediate neighbors of the Caribs, were almost as fierce as the latter, and probably as anthropophagous. Wedged in (after the discovery of Columbus ) between the Caribs on the South and the European, the former relentless destroyers, and the latter startling innovators, the northern Arawaks were doomed.
Colonization Effects on the Arawks: In the course of half a century they succumbed to the unwanted labor imposed upon them and epidemics doing their share towards extermination. Abuse has been heaped upon Spain for this inevitable result of first contact between races whose civilization was different and whose ideas were so incompatible. Colonization in its beginning on American soil had to go through a series of experiments, and the Indians naturally were the victims. Then the experimenters (as is always the case in newly discovered lands) did not at first belong to the most desirable class. Columbus himself (a brilliant navigator but a poor administrator) did much to contribute to the outcome by measures well-intended but impractical, on account of absolute lack of acquaintance with the nature of American aborigines.
Church Interest in the Indians: The Church took a deep interest in the fate of the Antillean Arawaks. The Hieronymites, and later, the Dominicans defended their cause and propagated Christianity among them. They also carefully studied their customs and religious beliefs.
Frey Roman Pane: Frey Roman Pane, a Hieronymite, has left us a very remarkable report on the lore and ceremonials of the Indians of Haiti (published in Italian in 1571, in Spanish in 1749, and in French in 1864); shorter descriptions, from anonymous, but surely ecclesiastical sources are contained in the "Documentos in editos de Indias." The report of Frey Roman Pane antedates 1508, and it is the first purely ethnographic treatise on American Indians.
While lamenting the disappearance of the Indians of the Antilles, writers of the Columbian period have, for controversial effect, greatly exaggerated the numbers of these peoples; hence the number of victims charged to Spanish rule. It is not possible that Indians constantly warring with each other, and warred upon by an outside enemy like the Caribs, not given to agriculture except in as far as women worked the crops without domestic animals in an enervating climate, would have been nearly as numerous as, for instance, Las Casas asserts.
Extermination of the Arawaks: The extermination of the Antillean Arawaks under Spanish rule has not yet been impartially written. It is no worse a page in history than many filled with English atrocities, or those which tell how the North American aborigines have been disposed of in order to make room for the white man. The Spanish did not, and could not, yet know of the nature and the possibilities of the Indian. They could not understand that a while a race could be physically well endowed, the men had no conception of work, and could not be suddenly changed into hardy tillers of the soil and miners. And yet the Indian was forced to labor as the white population was entirely too small for developing the resources of the newfound lands. The Europeans attributed the inaptitude of the Indian for physical labor to obstinacy, and only too often vented his impatience with acts of cruelty. The Crown made the utmost efforts to mitigate, and to protect the aborigine, but ere the period of experiments was over, the latter had almost vanished.
Arawaks in the Antilles: As already stated, the Arawaks, presumably held the lesser Antilles also until, previous to the Columbian era, the Caribs expelled them, thus separating the northern branch from the main stock on the southern continent. Of the latter it has been surmised that their original homes were on the eastern slope of the Andes, where the Campas (Chunchos or Antis) represent the Arawak element, together with the Shipibos, Piros, Conibos and other tribes of the extensive Pano group. A Spanish officer, Perdro de Candia, first discovered them in 1538.
Jesuits Christianization Campaign: The earliest attempts at Christianization are due to the Jesuits. They made, previous to 1602, six distinct efforts to convert the Chunchos, from the side of Huanuco in Peru, and from northern Bolivia, but all these attempts were failures. There are also traces that a Jesuit had penetrated those regions in 1581, more as an explorer than as a missionary. Not withstanding the ill-success accompanying the first efforts, the Jesuits persevered and founded missions among the Moxos, one of the most southerly branches of the Arawaks, and also among the Baures. Those missions were, of course, abandoned after 1767. During the past century the Franciscans have taken up the field of which the Jesuits were deprived, especially the missions between the Pano, and Shipibo tribes of the Beni region of Bolivia.
