Posts Tagged “taino”
The Taino believe everything in the universe is interconnected and spiritually alive. They view the Earth as a flat disk suspended between the cosmos above and the watery underworld below. The realms are connected by a supernatural shaft rising from the bottom of the underworld, passing through a hole in the center of the Earth and extending upward to the heavens.
The souls of the dead live in the otherworld. They are ruled by the Zemi Maquetaurie Guayaba, Lord of the Land of the Dead. The Zemis of the underworld are often made in the form of night flying creatures, such as bats or owls. (The second Zemi, found at the Cinnamon Bay site, bears the image of a bat.) These creatures are regarded as the messengers of the Dead.
In the book, Memory of Fire: Genesis, Eduardo Galeano writes:
“He who made the sun and the moon warned the Tainos to watch out for the dead.
“In the daytime the dead hid themselves and ate guavas, but at night they went out for a stroll and challenged the living. Dead men offered duels and dead women, love. In the duels they vanished at will; and at the climax of love the lover found himself with nothing in his arms. Before accepting a duel with a man or lying down with a woman, one should feel the belly with one’s hand, because the dead have no navels.”
Another Taino myth speaks about bats:
“When time was yet in the cradle, there was no uglier creature in the world than the bat.
“The bat went up to heaven to look for God. He didn’t say, “I’m bored with being hideous. Give me colored feathers.
“No. He said, “Please give me feathers, I’m dying of cold.
“But God had not a single feather left over.
“’Each bird will give you a feather,’ he decided.
“Thus the bat got the white feather of the dove and the green one of the parrot, the iridescent one of the hummingbird, the pink one of the flamingo, the red of the cardinal’s tuft and the blue of the kingfisher’s back, the clayey one of the eagle’s wing, and the sun feather that burns in the breast of the toucan.
“The bat, luxuriant with colors and softness, moved between earth and clouds. Wherever he went, the air became pleasant and the birds dumb with admiration. According to the Zapotec peoples, the rainbow was born of the echo of his flight.
“Vanity puffed out his chest. He acquired a disdainful look and made insulting remarks.
“The birds called a meeting. Together they flew up to God. ‘The bat makes fun of us,’ they complained. ‘And what’s more, we feel cold for lack of the feathers he took.’
“Next day, when the bat shook his feathers in full flight, he suddenly became naked. A rain of feathers fell to earth.
“He is still searching for them. Blind and ugly, enemy of the light, he lives hidden in caves. He goes out in pursuit of the lost feathers after night has fallen and flies very fast, never stopping because it shames him to be seen.”
The Zemis of the cosmos, such as the creator and lord of the cassava, Yúcahu, and his mother, Atabey, bring the Taino successful harvests, fertility and good health. Zemis could also reside in the natural world of trees, mountains, rivers, caves and communities. Destructive Zemis from the nether world could cause droughts, illness and natural disaster. The Zemi, Guabancex, lady of the winds, controls hurricanes aided by her two assistants, Guataubá, herald of hurricane force winds, and Coatrisquie, the god of floodwaters.
In addition to the fabrication of idols, Taino artisans carved symbolic pictures on rocks found in areas of obvious spiritual significance. Such petroglyphs exist at Reef Bay on St. John, along the side of a fresh water pool and on the platform cliffs of Congo Cay. It is believed that these carvings represent the natural spirits that resided in these places.
The Taino used sacred psychoactive herbs to communicate with Zemis and spirits of ancestors in an elaborate ritual called the Cohoba ceremony. Caciques (chiefs) and bohutí (shamans) with sufficient spiritual power used this ceremony to heal the sick, predict the future and to ensure the well being of the community. The participants fast before beginning the ceremony. They then cause themselves to regurgitate by inserting a ritual instrument in their throat. Once purged they inhale the cohoba from an intricately carved vessel equipped with snuffing tubes, which are placed in the nostrils. The cacique or bohutí could then leave the natural world through the hole in the center of the Earth and enter the supernatural shaft which connecting the realms of the universe.
The Spanish were repelled by the Taino religion and believed the Zemis to be Satanic in nature. They are said to have burned hundreds of cotton Zemis and to have destroyed countless works of Taino religious art. As a result of severe persecution by the Spanish, surviving Tainos went underground, meeting in secret to carry on their traditions.
