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TAÍNA

"The Taínos were a complete culture that learned to live with what the Caribbean had to offer and make the best of it. They lived in the islands of Cuba, La Española, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and other islands of the northern Caribbean. The first records described them as medium to tall healthy people with tan, bronzed skin. They had no body or facial hair, pronounced cheekbones, full pout, and a good dental hygiene. Their culture was of respect and hospitality, and above all, they were noble, wise, and brave."

The Taínos of Kiskeya or Ayiti (name given to the island by the Taínos meaning mother of all lands and flower of high land, respectively) lived in an organized society. The island, now shared by Haiti and Dominican Republic, was divided then in 5 chiefdoms or cacicazgos, their rulers were "caciques" and they sat on the top tier of the caste system. 

The Taínos were a matrilineal society, they traced their ancestry through the female line. Women were regarded as important members of society, they lived with the children away from the men, and were independent and self sufficient. They weren't restricted by roles.

ANACAONA (meaning golden flower in Taíno language) was a Taíno queen. She was born into a family of chiefs and married to a chief named Caonabo. After
her husbandʼs kidnapping by the Spaniards, she became a chief herself. Anacaona was a powerful, admired and very well respected figure. Aside from being a chief, she was also a poet and a singer. She was hanged by the Spaniards as a way to sow fear in the Taíno people.

ATABEY is the Taíno goddess of fertility and fresh water.
The Taíno had many gods or cemís and practiced rituals to get closer to them. The rituals (also called areítos) involved singing and dancing to honor their ancestors, chiefs and gods.

NABORÍ is the name given to the common people in the Taíno society. The Naborí were the working people, the farmers, fishers, hunters. They were the everyday people who fueled the Taíno society.

The Taínos were very artistic. They made many ornaments for the home, jewelry, sculptures and paintings. Most of their drawings in caves are of animals and "medicine men" or priests. Their language was also very poetic and nature driven. We owe them words like "canoa, maíz, tabaco" (canoe, corn and tobacco in Spanish), and many more.

Although I couldn't find official records, it is said the Taínos hid inland after the arrival of the Spaniards, and continued to live in the island while mixing with Africans and Europeans, creating the beautiful mix that is the island of Kiskeya.

On a personal note: I am very proud of having the Taínos as part of my ancestry. They are a small part, but a very powerful one. I am also a proud Afro-Latina, a blended mix of African, European and Indigenous. And as a Dominican woman, I am extremely proud to share this ancestry with my siblings from Haiti. We are separated nations now, but we were one before. And we still are one island. 

This image was taken inside a cave in Los Haitises National Park, Dominican Republic. 

 

 

Highlighted articles: 

https://medium.com/@viewpr/ta%C3%ADnos-a-culture-to-remember-b109a460880b

https://remezcla.com/features/culture/kiskeya-for-short/

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