What exactly are they ?
Sure this is one of those questions that everyone can copy and paste their answers to, but in all seriousness what do individuals who are part of the Taino Heritage Movement really want to achieve ? Yes, I realize that there are various groups out there who have their own agendas (Everyone please take the time to look the term (agenda) up in the dictionary, before assuming that I am using it in a negative manner. I am not saying this in a condescending manner but as a way to avoid misunderstanding.), but perhaps the reason for this continuous splintering and stewing in the pot is because there is no schema in place for what we (I am using "we" loosely.) wish to achieve. These splinter groups in essence being the fruit of the lack of a schema as well as leadership. This does not at all negate the fact that people within the movement will have different objectives of where they want to be as a people. But even then these groups would need to establish their objectives and move forward with them.
Sure people will state that as a "new comer" who am I to state this and or that, but with all due respect those who pioneered the way were "new comers" themselves and still are so. Thirty to forty years within a movement is relatively young as far as movements go. The Civil War itself is just about 144 years old (The last battle taking place in 1865), so in terms of history even that is relatively recent.
Many of you may be wondering as to why I am mentioning The American Civil War ?, well here is my explanation. The fact is this movement (which for many took place in The US) along with many others which took place in what is now collectively called The United States of America can all in some way shape or form draw their genesis from this era. How so ?, well during this time there began a movement in The U.S.A to put a face to The U.S . Hence during this time we get an Anglo Americanization of what it meant to be American. America came to molded in a WASP form and anything not conforming to this vision was discarded. Now many may say The Civil War was fought to end slavery, but the fact is that was an afterthought. The true reason was to change the economy of The South from an agricultural based economy to an industrialized form like that of The North. Thankfully slavery was abolished, but then what to do with these slaves and non WASPs ? It is not as if people were coming out with open arms saying here take a job here etc. Slaves, Indigenous people and other non WASP Immigrants were seen as sub citizens/humans within most of WASP America. So wouldn't you know it fast forward a few years and what do you get The Carlisle Indian Schools. The aim of these schools being to tame The Indigenous person into The WASP model. Some see it as a pro, others see it as a con. Anyway fast forward just a few years later and what do you get The Annexation of Puerto Rico to The US as well as The Ghost Dance movement, both taking place during the 1890s. The Ghost Dance movement if memory serves was the first movement that called for Pan First Nation Identity. Prior to this movement, most if not all First Nation groups existed as diverse groups. Sure they were all First Nation, but each had its own unique and distinct identity.
Now taking all the information above and comparing it with the histories of our INDIVIDUAL Island Nations. I realize most if not all of us identify as a collective Taino Nation, but the fact is each Island having an Arawak speaking population differed from one Island to the next. Each adapted to their Island home. Not sure how many people realize this, but each Island has its own unique ecology as well as flora and fauna. Sure we have quite a few things in common, but we also had our differences. We commonly speak about certain images being romanticized about Taino culture, but is this not one of them as well ? We probably exchanged goods between Islands and made alliances, but I would wager we namely kept to our Islands, ordering about OUR Islands INDIVIDUAL affairs.
But I digress. The history of what it means to identify as being of First Nation descent in The USA is totally distinct to that of most of The Caribbean and Central and South America. Sure colonization happened for us all, but in looking at the WASP form which was in effect in The US and comparing it with the Catholic form (atrocities of INDIVIDUALS duly noted), we have a totally different history. Whereas in the US you had no chance for upward mobility or integration of culture in the society on most of the Islands you did. For instance most Catholic colonized nations, maintain the use of Guiros, Maracas etc. in their musical forms (not too mention cuisine wise). On the other hand in the US, most if not all traces of First Nation implements are non existent. What is the national cuisine and music form of the US ? Mind you, I'm referring to both hybridized and non-hybridized forms. Before anyone jumps down my throat, realize that I am aware of certain Indigenous food ways that are mainstream (succotash,etc.), but I'm speaking in the general sense. For the most part, such an occurrence is non existent in The US. Which is funny considering when speaking of American Identity, First Nation groups are used as a last resort to define America. Go figure.
Now onto the bitter rivalry between those involved in the movement in The US and in The Old County (our various homelands). As much as people don't like to hear it, the harsh reality is that there could not have been any movement without the knowledge from our homelands. Case in point, Puerto Rico was annexed to The US in 1890 and thus only came to be viewed as part of the larger First Nation Heritage movements after its annexation. Sure people will point to The Taino of Florida, but as I previously mentioned they are The Taino of FLORIDA. Sure we moved around from Island to Island, but the point is in terms of the physical body of what is considered The US, our Island histories only became part of the narrative after 1890. Same with Native Hawaiians, they are the Indigenous of Hawaii, but for the most part they're not considered First Nation as a Salish would be. But weren't they annexed to The US as well, shouldn't they also become part of this larger narrative as well ? The Natives of Alaska are another group as well, who along with Hawaii were recently annexed to The US. Sure they are First Nation, but for the most part this movement had as its aim bringing forth recognition to the First Nations of The United States (pre annexation). Not North America as a whole or the rest of The Americas for that matter.