St. John and Virgin Islands News
FIT Act presents huge opportunity for Virgin Islands
May 21, 2014 | By Barbara Vergetis Lundin
U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) Governor John deJongh has signed the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) Act into law, allowing residents to build renewable energy projects and sell all of the electricity to the local utility.
Currently, the USVI is almost entirely dependent on imported fossil fuels and retail electric rates average over $0.50 per kilowatt-hour. Through the feed-in tariff, the Water and Power Authority (WAPA) will purchase up to 15 MW of local renewables, paying less than WAPA’s avoided wholesale cost at around $0.26 per kilowatt-hour. Renewable energy generators will enter a power purchase agreement with WAPA lasting between 10 and 30 years.
While the feed-in tariff marks a significant step toward cleaner, more affordable and more reliable power on the USVI, Craig Barshinger, a USVI Senator and author of the Feed-In Tariff Act, believes this is just the beginning in a larger effort to modernize the USVI’s power grid…. read more
REI Adventures Announces New Volunteer Trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands
REI Adventures has just announced their new trips for 2015, including a Volunteer Vacation in the Virgin Islands.
On this new tour travelers will work with National Park Service rangers on maintenance projects in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.
For ten days volunteers will work from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM clearing debris, fixing trails, and removing vegetation in a tropical locale. Then, they will be rewarded with 2 well-earned days off to snorkel, swim, or just hang out and relax.
This twelve day tour starts at $1,950 per person (based on double occupancy) including all meals, accommodations in group lodging, guide leadership, all van and ferry transportation, gratuities, and park entrance fees.
The 12-day Volunteer Vacation in the Virgin Islands trip is set to depart on Nov. 2, 2014, April 5, 2015, and Nov. 1, 2015.
Check out all the details at rei.com
USVI wins Optimist Cup at BVI Dinghy Championships
By Dean Greenaway (Special to the Daily News)
Published: May 21, 2014
TORTOLA – The annual BVI Dinghy Championships wrapped up two days of competitive racing Sunday that also included the final leg of the Virgin Islands Sailing Triple Crown – which began with races on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Teddy Nocolosi of St. Thomas, who was the overall winner in the Optimist Red Fleet, led his team to the VI Optimist Cup.
The BVI Dinghy Championships also attracted participants from Antigua, St. Maarten, St. John and St. Croix.
“This was great because we had light air conditions and this is most likely what we’ll have in the North American Championships in Mexico in July, so it was a great training toward that regatta,” St. Thomas coach Agustin Resano said. “I’m glad it was like that. I also liked that the fleet was competitive, unlike last year when we had three top sailors way ahead of the rest, this year was more compact, so it showed a lot of improvement from the bottom all the way up.”… read more
St. John Live Music Schedule
Steel Pan by Lemuel Samuels
7:00 – 9:00
Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
Wayne Clendenin and Pamela Love
4:30 – 6:30
5:00 – 8:00
Inn at Tamarind Court
6:30 – 9:30
Gann – Solo guitar
7:00 – 10:00
Rich & Greg
6:00 – 9:00
6:30 – 9:30
6:00 – 9:00
6:00 – 8:00
6:00 – 9:00
5:00 – 8:00
See Weekly Schedule
St. John Weather
Isolated showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 82. East wind around 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Cruise Ship leaving Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas
The Origin of Football, Basketball, Baseball and all the Other Games Played with a Ball
Today, games played with a rubber ball are such a significant part of modern culture that championship sports events are observed by more people, and with more fervor and enthusiasm, than most national holidays or religious celebrations. Ball games are taken so seriously that nations have actually gone to war over the outcome of soccer competitions.
Until the end of the fifteenth century, when Europeans first made contact with the Tainos, rubber ball games were unknown in Europe and, presumably, in the rest of the world. There was no such thing as football, soccer, basketball or baseball…. read more
Virgin Islands News
Regatta: Winds Plays Hide and Seek Saturday
By Source staff — March 24, 2013
Despite winds that played hide and seek all Saturday afternoon, Michigan sailor Dalton DeVos maintained his lead in the Melges 32 class in the 40th International Rolex Regatta taking place in the waters off St. Thomas.