The late Father Raphael Sanz was one of the first to devote himself to the difficult and dangerous task, and he was ably followed by Father Nicholas Armentia, who is now Bishop of La Paz. The latter has also done very good work in the field of linguistics. Missions among the Goajiros in Columbia, however, had little success. Of late, the tribe has become more approachable. The Arawaks of the upper Amazonian region were probably met by Alanso Mercadillo, in 1537, and may have been seen by Orellana in 1538-39. The Arawak tribes occupying almost exclusively the southern bank of the
Amazon, were reached by the missionaries later than the tribes of the north bank.
Missionaries accompanied Juan Salinas de Loyola (a relative of St. Ignatius) in 1564. But the results of these expeditions were not permanent. In the heart of the Andean region the Friars of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (Mercedarios) were the first to establish permanent missions. Fray Francisco Ponce de Leon, "Commander of the convent of the city of Jaen de Bracacamoros," and Diego Vaca de Vega, Governor of Jaen, organized in 1619 an expedition down the Marañon to the Maynas. In 1619 they founded the mission of San Francisco Borja, which still exists as a settlement. The first baptisms of Indians took place 22 March, 1620. The year following, Father Ponce made an expedition lower down the Amazon, beyond the mouth of the Rio Huallaga where he came in contact with the Arawak tribes, to whom he preached, and some of whom he baptized. The Franciscans entered from the direction of Juaja or Tarma, toward Chanchamayo 1631 and 1635. The first foundation was at Quimiri, where a chapel was built. Two years later the founders, Father Gerónimo Ximénez, and Cristóval Larios, died at the hands of the Campas on the Péréné River. Work was not interrupted, however, and three years later (1640) there were established about the salt-hill of Vitoc seven chapels, each with a settlement of Indian converts. But in 1742 the appearing of Juan Santos Atahualpa occasioned an almost general uprising of the aborigines. Until then the missions had progressed remarkably. Some of the most savage tribes, like the Canibos, became at least partially reduced to obedience, and led a more sedate, orderly life.
In 1725 the College of Ocopa was founded. All these gains (except the College of Ocopa and the regions around Tarma and Cajamarquilla) were lost until, after 1751, Franciscan missions again began to enter the lost territory, and even added more conquests among the fiercest Arawaks (Cashibos) on the Ucayali. Conversions in these regions have cost many martyrs, not less than sixty-four ecclesiastics having perished at the hands of the Indians of Arawak stock in the years between 1637 and 1766. Missionary work among the Arawaks of Guyana and on the banks of the Orinoco began in a systematic manner, in the second half of the seventeenth century, and was carried on, from the Spanish side, among the Maypures of the Orinoco, from the French side along the coast and the Essequibo River. Wars between France, England, and Holland, the indifferent, system less ways of French colonization, but chiefly the constant incursion of the Caribs, interrupted or at least greatly obstructed the progress of the missions.
Ethnologically the Arawaks Vary in Condition: Those of Guyana seem to be partly sedentary. They call themselves Loknono, and they are well built. Descent among them is in the female line, and they are polygamous. They are land-tillers and hunters. Their houses are sheds, open on the sides, and their weapons are bows, arrows, and wooden clubs. Their religious ideas are, locally varied, those of all Indians, animism or fetishism, with an army of shamans, or medicine men, to uphold it. Of the Campas and the tribes comprised within the Pano group, about the same may be stated, with the difference that several of the tribes composing it are fierce cannibals, (Cashibos and Canibos). It must be observed, however, that cannibalism is, under certain conditions, practiced by all the forest tribes of South America, as well as by the Aymara of Bolivia. It is mostly a ceremonial practice, and, at the bottom, closely related to the custom of scalping.
The Last Taino Indians, Baracoa, Guantanamo Province, Nowadays
In these eastern mountains of Cuba, region of Baracoa, Guatanamo Province, there are several enclaves of indigenous community cultures that have survived 500 years. This remote and yet culturally important area of Cuba has been characterized by its historically rural quality and its major historical import to the Cuban movement of liberation.
While the continued existence of several Native populations appears in the deep scientific record (Marti, Rousse, Arrom, Rivero de la Calle, Nuez) the assertion of complete extinction of the Taino Indians in the Caribbean became commonplace in the academy throughout the twentieth century. Recently, however, some of these isolated Native groups have begun to represent themselves within Cuba and to communicate with other Native groups around the hemisphere.
