Indigenous Caribbean Network

Takaji everyone!!

Does anyone have information on Tainos/ the hupias who embodied both male and female energy? What were they called? What were their roles? The modern name (kind of umbrella term for Native Americans/for us) is Two-spirit. Any information will be greatly appreciated. 

Bo'matum!!!

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Takaji! Tau, Guatiao! Hello Relative!

I've learned that two-spirited People, have a special gift and are honoured in the highest fashion amoung the People, especially when it comes to defending the People. They usually are the ones in front because of the special power they have within themselves that they were hardly ever hit by the enemy which then put fear in the enemy and they'd run off.

I've learned this from my friends who are Two-Spirited"Winktes", and who I have spent time praying in the "Inipi"Purification Lodges in the western states. Although I am not of that embodiment, I was accepted still as a brother and fellow dancer and singer. There is a text titled, "The Berdache Society" as well as "Spirit in the Flesh", I don't know who the authors are but I have read the books some time ago. 

I am not sure if the Tainos had "Two-Spirited/Hupias", but I don't doubt it, since I do have relatives in my family that hold that energy. 

Suerte! 

Hey Ignacio (and anyone else interested),

The very concept of gender, sexuality and sex have been shifted as a result of colonization, so it's hard for us to even conceptualize our bodies and our indigenous histories outside of these frameworks.  Yocahu Bagua Maraocoti, the cemi of creation, the cemi that also represents the divine connection between the sky, the earth and the waters, is also a representation of the differently gendered possibilities. A Dominican archaeologist, Mon Gonzalez, from Kiskeya presented a deep analysis several years back at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, that discusses the divine feminine among the Taino. Gonzalez discusses how Yocahu, and the representation of these divine principles, also reflects the mutability of gender among Taino peoples. So that there is the feminine, the masculine, and the maorocoti - that which is neither and both. This presentation made a lot of sense to me, given how one of the first tasks of the Catholic Church was to a) crimininalize polyamory and b) criminalize sodomy and c) impose the idea of Eurocentric, hetero judeo-christian ideas of "man" and "woman". In fact, people who did not conform to these three norms and/or definitions, were persecuted: fed to dogs, had their genitals mutilated or their wives and/or husbands raped and kidnapped. These acts have been documented in las cronicas of the different Frays and Padres who were there at the onset of Christian Spanish governance. We also know that we continue to struggle, as a legacy of colonization, against the third imposition, and that "race" was born out of the sexual and physical control of indigenous (and subsequently black) bodies. 

All that said, there is an excellent anthology that came out a little while back called Queer Indigenous Studies that helps frame some of the discussions around queerness and native-ness/indigeneity and what we can think about as Taino peoples.  I suggest this book not only for my Taino folk who may identify as queer/lgbt/ or two-spirit, but to our non-queer/lgbt/two-spirit allies in the Taino community who want to think through how we are all limited by colonial notions of sexuality and gender. 

Secondly (or thirdly), our creation myths also incorporate these notions. In particular, there are the women who went with Guarocuya to the island of Matinino. While, in my opinion, they represent one of the cycles of creation in which society was re-organized (there are astronomical dimensions to this narrative, such as the rise and setting of Venus and the moon-life cycles) they also represent to me the emergence of "women" warrior castes, whose roles were to stabilize Taino society by the fact that they patrolled the margins and ensured that survival was not just tied to pro-creation (as in the judeo-christian model) but also sovereignty and self-sustenance. Remember, we're not a land-based people, so tierra firma notions of "territory", "nation" or "land-base" don't apply. Rather, we are geographically mountain top people who live around the Caribbean water basin (valley) and whose movement and social structures were and continue to be defined by the sea.  So, the "women" of Matinino, who it is later said were named Amazons after they migrated into the Amazon forest regions, are the forces of creation that live moving through the edges of Taino trade routes and between the different Taino peoples. They were/are all round bad ass healers and warriors. Our language today does not capture the full depth of what their gender is or could be.

There were also male-bodied people who were identified by the fact that they wore naguas, usually reserved for "women" of the warrior and cacike castes (at least among the xaragua and maguana taino, who had a very defined caste system). I have found one term that refers to folks, but again - it's not specifically nor necessarily just a "gender" term. It also refers to the person's role in the society, which has to do with diplomacy (Eieri' were usually responsible for assisting in trade and power negotiations between Taino nations) and the preservation of the cacike lines. This term is Eierí-I’naru’ ("man" who has the spirit of a "woman"). 

Form my perspective, analysis, research, I understand that Taino concepts of what it means to be human means that it didn't (doesn't) matter who you are having sex with, but rather how you maintain(ed) your role in the society, with regard for the society's preservation (not pro-creation, preservation). Gender had (has) more to do with the spirit you came to the earth with as an aspect of the body you live in, rather than any sort of colonial social idea of gender. 

This is consistent with the current experiences of people in Kiskeya and Ayiti, primarily in rural communities, where people we may understand as "transgender" continue to be the ones who maintain the funerary rites, the raising of the community's children and/or the care of family businesses and homes.  With the arrival of U.S. missionaries, and a CRAZY Catholic Cardinal in the D.R. and in Haiti, violence against LGBT people has increased among the general population. But, just two years ago, I interviewed a group of community members in a mountain town in the D.R. where there were visibly Taino transgender women moving through the community (and where people identify with indigenous histories). People referred to them as "my daughters", "my niece" - sometimes moving fluidly between gendered language. And all expressed one main concern: that if these women left the community, they would be harmed. And so, the community works very hard to maintain a space for them to live, and to be taken care of.  In my experience, people also don't trip about "machos" - people we might think of as transgender or FTM or butch. The problems arise mostly in the cities, or in areas where the Churches are preaching hate. 