Saturday’s action took place on three stages. The one-design Melges 32 class started out in Great Bay, but playful winds caused the race committee to re-set marks further out in Pillsbury Sound. Races in the IC-24 and Beach Cat classes were delayed a half hour at mid-day as the wind ebbed and finally flowed in Jersey Bay. The spinnaker and non-spinnaker fleets had no trouble finding steady wind on courses set along the south coast of neighboring St. John…. read more
St. John Weather
Partly cloudy with rain showers
High of 82 degrees F
Winds from the North at 10 to 15 mph shifting to the West in the afternoon
Chance of rain 20%
Sunset: 6:31 PM AST
Water temperature (Charlotte Amalie Harbor, St. Thomas): 86 degrees F
St. John Live Music Schedule
3:30 – 6:30
Sunday Brunch 10:00 am
Cruz Bay Prime
7:00 – 10:00
Lemuel Callwood Steel Pan
4:00 – 6:00
10:00 am – 2:00 pm
6:30 – 9:00
7:00 – 10:00
7:00 – 10:00
Sun Dog Cafe
11:00 am- 2:00 pm
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Taino descendants perform at the Annaberg Folk Life Festival
St. John Events
Annual Folk Festival Continues
Annaberg Sugar Plantation Ruins 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
The management of Virgin Islands National Park announces the presentation of the 22nd Annual Folk-life Festival on Feb. 28 and March 1. The management is extending an invitation to all schools, both public and private, to have students attend. However, if it is at all possible, the first day (Feb. 28), is geared towards grades K – 6, and the second day (March 1) is geared towards grades 7 – 12. Music will be provided by Smalls and the Music Makers.
See Full Events Schedule
St. John News
Folklife Festival in Full Swing at Annaberg Plantation
By Source Staff — February 28, 2013
St. John history and culture came to life Thursday as V.I. National Park celebrated the 22nd annual Folklife Festival at Annaberg Plantation.
“We’re learning about slavery and what they used to cook with,” said Mick George, a 12-year-old Guy Benjamin School student…. read more
Proposed Ferry Fare Increase Would Hit Tourists and Education Department
By Lynda Lohr — February 27, 2013
A “compromise” between the two St. John-based franchised ferry companies and the Public Services Commission resulted in a proposed fare increase that will hit tourists and the Education Department but not local residents…. read more
St. John Weather
Chocolate Hole, looking east at 6:16 AM AST
It looks like another beautiful St. John day
Forecast: Clear with rain showers
High of 79 degrees F
Winds from the ESE at 5 to 10 mph
Sunset: 6:25 PM AST
Moonrise: 10:08 PM AST
Water Temperature: 84 degrees F
St. John Live Music Schedule – Friday March 1
5:30 – 8:30
Barefoot Cowboy Lounge
7:00 – 9:00
Mikey P 8:00
Dance Party 11:00
Eddie Bruce Drum Circle
6:30 – 8:00
Bo & Lauren
6:30 – 9:00
6:00 – 9:00
6:00 – 9:30
6:30 – 9:00
7:00 – 10:00
5:00 – 8:00
Chris Carsel & Company
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Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October, in honor of Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the Americas.
On October 12, 1492, the explorer Christopher Columbus, in command of three sailing vessels that had set out from Spain, made landfall on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas. The voyage was financed by the King and Queen of Spain, who Columbus had convinced that China and the East Indies could be reached by sailing to the west. If feasible, this would give Spain access to these rich lands without having to contend with the dangers and difficulties inherent in overland journeys.
Columbus, ignoring what African mathematicians had proven to be the length of such a voyage, arrived not in the rich courts of imperial China, but on the island now known as San Salvador in the Bahamas, occupied only by simple Taino fishermen, farmers and artisans. Continuing his voyage in his search for gold brought him to Cuba and Hispaniola, but nowhere did he find any indication of the riches he had promised his backers.
Columbus did, however, bring six examples of the indigenous Taino population and presented them to the King and Queen at the Royal Palace in Barcelona.
Although according to Columbus himself, “the inhabitants of both sexes go always naked, just as they came into the world…” the six Taino representatives were presented dressed up in painted palm leaves and feathers, gold adornments and necklaces made from the teeth and claws of rare animals. Why the disparity in dress?