Cuban and international documentation was initiated, with several articles appearing in scientific journals. Most prominently, the Taino community at Caridad de Los Indios, near Guantanamo, has retained various Native dances and songs, as well as considerable oral history and understanding of ecological relationships. There are as well, Native populations near Bayamo, Santiago and Punta Maisi in this eastern-most triangle of Cuba. As a result of the indigenous revitalization now in process, the several Native-based community enclaves are now reaching out to each other to generate an awareness of the remaining Taino identity and culture in the area.
While the Taino-descendant population is not dominant, this is a region of Cuba that has maintained the most sustainable indigenous agricultural traditions (the conuco system) and features an "old Cuba" flavor. The agricultural base of the region is largely self-sufficient farming, with families maintaining gardens and small animals. The Baracoa-Guantanamo region is a great living microcosm of the Cuban ethnogensis, rooted in the tri-raciality of Indigenous (Taino), Spanish, and African peoples. The natural history of the region offers nature walks in tropical forests, cultural exchanges with Native communities, ocean fishing and snorkeling and cultural/historical tours tracing the route of Columbus. (By Dr. José Barreiro, American Indian Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, Article ID 134.)
SUMMARY: The Taino Indians inhabited Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) when Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1493. The first inhabitants of the Antilles were the Arawaks, but they were expelled by the Caribs in early 1000 AD. The Arawaks believed in eternal life for the virtuous. "Pre-Taino" is not any kind of ethnic name, merely a general label for a relative time period. Archaeological similarities indicate that the Virgin Islands shared a culture or ethnic identity with eastern Puerto Rico, and perhaps had connections to the Leeward Islands. The Arawaks were the first inhabitants of the Antilles but were expelled from the Lesser Antilles before 1000 AD. The Arawaks, due to their early arrival in the region, were by the time of Columbus' arrival peaceful and sedentary, and played a game somewhat similar to soccer, except that the raw rubber ball had to be tossed with the head, shoulder, elbow or most professionally, by the knee.
The Arawaks were "animists" which means that they believed in the inner connection of the two worlds (the visible and the invisible one) and in the existence and survival of the soul in the environment (tree, rivers, etc.). The quiet and peaceful Arawaks have totally disappeared from the surface of the Earth. This was accomplished in a very short time after the arrival of the Europeans. The "Island Caribs" referenced people of the Lesser Antilles. The name "Taino" was recorded by the early Spanish but did not come into use as an ethnic label until much later. Taino culture was characterized by advanced political organization, elaborate ceremonial life, and well-developed arts. The Taíno Indians occupied and shared the places acquired by the Igneris who came from South America.
The Taínos, at approximately 800 years before the discovery of Puerto Rico, had constructed the "bateyes" or Ceremonial Parks. The Tainos reported that the Island Caribs attacked them in the Greater Antilles. The natives who fought against Columbus' crew in 1493 at the island commonly identified as St. Croix are usually interpreted as Island Caribs. Taíno culture was the most highly developed in the Caribbean when Columbus reached Hispaniola in 1492. Pre-Columbian cultures perceived the world and everything in it as alive with supernatural power, including features of the landscape, mountains, caves, rivers, trees, and the sea as well as the souls of animals and people.
The Tainos believed they were descended from the primordial union of a male "culture hero" named Deminán and a female turtle. Similar creation stories persist among contemporary societies in Venezuela and the Guianas. Like other pre-Columbian cultures, the Taíno venerated their ancestors. The dead were usually buried under their houses, but caciques and other high-ranking nobles were given special funerary rites. The most important sacred substance for the Taíno was "cohoba," a psychoactive powder ground from the seeds of trees native to South America and the Caribbean.
There was a hierarchy of deities who inhabited the sky; Yocahu was the supreme Creator. Another god, Jurakán, was perpetually angry and ruled the power of the hurricane. Other mythological figures were the gods Zemi and Maboya. The Taíno Indians lived in theocratic kingdoms and had hierarchically arranged chiefs or caciques. At the time Juan Ponce de León took possession of the Island, there were about twenty villages or yucayeques. Cacique Agüeybana was chief of the Taínos.