And lastly, my research is about these questions, so feel free to contact me anytime to talk further about any of this. I am available and would love to talk about it with other Taino/Native Folk at any time. 

Bo'Matum Guatiao.

Takaji  Ana-Maurine Lara,

It has been way too long. Bo'matum a million times for posting this informative post. I've had conversations with other Tainos about this topic but this by far is the most comprehensive. I'd love to talk with you further and catch up. I'll message you. 

Abrasos!!

Takaji Nitou,

I was pleased to see your very interesting information about "two-spirit" individuals. I am familiar with the Berdache Society and the Hyokas. I am also familiar with the concept among Tainos, "that as long as they don't falter on their community responsibilities (referring to family), they are to be respected and accepted. Of course, I have been told this by relatives in Boriken. I can not speak as to Tainos in the states. Since they have accepted the prejudices and discriminatory practices of the dominant society.

I teach an "oppression course" which includes native peoples, people of color, lgbt, etc. I would love to communicate with you in the near future about your research.

Oma'bahari, Dr.Xochitl AnaO Quinones DelValle, Beike Caney Spiritual Circle.

Hi, Ana-Maurine Lara.

My name is Raquel and I am new to the group.

Your response to Ignacio's question is so informative and insightful! I would love to learn more.

I'm an MA candidate in Latin American Art History at the University of Colorado Boulder and I am currently working on a paper that looks at gender and social organization in Taíno culture. I have ordered the anthology you suggested, Queer Indigenous Studies, but I am unable to find the presentation from the Museo del Hombre Dominicano on the "divine feminine." Do you know where I could access this presentation paper, and any other useful scholarship?

I am also working on research that looks at the Taíno participation in building Early Modern religious architecture (namely, la Catedral Primada). To understand the Taíno aesthetic, I want to look at native pre-Spanish building practices, or practices in stone, to understand the Taíno relationship to their material culture. Any information you have would be very appreciated. I will be traveling to the D.R. next Winter, and I was hoping that you would offer some tips or suggestions for my trip as well.

I have I just ordered your book, Erzulie's Skirt (I can't wait to read it), and I will continue to follow your work!

Bo'matum!

Bo'matun for this beautiful post!! I remember the first time I learned about Two-Spirit individuals. How completely empowering that was to know that (many of) my Native relatives did not see me as an abomination, as a gay man! With that new perspective, "coming out" is not something to fear, but a new paradigm of honor in which to walk with pride and a sense of responsibility.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, Marriage Equality has now just dawned (my husband and I are fully legal now)! It has been in my mind to find ways to create same-sex marriage ceremonies that intentionally honor our two-spirit ones, drawing from our Taino traditions and legends.

Any thoughts along those lines would be very welcome from you, my relatives.

Very grateful,

Jeffry Owl, Beike of Pittsburgh Caney Circle

Greetings to All!. As a new member of the group and circle, have no Taino words in my vocabulary but will offer an additional opinion in this subject.

 "Two-Spirited/Hupias" concept expressed in this thread can be equated to the term Androgynous where neither gender predominates in their expressions of Universal Love, regardless of outer appearances/genitals expression. In its more pure essence, it represents an advanced evolutionary integration of The Consciousness trapped in the physical body of Homo sapiens. Unfortunately or not, Homo sapiens is an animal with instincts, hormones and a nervous system that drives its actions.

Those physical actions may or not be in accord with the mental polarity of duality (Male/Female) that most of us are still imprisoned by and their "normal" behavior. Thusly they are subjected to criticisms which may or not be valid depending on the level of evolutionary integration of the observer.

In Kiskeia we have a town where most of the kids are born with undefined genitals and they have learned , as a community, to guide them properly in their early years so as to allow them to chose which gender they want to adopt as adults.

This is a very helpful and informative post, my relative. Bo matun (thank you). I look forward to further contributions from you. The Caney circle needs more involved and thoughtful members in our community.

Thank You for your kind words dear relative.

I am threading gently here until I get familiar with the Tenets of the circle.

So, will continue my browsing and comments when clarification can be brought to the subject at hand.

Bo Matun from me as well, Ramon. What a beautiful, thoughtful post of the fluidity of our inner gender! How inspiring Kiskeia sounds - allowing each soul to choose its own outer gender expression!

We have much to learn from that compassionate, listening way of treating one another.

Just curious, any idea why most of the children born have undefined genitals?

Seneko kakona (abundant blessings)!

Hi Jeffry. Thanks for your curiosity.

It is simple and according to science is due to some groups of genes "misbehaving" while the Embrion develops In Uterus; this "misbehavior" results in alterations in the balanced and sequential activation of different  hormonal players at various stages of development in the womb.

The main culprit is this tongue twister 5-alfa reductasa deficiency for those of the XY (male gender) chromosomes. This prevents or avoids the actions of Testosterone in the Fetus which is the main driver of male attributes. There are other reasons but you don't want a dissertation on the subject.

21-hidroxilasa deficiency in females with Hyperfunctioning Adrenal Glands (In Utero or not) is the main cause in the XX (female gender) chromosomes. They "masculinize" due to the excess of Cortisol produced. This is also genes not doing their job. Females have more causes for Masculinization than Males for Femenization.

External Genitalia are the end result of complex and beautiful symphony that began to play at the 6 weeks of conception.

I hope to have satisfied your curiosity

Seneko kakona

Beautifully described!!! So good to have a doctor and a scientist in the house!

It is interesting that females have more causes for masculization that males!

Bo matun (thank you) for sharing these things with us!

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