The explanation seems simple: Columbus’s first voyage, contrary to his hopes and dreams, was an economic disaster. He hardly found any gold, he had lost a majority of his ships, and he was unable to bring back any tangible proof of the enormous value of his discoveries, nor to justify, in any way, the expenses of this adventure or the advisability of continuing it. To dress his captive in such a way was no more than a convincing publicity stunt.
Columbus was given a second chance and returned to the “New World” with a Spanish fleet which carried more than 1500 adventurers, the majority of which were soldiers with battle experience in the wars against the Moors of North Africa.
The TainosColumbus described the Tainos in the ship’s log and in his diary as being “a very loving people and without covetousness,… They are adaptable for every purpose, and I declare to your Highnesses that there is not a better country nor a better people in the world than these.…They are so ingenious and free with all they have that no one would believe it who has not seen it; of anything they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it…”
The 16th-century Spanish historian, social reformer, Dominican friar and first officially appointed “protector of the Indians,” Bartolomé de las Casas, described the subsequent treatment of the natives of the newly “discovered” lands:
“…God made all the peoples of this area…open and as innocent as can be imagined. The simplest people in the world, unassuming, long-suffering, unassertive, and submissive. They are without malice or guile…Never quarrelsome or belligerent or boisterous, they harbor no grudges and do not seek to settle old scores; indeed, the notions of revenge, rancor, and hatred are quite foreign to them…They own next to nothing and have no urge to acquire material possessions. As a result they are neither ambitious nor greedy, and are totally uninterested in worldly power…They are innocent and pure in mind and have a lively intelligence…
“It was upon these gentle lambs, imbued by the Creator with all the qualities we have mentioned, that from the very first day they clapped eyes on them the Spanish fell like ravening wolves upon the fold…The pattern established at the outset has remained unchanged to this day, and the Spaniards still do nothing save tear the natives to shreds, murder them and inflict upon them untold misery, suffering and distress, tormenting, harrying and persecuting them mercilessly.
“They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could manage to slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual’s head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders into a river, shouting: ‘Wriggle, you little perisher.’
“They spared no one, erecting especially wide gibbets on which they could string their victims up with their feet just off the ground and then burn them alive thirteen at a time, in honor of our Savior and the twelve Apostles, or tie dry straw to their bodies and set fire to it…The way they normally dealt with the native leaders and nobles was to tie them to a kind of griddle consisting of sticks resting on pitchforks driven into the ground and then grill them over a slow fire, with the result that they howled in agony and despair as they died a lingering death.
“It once happened that I myself witnessed their grilling of four or five local leaders in this fashion (and I believe they had set up two or three other pairs of grills alongside so that they might process other victims at the same time) when the poor creatures ‘howls came between the Spanish commander and his sleep. He gave orders that the prisoners were to be throttled, but the man in charge of execution detail, who was more bloodthirsty than the average common hangman (I know his identity and even met some relatives of his in Seville), was loath to cut short his private entertainment by throttling them and so he personally went round ramming wooden buns into their mouths to stop them making such a racket and deliberately stoked the fire that they would take just as long to die as he himself chose. I saw these things for myself and many others besides.
“…It is reported that the butcher-in-chief arranged for a large number of natives in the area and, in particular, one group of over two hundred who had either come form a neighboring town in response to a summons or had gathered of their own free will, to have their noses, lips and chins sliced from their faces; they were sent away, in unspeakable agony and all running with blood…”
Happy Columbus Day!
The first Europeans to travel to the islands of the Americas were duly impressed by the boats used by the Taino natives they met there. Their craft were made from the hollowed out trees and were called canoas, from which the English word canoe came from.
The smaller canoes were used by individuals for near shore fishing or by small parties of fishermen, hunters or warriors. The largest ones were the property of the caciques or chiefs and were capable of carrying as many as one hundred people over long distances.
Christopher Columbus wrote, “On every island there are many canoes of a single piece of wood; and though narrow, yet in length and shape similar to our rowboats, but swifter in movement. They steer only by oars. Some of these boats are large, some small, some of medium size. Yet they row many of the larger row-boats with eighteen cross-benches, with which they cross to all those islands, which are innumerable, and with these feats they perform their trading, and carry on commerce among them. I saw some of these canoes which were carrying seventy and eighty rowers.”
These great canoes were carved from a tree that the Taino called tsayee-baa. On St. John, this tree is called kapok, elsewhere it is known as ceiba or silk cotton.
