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My language is not dead.

It lives in the rustling leaves of the ausubo, the tabanuco, the caoba and the sacred ceiba tree whose deep roots reach into the caves of my heart.

The yuca, maiz and batata still grow in the conucos where we once buried unmarked cemis to inspire the land to be even more fertile.

The sweetness of the guayaba fills me with memories of the joyous freedom and abandon of the time before the others arrived. The colibris, bijiritas and guatibiris flit about the emerald green manigual while guaraguaos soar above in the resplendant blue sky searching for the truth.

Huracanes with their swirling winds cleanse the land of contamination. The yagrumos and palms bend and sway to the will of the torrent.

My people are the Boricua, people of the high lord and land of plenty, the Quisqueya, from the land of high mountains, the Ciboney from Cubanacan, the sacred light around the center, and the strong Caribs. The Jibaros and Guajiros sing and drum to the stars of night sky in their mountain retreats.

In my bohio of brick and steel, hamacas lull me to sleep while the sounds of the coquis fill the tropical night air.

The caciques lead the people to the batey and danced at the arieto singing the praises of Yucahu, the sacred, holy spirit of the land, whose breath brought us to life. We remember our great ones in song and dance: Agueybana, Anacaona, Caguax, Orocobix, Guarionex, Hatuey and Uroyoan.

As I visit the ancient bateys now covered by the cement of the Spanish plazas, I remember that my language is not dead.


The words listed below are in common usage in the Spanish as it is spoken in the Caribbean. It has been said that at least 40% of the words used in Spanish are either Taino, Aztec, Incan or Mayan. In the Caribbean, most typically the names of fruits, vegetables, plants, animals and place names (rivers, towns, hills, etc.) that remain in the original Taino language. Many of these words have found their way into the English language as well.

ausubo - tree native to the Caribbean
tabanuco - hardwood tree native to the Caribbean -- analogous to mahogany
caoba - tree native to the Caribbean
ceiba - cottonwood tree native to the Americas
yuca - cassava root used as a food staple
maiz - corn
batata - sweet potato native to the Caribbean; In Spain, this is the word for potato.
conucu - raised garden mound
cemi - stone representations of deities, myths or lineages
guayaba - fruit native to the Caribbean
colibri - hummingbird
bijirita - bird native to the Caribbean
guatibiri - bird native to the Caribbean
guaraguao - red tail hawk native to the Caribbean
Huracan - hurricane
yagrumo - hardwood tree native to the Caribbean
bohio - round dwelling made of royal palm leaves
hamaca - hammock, bed
coquis - tree frog native to Boriken (Puerto Rico)
cacique - chief or leader of a tribal group
batey - ceremonial space bounded by upright stones
areito - song and ceremonial dances
yucahu - major deity

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Comment by MARIA QUINTERO GIONES on September 9, 2008 at 4:19pm
In Cuba, batata is called boniato.
Comment by Maximilian Forte on September 3, 2008 at 7:30am
I wish you would join the bloggers at Review of the Indigenous Caribbean Center, you have a lot to share.
Comment by Juan Almonte on September 3, 2008 at 2:38am
Actually Batata and potato are not the same thing. When the spaniords encounterd the indian from the mainland and saw potato they assumed it was the same as the taino batata. Later on the word stuck even in english.
Comment by Caracoli on September 3, 2008 at 1:22am
Very nice, I like it alot. The Taino legacy is in our culture in what we know and what we'll never know.

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