Indigenous Caribbean Network

The ancient ancestral region of the Arawakan people who eventually would migrate into the Caribbean to become the Taino nation is called the Orinoco. It is a spectacularly beautiful river region in the rain forest of South America miles north of the Amazon. It is the home of jaguars, crocodiles, butterflies, monkeys and parrots. It is the homeland of ancient Indigenous tribes and is now the home of mixed-race people in whose veins runs the blood of Indigenous Natives, European colonists and African slaves.

The ancient Indigenous people of the Orinoco River region actually created ceramic artwork that is almost identical to the ceramic artwork of the Arawakan immigrants who settled on the islands of the Caribbean.

ceramic piece created by Indigenous people of the Orinoco River region

ceramic pieces created by people belonging to the Arawakan Saladoid culture who settled the Turks and Caicos island of the Caribbean

The famous Salsa musician Ruben Blades released a song in the 1990's which miraculously captures the mystical feel of the Orinoco rain forest region. The song is called CONTRABANDO. It narrates an anecdote of Orinoco River  experience. It tells a simple story of an entrepreneurial Indigenous man who travels the river in his canoe illegally selling contraband products without a commercial license to the residents of remote settlements along the river. The isolated villagers are descendants of mixed-blood Indians, descendants of European colonists, and descendants of African slaves. They are simple people who crave anything from the outside world and will pay anything for a Playboy magazine or a pair foreign-made panties. Blades magically weaves his lyrics with beautiful salsa rhythm describing the simple story in a manner that is unforgettably poetic.

CONTRABANDO (lyrics in Spanish and English)

Sobre el fangoso Orinoco, (Along the muddy Orinoco)
un bote va resbalando, (A boat slowly slides along)
y un indio, firme en el remo, (An Indian paddles firmly)
transporta su contrabando. (Transporting his contraband)
El mono chilla en la selva. (A monkey screams in the jungle)
Caimán vigila en la orilla. (A crocodile watches from the shore)
El indio rema pensando, (The Indian thinks to himself)
- 'qué tierra de maravilla' (as he paddles along "What a land of wonders!")
¡Camino verde, tan ancho como el mar! (Great Green Path, as wide as the sea!)
En donde el hombre se pierde (where a man can become hoplessly lost)
si no sabe regresar. (If he does not know the way home)
¡Camino verde, conozco tu verdad! (Great Green Path, I know your truth)
El que no busca se muere, sin encontrar.(He who does not bother to seek will die without ever finding it)

Carga cerveza importada. (He carries imported beer)
Trae veinte pantys franceses. (Twenty French panties))
Trae Marlboro americano (He carries American Marlboro cigarretes)
y tres radios japoneses. (and three radios made in Japan)
Mentolatum y chingongo. (Mentholatum brand ointment and bubble gum)
Collares de fantasía. (costume jewelry necklaces)
Postales del Papa de Roma. (postcards of the Pope)
Seis 'Play Boys' y baterías. (Six Playboy magazines and batteries)
Jaguar bebe agua de río. (a jaguar drinks from the river)
Mariposa pinta al viento. (a butterfly paints the wind with its colors)
Aparece un caserío. (suddenly a settlement appears in the distance)
Ladra un perro, monte adentro. (a stray mutt begins to bark on the edge of the forest)

Solo Trombón

Vinieron los guerrilleros. (All the village warriors hurry down to the river bank)
El sacristán y el Alcalde, (Along with the village priest and the mayor)
y toda la gente del pueblo (And just about everybody esle in the village)
que tiene con qué pagarle. (That has any money with which to pay)
Acabó la compra y venta. (The buying and the selling goes quickly)
Se fue el bote con la tarde. (At the end the boat leaves along with the evening sun)
Enredado entre la selva (It fades away into the jungle)
queda el canto alucinante. (All that is left of him is a hallucinogenic song)
A la la la la....

(Camino Verde) (Great Green Path)

¨la la la la

(Camino Verde)  (Great Green Path)

En donde el hombre se pierde. (where a man can become hoplessly lost)

(Camino Verde) (Great Green Path)

Si no sabe regresar.  (if he does not know how to find his way back)

(Camino Verde) (Great Green Path)

El que no busca se muere.  (He who does know how to seek shall surely die)

(Camino Verde) (Great Green Path)

Se muere sin encontrar.  (He will die without ever finding anything)

(Camino Verde) (Great Green Path)

The contraband merchant

mixed-blood residents of a typical contemporary Orinoco River village such as the one described in Ruben Blades' song

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