For a people who possessed only stone tools, the felling and subsequent carving out of a tree large enough to make a hundred-person canoe was no mean feat. It was accomplished by making a fire at the base of the tree, which would char the trunk. The fire was then extinguished and the burned wood scraped out with sharp stone tools.
This process would be repeated again and again until the tree came down. The fallen tree would then be stripped of its branches and hauled out of the forest. The ends were then squared off and the bark removed. The same charring and scarping process would be used to carve out the inside of the trunk and after the proper configuration was obtained the canoa would be polished, painted and launched.
The incredible amount of manpower, time, dedication and craftsmanship required to produce a canoe of this magnitude is only part of the story. To the Taino, as well as to most other cultures of the Americas, the ceiba was a highly sacred and spiritual tree. It could not just be cut down and carved up without attention to the powerful spirit that resides within.
According to the Spanish chroniclers who left us the only written documents concerning of the Taino culture, the fabrication of these giant canoes involved a complicated spiritual ritual. The chief who intended to make the canoe would first need to communicate with the spirit of a ceiba tree, which could only be cut down if the tree spirit gave its permission. The spirit would also indicate the manner in which it would be transformed, giving detailed instructions as to the size, nature of carving and even the painting of the canoe. The spirit of the tree would then exist within the canoe, and the chief would carry the responsibility for that spirit for the rest of his life. This would involve ceremonies honoring and making offerings to the tree spirit.
The Tainos took pride in their courage on the high ocean as well as their skill in finding their way around their world. Columbus was often astonished at finding lone Taino fishermen sailing in the open ocean as he made his way among the islands. Once, a canoe full of Taino men followed him from island to island until one of their relatives, held captive on one of the ships, jumped over the side and was spirited away so quickly that the Spanish sailors could not recapture them.
The Taino were so comfortable at sea and so adept at navigation that they were said to make almost daily crossings over the rough and treacherous Mona Passage that separates Puerto Rico from Hispaniola.
The Tainos did not confine their sea travel to their homeland islands of the Caribbean and the Bahamas. They were also known to venture as far as the mainland of South America, Mexico, Yucatan and Central America, which, according to archeologists, explains the many cultural similarities between the Taino and the often advanced societies that inhabited these far off places.
The hero of this story was born on the island of Hispaniola in the early 1500’s. His name was Guarocuya. He was the son of a Taino cacique, or chief, who was assassinated by the Spaniards. After the death of his father, Guarocuya was adopted by Franciscan monks, who provided him with a Spanish-style education. Upon his conversion to Catholicism he was given the Christian name, Enriquillo.
Enriquillo was happily married to the granddaughter of the illustrious caciques, Caonabo and Anacaona. Her name was Mencía, and she also had converted to Christianity.
The Tainos of Hispaniola, conquered and subjugated by the Spanish, were governed under a policy called the encomienda, a system not very different than the institution of slavery. Under this policy Taino lands were entrusted to Spanish colonists who then exercised complete authority over that land and the people on it.
Enriquillo and Mencía, along with other Tainos of their village were “entrusted” to the Spanish colonist, Francisco de Valenzuela who operated a large ranch. When Francisco de Valenzuela died he left his estate, including the “entrusted” workers, to his son Andrés who, taking advantage of his position and his power, began to make unwanted sexual advance towards Mencía.
When Enriquillo found out about the persecution being suffered by his wife, he reproached his new master and begged him to leave Mencía in peace. Andrés de Valenzuela perceived his servant’s complaint as an affront to his authority and had Enriquillo beaten in front of the other Tainos.
Indignant over this unjust treatment, Enriquillo denounced Andrés to the lieutenant governor of the village, don Pedro Badillo. The Spanish colonial official, however, refused to get involved in any case involving a Taino against a Spaniard. Enriquillo then took his complaint to the highest judicial authorities on the island. This only resulted in the case being sent back to Badillo to deal with. When Badillo received the complaint for the second time, he warned Enriquillo that if he persisted in this matter, he would be arrested and sentenced to prison.
At this point Enriquillo made his decision to rebel against the Spaniards. He gathered together a large group of fellow Tainos and fled to the rugged mountain terrain in the region of Bahoruco. The year was 1520.
