Posts Tagged “vieques”

On the island of Vieques, the Taino people lived in peace and in harmony with the environment for some 1200 years, until the end of the 15th century when confronted with the arrival of a new people from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. a light-skinned people who called themselves Spaniards or Christians.

The first wave were warriors and priests bet on conquest and religious conversion respectively, and their first conquest was the island of Quisqueya (Dominican Republic)

Boriquén (Puerto Rico) was next.

The cruelty and brutality of the conquest and subsequent subjugation led hundreds of Tainos who lived on the eastern part of Boriquén to flee their homeland. Many managed to escape to the nearby Bieké (Vieques), which was still under the control of two Taino caciques (chiefs), the brothers, Yaureibo and Cacimar.

Between 1511 and 1514 the Tainos from Bieké joined by the newly arrived refugees made a series of retaliatory raids against the conquerors of Boriquén,

As a result of the raids more soldiers were stationed in the eastern zone and fortification and defensive measures were undertaken.
One of these soldiers, Sancho de Arango, was the owner of a ferocious dog named Becerrillo (The Little Bull), an animal especially trained to kill human beings.

According to the Chronicle of the Indies:
” The natural instinct of this animal allowed it to distinguish between fugitive Indians or enemy Indians and those that had already been subdued. He attacked his foes with fury and rage and defended his friends with great valor. If a prisoner escaped, Becerrillo would find him no matter where he tried to hide. Among 200 Indians he would seek out and find the one who had fled from his designated job and take him by the arm to the Christians. If he resisted, Becerrillo would tear the man to pieces. The Indians were more afraid of ten Spanish soldiers accompanied by Becerrillo than by 100 soldiers without him.”

In 1514, Cacimar led an attack against a Spanish settlement in eastern Boriquén. During the battle, he was run through with a lance from behind as he engaged in hand to hand combat with a Spanish soldier.

Yaureibo, angered by the dishonorable nature of his brothers death, launched a second attack on the settlement. In the battle that ensued, several Spaniards were killed, and many others were wounded. Sancho de Arango, the owner of Becerrillo, was wounded in the battle and taken prisoner along with several of his men.

Becerrillo had been fighting along with the soldiers, but when he saw that his master had been wounded, he furiously attacked the party of warriors who were carrying him away along with several other Spanish captives. So fierce was the beast’s attack, that it caused panic among the warriors who rapidly retreated to the banks of a nearby river crossing it in all haste. In the confusion of the retreat, several of the captives managed to escape. A warrior, who had crossed to the other side of the river, managed to kill Becerrillo, piercing him with a poisoned arrow.

It was the loss of the dog, rather than the loss of Spanish lives, that prompted the Spanish to send a large and well armed force of men to Vieques in order to punish the people there. Yaureibo and his warriors fought valiently, holding off the Spanish for an entire night, but in the end the Spaniards with their superior weaponry emerged victorious. Yaureibo was killed as were many of his people. The survivors were captured and sent to Puerto Rico, where they were enslaved.

With the defeat of Yaureibo and Cacimar the era of Viequense self determination came to an end and the people of Vieques became pawns in a game of colonialism that some feel continues to this very day.

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Hi, my name is Gerald Singer. I am the author of the book, “Vieques.

The following is the introduction to the book:

Vieques, A Photographically Illustrated Guide to the Island, Its History and Its Culture is not a guidebook in the traditional sense of the
word. It does not contain practical information for the traveler, such as places to stay and where to eat. It does, however, endeavor to portray to the reader a more complete understanding of the island for those of you who, like us, are new to Vieques.

We try, through the media of photography, travel journal entries and stories told to us by residents, to give you a taste of the beauty and charming character of the island as well as an appreciation for the people and their heroic struggle for peace, justice and human dignity.

The fact is that Vieques is more than the stunning beauty of its magnificent landscapes, beaches, dramatic vistas, and charming towns untouched as yet by modern global style development. Vieques is also an island with an often sad history, blotted by the abuses of centuries of colonialism and bearing the scars of more than 60 years of US Navy occupation during which the island and its people suffered injustices, insensitivity, economic and social hardships, and the destruction of much of the natural environment.

For as beautiful and unspoiled as Vieques appears to the visitor of today, it is, unbelievable but true, a mere shadow of what it once was
and what it hopefully can become again.

We have often heard the words “undeveloped, natural and unspoiled,” used by travel writers and visitors to describe Vieques and we would like to put that into perspective.

With the US Navy using some three quarters of the land on Vieques as an ammunition dump and a bombing range, there was very little
happening on the island in the free-for-all development days of the late twentieth century that effected so much of the Caribbean.
Consequently, Vieques was able to maintain much of its original character and escape the onslaught (until now) of the results of unconstrained development such as traffic, congestion, fast food restaurant chains, global franchises, and sprawling condominiums
and resorts dominating the beaches. The island also avoided the environmental and cultural consequences of irresponsible development. The price paid, however, was dear.

Over a half century of bombing, bulldozing and shelling have damaged or destroyed many of the coral reefs, mangrove lagoons and dry forests. The beach environments were negatively effected by the removal of vast coconut groves to facilitate war game practices.

Worst of all, is the contamination left behind by the Navy in the form of heavy metals, depleted uranium, explosive residues, unexploded
bombs and artillery shells and the dumping of toxic wastes.

Since the Navy has left Vieques, the island has been “discovered” for the third time: First by the indigenous peoples coming from the mainland of South and Central America, second by Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him and presently by waves of tourists, speculators and developers. Consequently, the people of Vieques now face many difficult challenges that will determine the future course of the island.

The intention of this book is to impart our impressions of the awesome beauty of Vieques, to present you with images of the island that you can share with others, to guide you to those hidden and remote places often missed and to give you a sense of the history of the places that you will visit while, at the same time providing you with a sensitivity and respect for the warm, lively and friendly people who call Vieques their home.

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