Skilled at agriculture and hunting, the Taínos were also good sailors, fishermen, canoe makers, and navigators. They had no calendar or writing system, and could count only up to twenty, using their hands and feet. Their ball game had both secular and sacred levels of meaning. Caciques lived in rectangular huts, called caneyes, located in the center of the village facing the batey. A dynamic tension between the Taínos and the Caribs certainly existed when Christopher Columbus landed on Puerto Rico. When the Spanish settlers first came in 1508, anthropologists estimate their numbers to have been between 20,000 and 50,000, but maltreatment, disease, flight, and unsuccessful rebellion had diminished their number to 4,000 by 1515. In 1544 a bishop counted only 60, but these too were soon lost.
The Taínos rebelled most notably in 1511, when several caciques (Indian leaders) conspired to oust the Spaniards. The revolt was soon ended brutally by the Spanish forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León who killed 6,000 Tainos. The extermination of the Antillean Arawaks under Spanish rule was the worst page in history. The Europeans attributed the inaptitude of the Indian for physical labor to obstinacy, and only too often vented his impatience in acts of cruelty. In closing, the early stage of Christiniazation was attributed to the Jesuits. The Bomba and Plena dances were created by the Africans, but the Tainos provided the music instrument.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE TAINO INDIANS
The chronology outlined herein addresses the time and place of insurrection provoked by the Spaniards by the abuses of working the Indian population from dawn to dusk. The Tainos were a very patient and hospitable people. In fact, when the Spaniards arrived they lead them to the gold mines and gave the gold away to the Spaniards because they did not know any better. Moreover, the Spaniard settlers arrived without women and started taking the women from the local population as concubines. The Indians were very annoyed by this action. The extermination of the Indians was attributed to malnutrition and the European diseases that the Indians were not immune to. For example, in 1511, an Indian insurrection occurred and Governor Ponce de Leon ordered 6,000 Indians shot on the spot in the town square. Every time the Indians revolted, the Spaniards retaliated by ordering a mass execution. In summary a population of 60,000 was reduced to 4,000 in seven years.
200-500 BC: A distinct migration began when pottery-makers traveled down the Orinoco River in present Venezuela and out to the Caribbean islands, populating islands from Trinidad to Puerto Rico between 500 BC and 200 BC.
AD 200: The earliest Virgin Islands Ceramic Age dates known so far are close to AD 200.
AD 600-1200: From approximately AD 600 to 1200, archaeological cultures of the Virgin Islands were not yet well known. There were changes in pottery, artifacts, food remains, and settlement locations, but the causes and dates of these transitions are still largely undefined.
AD 693: The Taínos, approximately 800 years before the discovery of Puerto Rico, had constructed the "bateyes" or Ceremonial Parks. Here they used to celebrate their "Areytos" or traditional festivities, their sports and other important events.
1393: About 100 years before the Spanish invasion, the Taínos were challenged by an invading South American tribe, the Caribs. Fierce, warlike, sadistic, and adept at using poison-tipped arrows, they raided the Taíno settlements for slaves (especially females) and bodies for the completion of their rites of cannibalism.
1492: The Arawaks were met by Columbus in 1492, in the Bahamas, and later on in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. In a century and possibly for several centuries previously, the Indians of Arawak stock occupied the Greater Antilles. The Taíno culture was the most highly developed in the Caribbean when Columbus reached Hispaniola in 1492.
1493: On November 19, Christopher Columbus discovered the island in his second voyage to the New World. He found the island populated by as many as 50,000 Taíno or Arawak Indians. The Taíno Indians who greeted Columbus made a big mistake when they showed him gold nuggets in the river and told him to take all he wanted. Originally the newcomers called the island "San Juan Bautista," for St. John the Baptist and the town Puerto Rico because of its obvious excellent potentialities. It was not until later that the two names were switched. Thanks in part to the enthusiasm of ambitious Juan Ponce de León, a lieutenant to Columbus, the city of Puerto Rico ("rich port") quickly became Spain's most important military outpost in the Caribbean. The natives who fought against Columbus's crew in 1493 at the island commonly identified as St. Croix are usually interpreted as Island Caribs (although there is not universal agreement on any point related to the issue). The "Letters of Columbus" contain the earliest information about the American Indians, and those described in his first letter, 22 February, 1493, were Arawaks.