Here's another theme which I have heard circulated, The Legend/Prophecy of The Eagle and The Condor. In browsing for its exact origin, most if not all list no date for when said statement was made. Interestingly, I also found a variation of said Legend. Here is the link below:
While this legend belongs to one particular nation, it comes out in stark contrast to what the other legend/prophecy relates about the relationship between the Eagle and the Condor. Seems that the Pan First Nation identity expressed by the legend/prophecy most often circulated about the Eagle and the Condor wouldn't apply. Not to mention, I doubt most First Nation individuals (a term used explicitly by the Indigenous of Canada) from every nation would agree with the symbols used to represent their Nations. Not sure, but I don't think the Taino had much contact with Condors (excluding any ties to Central and South America). Hhhmmm... what would the various Taino (and every other First Nation) choose to be identified with. Let us see, in Puerto Rico we have Coquies, Iguanas, Carey (which just so happens to be our National form of Jewelry (DR having Amber) ), Zun Zun/Colibri, Mucaros, Guaraguaos, etc. Hhhmmm... I think we wouldn't use a Condor as our symbol. Again just speaking for myself.
Just a thought, doesn't Pan-First Nation identity go against everything we're fighting for ? We're trying to do away with stereotypes of every First Nation group behaving and looking a certain way, yet we give into it via these legends/prophecies. Doesn't that give credence to the outsiders perspective that we're all one and the same ? Mind you as I've mentioned numerous times, I have no problem with brotherhood between the nations, but not at the expense of becoming/living the stereotype.
Anyway let me return back to the rivalry particularly between US Puerto Rican Tainos and Island Puerto Rican Tainos. As I previously mentioned, being in the US one has to work out of a WASP model, whereas in Puerto Rico and elsewhere the values are not the same. As I mentioned in a previous post, "Wisdom Sits in Places" (a term borrowed/coined by Keith Basso, describing a linguistic/cultural trait of The Western Apache). When in Puerto Rico or the various Islands, being Taino is a subconscious act. The Jagua trees are there, the so called "celts" are found in nature and not purchased off of eBay ( I realize that many people will get offended at my pointing out purchasing items off of eBay, but I am doing so to make a contrast between both forms of Taino identity.), Iguanas roam free etc. . There is no need to constantly remind oneself of what they are, why ?, because that WISDOM of BEING TAINO is constantly impressed upon one being back home. The Island in effect constantly reminds you of it. Whether it be via food ways or language etc., The Island has that effect on you. I would wager that any and most movements were influenced by the WASP modeled movements of Post Contact US Natives with Caribbean Islanders (We presented the bi ethnic model of The US's White and Black with a dilemma, we came with our own cultural baggage stemming from The Casta System. But this would be better discussed in a separate post.). Prior to that we just coexisted on the Island (I'm taking into account the "racial"/ethnic tensions of The Island as well (at least in the case of Puerto Rico).) without a care of anyone saying you're either White or Black, no in betweens. Sure some of us had (and still have) The Casta mentality in one way or another, but for the most part our system of identity wasn't subject to US standards (I am referring to ethnic relations within The Caribbean, not elsewhere save for The US of which I am drawing a comparison between.).
So as to the original intention of this thread, What are our goals ?
Retribution ? (Who are we going to blame ?) (Perhaps cultural retribution/recognition, but monetarily who are we going to ask for it ?)
Living on Reservations ?
Food Way Revivals (Interestingly they still exist, just adapted))
A Taino Nation of Old (somewhat akin to what would happen in a reservation, although in contrast we somewhat do exist in this manner via what I have repeatedly called a guaitio-esque culture/exchange. )
Ethnic/Racial Purity ( Hhhmmm... where have I heard this before, oh yeah that's right The Casta and Pureza de Sangre. Being Taino was not solely about genetics, it was related to a way of being. Hence one could be a pure blood and be exiled from ones yucayeque (and other local yucayeques) whereas someone who had not one ounce of Taino blood would be incorporated into the society. Now if we're talking about ethnic/racial purity where does that leave most of us ? Not sure how many are familiar with Roma (Gypsy) societal norms, but if we were to apply those norms to a Taino Nation, all of us would be out of luck. Unless we were a Rom Man marrying a gadji (female non-Roma from The Calo dialect), but even then the children would be considered poshrate or diddakoi (half bloods). On the other hand a Rom Woman marrying a non Rom Man (gadjo) results in an automatic expulsion. Women in Rom society like in Ancient Judaism are the carriers of culture/heritage (although in Judaism, Hallacha law takes a whole new meaning, especially amongst Men marrying non Jewish women ( or as they are referred to as in Yiddish , shikzas).)). I think we should look at Rom society and compare it with that of Taino Nation groups and see what it is like. In many ways their experiences are not so different from that of First Nation groups. Before anyone jumps down my throat, we all know we've come across the ethnic/racial purists in some way or another within The Movement.)
Identity (Who gets to say what qualifies in being Taino ? Not everyone had an epiphany where they were like "Oh my gosh I'm Taino", some did, others didn't. What is it with the constant badgering of individuals having to constantly prove themselves. Last time I checked there hasn't been a consensus as to who is and isn't a legitimate leader. So it seems ironic that those decrying self proclaimed leaders are in effect doing the same thing, minus the title.)
Just some things to ponder.
I hope and pray this discussion will result in some deep soul searching and an appropriate discourse conducted in an intelligent manner.