Badillo and Valenzuela and a force of armed men set out in pursuit of the rebels. A fierce battle ensued and the Taino rebels succeeded in defeating the Spaniards, many of whom were killed or wounded. Valenzuela himself was at the point of being killed by one of the Taino warriors when, Enriquillo, the former servant, took pity on him and ordered the warrior to spare Valenzuela’s life. Enriquillo set Valenzuela free, saying to him, “Be grateful that I have not killed you. Leave and never return here again.”
The Taino insurgents established a secure mountain stronghold where they planted fields of yucca and other provisions in the most hidden and remote valleys and conducted raids against Spanish haciendas and ranches in the vicinity.
Enriquillo turned out to be a great warrior and a master strategist. He used guerrilla tactics in which he avoided meeting his numerically superior and better armed enemy on open ground. Instead Enriquillo took advantage of his knowledge the terrain and lead his adversaries into to fall into deadly ambushes. After attacking with lightning speed Enriquillo would retreat into the nearly inaccessible mountain valleys and steep ravines, which only they knew well and, from there, prepare for the next surprise attack.
After several humiliating defeats, the Spaniards decided to take another tack. Diego Colon, the Governor General of Hispaniola offered to make peace with Enriquillo and his followers granting them complete immunity if they would give up the rebellion and once again submit to Spanish authority. Enriquillo refused to accept this and several other subsequent proposals made by both the government and the church.
At one point the Spanish sent Father Remigio, the priest who had been Enriquillo’s former teacher, to act as an intermediary between the government and the rebels. Father Remigio was intercepted by lookouts who dispossessed the Franciscan of his robes. They then conducted the priest, who was dressed only in his underwear, to meet Enriquillo.
Ashamed at seeing his old teacher in such a state, Enriquillo punished the warriors who were responsible for this show of disrespect, and as a means of apology ordered that a grand reception be made in Father Remigio’s honor. Enriquillo’s doubts concerning the sincerity and good faith of the colonial officials, however, still remained and he once again refused to accept the peace offer.
In 1532 in order to put an end to the Taino uprising, the Emperor sent a corps of two hundred well-armed and well-equipped soldiers to Hispaniola under the command of Captain Francisco de Barrionuevo.
Barrionuevo was ordered to explore all peaceful avenues for ending the conflict before resorting to violent action. In 1533 Barrionuevo, along with thirty soldiers, two priests and thirty Tainos, among whom were Enriquillo’s and two priests met to discuss peace with the rebellious cacique. The meeting took place alongside a saltwater lake that today is called Lake Enriquillo in commemoration of the epic uprising.
Barrionuevo carried with him a missive from the Royal Court that proposed that the cacique cease hostilities and sign a pact of peace. Enriquillo read the document which agreed to the abolition of the encomienda system, freedom for the Tainos and grants of land to be used for the cultivation of crops and the raising of animals in exchange for the cessation of hostilities and the acceptance of Spanish authority.
Enriquillo accepted the terms and signed the agreement with Barrionuevo. The Spanish monarchy rapidly approved the treaty and sent the ratified documents to a Taino representative named Gonzáles who had been commissioned by Enriquillo for that purpose.
The Royal Court was true to their word and even took special care in the resettlement of the Tainos, providing them with cattle for livestock and seeds for the cultivation of the land. Enriquillo died peacefully a year after the peace treaty was signed, earning the love of his people and the admiration and respect of the Spaniards.
Enriquillo’s wife, Mencía organized the construction a church where the remains of her heroic husband were then buried. His tomb, however, was also the tomb of the Taino people; for despite their recently won gains, the ravages of European diseases and depredations continued to take their toll on the less than 4,000 surviving Tainos of Hispaniola. By the end of the sixteenth century that noble and gentle race had all but disappeared from the face of the Earth.
Loosely translated from Historica Grafica de la Republica Dominicana by Jose Ramon Estella.
Hatuéy was a great Taino cacique in Ayti, the land of mountains, now known as the nation of Haiti. He had first hand experience with the Spanish conquerors of his homeland, who had enslaved the Taino people, committing atrocities upon them and forcing them to labor, often to their deaths, in order to satisfy the Spaniard’s lust for gold. Rather than submit or offer resistance to the well-armed oppressors, Hatuéy chose to leave the land of his birth. He and his people escaped across the Windward Passage to Cuba.