1500’s: Taíno Indians inhabited the territory called the island Boriken or Borinquen that means "the great land of the valiant and noble Lord" or "land of the great lords." Today this word (used in various modifications) is still popularly used to designate the people and island of Puerto Rico. The Taíno Indians, who came from South America, inhabited the major portion of the island when the Spaniards arrived. The Taino Indians, lived in small villages, organized in clans and were led by a Cacique, or chief. They were a peaceful people who, with a limited knowledge of agriculture, lived on such domesticated tropical crops as pineapples, cassava, and sweet potatoes supplemented by seafood.
In the 1500's the Jatibonicu tribal homeland consisted of three villages known as Yucayeques (villages). These villages are known today as the local municipalities of Orocovis, Morovis, Barranquitas and Aibonito.
1508: The report of Frey Roman Pane antedates 1508, and it is the first purely ethnographic treatise on American Indians. The Spanish settlers arrived in Puerto Rico. The Indian population was estimated between 20,000 and 50,000, but maltreatment, disease, flight, and unsuccessful rebellion had diminished their number to 4,000 by 1515.
1510: Differences between the Spaniards and the Taíno Indians began. The Cacique Urayoán ordered his warriors to drown Diego Salcedo to determine whether or not the Spaniards were immortal, as they believed that Spanish colonizers had divine powers. It is told that after they drowned Diego, they watched him for several days until they were sure that he was dead.
Taíno Indians' after learning through the drowning of Diego Salcedo, that the
Spanish were mortal, revolted against the Spaniards with no success. Ponce de León ordered 6,000 shot; survivors
fled to the mountains or left the island.
Fray Antonio de Montesinos had the honor of being the first to lift up his voice against the servitude of the natives. As early as 1511 he preached to the colonists of Hispañola (La Española) who surely believed they were not sinning when they arrived in strange lands and forced the natives to serve them under the law of conquest.
The Taínos rebelled most notably in 1511, when several caciques (Indian leaders) conspired to oust the Spaniards. Their traditional enemies, the Caribs, joined them in this uprising. Their weapons, however, were no match against Spanish horses and firearms and the revolt ended brutally by the Spanish forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León.
1512: The "encomienda" system was judged to be essentially just, although they supplemented it with an ordinance code issued in Burgos on September 7, 1512.
1513: The aborigines not included in this decree remained allotted, but even these had a toehold to complete liberty by way of the Complementary Declaration of July 28, 1513, that established that those natives who were clothed, Christians, and were capable, could live their own lives. Of course they had to remain subject to the same obligations sustained by the other vassals.
1514: The Spanish Crown granted permission to Spaniards to marry native Taíno Indians. Hernando de Peralta received permission to obtain two white slaves, possibly Arab or Arab descent. Caribe Indians attacked settlements along the banks of the Daguao and Macao rivers that had been founded by Diego Columbus.
1515: On July, a hurricane struck the island, killing many Indians. Las Casas completed Montesino's work. In September 1515, he personally went to Spain to expedite the solution of the "status" of the natives from the viewpoint of law theology, and environmental reality.
1516: The Jerome Fathers left Spain on November 11, 1516, and reached San Juan Bautista on the 14 or 15 December of the same year, staying there a few days before leaving for the city of Santo Domingo in La Espanola.
1517: The first step, taken in 1517, was to determine that those absent did not profit from the encomiendas of the aborigines. This decree affected the King himself, since he, as well as other powerful Court officials had natives under his command.
1520: The Royal Decree that collectively emancipated these natives is dated July 12, 1520, and is directed to Judge Antonio de la Gama.
1521: Caribe Indians attacked the south coast. The city and the Island exchanged names, and the City of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico became the official capital. The Casa Blanca ("White House") was built. The house was owned by Ponce de León's family until the late 18th century. The ever-arriving Spaniard settlers, many of them gold-seekers, brought no women on their ships. To populate the country, the Spaniards took Indian women. With the arrival of African slaves, other elements were added. This historic intermingling has resulted in a contemporary Puerto Rico without racial problems. Juan Ponce de León organized an expedition, setting out for Florida, where he suffered serious injuries. He took refuge on La Habana, Cuba, where he died.
