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.