In 1511, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, who had participated in the massacre of the Taino in the province of Xaraguá, and Pánfilo de Narvárez, a veteran of the conquest of Jamaica, were chosen by the Spanish to begin the conquest of the island of Cuba. The chronicler, Bartolomé de Las Casas, sailed with Narvárez. When Hatuéy heard rumors of this invasion, he proceeded to warn the caciques of eastern Cuba about this serious threat to their very existence.
Hatuéy arrived in the village of the Cuban cacique, Guamax accompanied by a small entourage and carrying in his canoe a basket filled with gold and gold jewelry.
Addressing Guamax’s people, Hatuéy explained that the Christians so cruelly mistreated the Taino people because the Christians had a God who they worshiped and revered. The Tainos were murdered and enslaved in order to take that God away from them.
Hatuéy then displayed the basket of gold to the gathered assembly and explained that this was the God of the Christians. He then asked the people to decide what to do with Him.
Hatuéy suggested that the people perform their ceremonial dance called the Arieto and the sacred and magical Cohoba ceremony in which hallucinogenic herbs are ingested. Perhaps the God would then be pleased and He would instruct the Christians not to kill the Tainos.
After the ceremony, however, Hatuéy warned the assemblage that if they were to keep the God amongst them, the Christians would surely come and kill them in order to get possession of the God. It was finally decided to throw the God into the river.
Hatuéy’s warnings to the Cuban Taino precipitated several major rebellions and began an overall pattern of resistance against the Spanish in Cuba that was not completely subdued until the 1530’s.
Hatuéy himself was finally captured, and he and his warriors were burned alive at the stake. While tied to the stake Hatuéy was approached by a Spanish priest, who offered to baptize and convert Hatuéy, thus cleansing his sins against the Christian God which would allow Hatuéy to enter heaven and avoid hell.
Hatuéy asked for time to think about the offer. After a time Hatuéy responded by asking the priest where the Spanish went after they died. The priest told Hatuéy that baptized Christians went to heaven. Hatuéy then made his final decision. He told the priest not to baptize him because if the Spanish went to heaven, he preferred to go to hell.
The story of Hatuéy’s execution was recorded by Las Casas and is now part of Cuban folklore. Hatuéy has become a national folk hero representing Cuba’s struggle against foreign oppression, first from Spain and later from the United States of America.
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Who in today’s western world has not heard of The Super Bowl, The World Series, The NBA finals, The British Open and the Wimbolton? How many of us have played ball games as youngsters and adults, games like baseball, basketball, soccer, football, tennis, stick ball, paddle ball, punch ball and literally hundreds of other ball games? Where did these games originate?
Before the arrival of Columbus Taino Amerindians played a rubber ball game at Cinnamon Bay on St. John as well as throughout their territories in the West Indies.
Games involving rubber balls were then unknown in Europe.
The Tainos called the game, and the court on which it was played, “batey.” The court was rectangular and was bordered by upright stone. Commoners sat on the stones or on embankments to view the game. Caciques (chiefs) and nobles sat on stools called duhos. Both men and women played, but there were no coed games. Men played with men, and women with women. Winning the game was thought to bring a good harvest and strong, healthy children.
The Spaniards, who had never seen rubber, were amazed by it. They brought the ball and the concept of the ball game back to Europe, and today ball games are an extremely important part of our culture.
Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, who arrived in Santo Domingo with Columbus and was the most prolific chronicler of the Indians, gave us this description of the game:
“The Indians had a plaza located outside the door of the señor (cacique), well swept, three times as long as it was wide, and fenced in with stones. The fence was about one or two palm lengths high. They were penalized if they crossed this boundary. There were 20 or 30 Indians on each team and one team gathered at each end of the plaza. Each one bet what he had, it making no difference if what he had was of more value than that of another; this is how it was, after the Spanish arrived, that one Cacique would bet a red robe, and another an old rag, this was as if he
had bet a hundred castellanos. A player hit the ball and it was returned by the nearest opponent. If the ball came high, it was struck with the shoulder, if it came low, with the right hand. In the same manner they continued until someone erred. It was joy to see their heated play, and much more so when the women played against each other, striking the ball with their knees and closed fists.”
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