1530: Salvador Brau comments that since Governor Manuel de Lando's census in 1530 reports the existence of one thousand, one hundred and forty-eight natives, it must be surmised that a tremendous amount of deaths had taken place to explain this decrease in numbers.
1537: The Arawaks of the upper Amazonian region were probably met by Alanso Mercadillo in 1537 and may have been seen by Orellana in 1538-39.
1538: A Spanish officer, Perdro de Candia, first discovered them in 1538.
1542: The coconut tree was introduced to the island. The coconut is indigenous to the Indo-Malaysian region. It spread by sea currents with the average maximum distance of 3,000 miles, on which the coconut will remain afloat and still remain viable. Considering these limitations there was little or no chance of a coconut seed reaching the New World. Most authorities agree that the coconut was introduced to the New World by the Portuguese and Spanish traders.
1544: Since many of the encomenderos did not carry out the orders of the encomienda system, the attacks on the institution continued. Therefore, in 1544, Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany decided to abolish it. The decree declared the natives to be as free as any Spaniard.
1564: The Arawak tribes occupied almost exclusively the southern bank of the Amazon. They were reached by the missionaries later than the tribes on the north bank. Missionaries accompanied Juan Salinas de Loyola (a relative of St. Ignatius) in 1564.
1581: There are also traces that a Jesuit had penetrated those regions in 1581, more as an explorer than as a missionary.
1608: The Arawaks made, previous to 1602, six distinct efforts to convert the Chunchos, from the side of Huanuco in Peru, and from northern Bolivia, but all these attempts were failures.
1619: Fray Francisco Ponce de Leon, "Commander of the convent of the city of Jaen de Bracacamoros," and Diego Vaca de Vega, Governor of Jaen, organized in 1619 an expedition down the Marañon to the Maynas. In 1619 they founded the mission of San Francisco Borja, which still exists as a settlement.
1620: The first baptisms of Indians took place 22 March, 1620.
1631-1635: The Franciscans entered from the direction of Juaja or Tarma, toward Chanchamayo, in 1631 and 1635.
1637-1766: Conversions in these regions have cost many martyrs, not less than sixty-four ecclesiastics have perished at the hands of the Indians of Arawak stock in the years between 1637 and 1766.
1640: Work was not interrupted, however, and three years later (1640) there were seven chapels established about the salt-hill of Vitoc, each with a settlement of Indian converts.
1725: In 1725 the College of Ocopa was founded. All these gains (except the College of Ocopa and the regions around Tarma and Cajamarquilla) were lost until after 1751 when the Franciscan missions again began to enter the lost territory and added more conquests among the fiercest Arawaks (Cashibos) on the Ucayali.
1742: But in 1742 the appearance of Juan Santos Atahualpa occasioned an almost general uprising of the aborigines. Until then the missions had progressed remarkably. Some of the most savage tribes, like the Canibos, became at least partially reduced to obedience, and led a more sedate, orderly life.
1751: The report of Frey Roman Pane is found in the works of Fernando Colon, the Spanish original of which has not yet been found. However, an Italian version was published in 1751.
1767: Those missions were, of course, abandoned after 1767. During the past century the Franciscans have taken up the field of which the Jesuits were deprived, especially the missions between the Pano, or Shipibo (Arawaks) tribes of the Beni region of Bolivia.
1778: In 1778 there was a contingent of 2,302 pure natives living in the country, which seems to have settled in the Central Cordillera in those places known up to now as "Indieras."
1825: The village of Barros was officially renamed to Orocovis to honor the memory of Principal Chief Orocobix in the year 1825.
Year 1771 Year 1778
Whites............... 31,951 46,756
Indians.............. 1,756 2,302
Free Colored......... 24,164 34,867
Free Negroes......... 4,747 7,866
Mulato Slaves........ 3,343 4,657
Negro Slaves......... 4,249 6,603
History of Puerto Rico, web site: http://welcome.topuertorico.org/reference/taino.shtml
History of Cuba, web site: http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/scaw/spawar.htm
Spanish American War, web site: : http://www.spanamwar.com/Pr-countrytrip.htm
El Grito de Lares, web site: http://www.elboricua.com/lares.html