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The Taínos were pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. It is believed that the seafaring Taínos were relatives of the Arawakan people of South America. Their language is a member of the Maipurean linguistic family, which ranges from South America across the Caribbean.

At the time of Columbus's arrival in 1492, there were five Taíno kingdoms and territories on Hispaniola (modern day Dominican Republic and Haiti), each led by a principal Cacique (chieftain), to whom tribute was paid. As the hereditary head chief of Taíno tribes, the cacique was paid significant tribute. Caciques enjoyed the privilege of wearing golden pendants called guanin, living in square bohíos instead of the round ones the villagers inhabited, and sat on wooden stools when receiving guests. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the largest Taíno population centers may have contained around 3,000 people or more. The Taínos were historical neighbors and enemies of the fierce Carib tribes, another group with origins in South America who lived principally in the Lesser Antilles. The relationship between the two groups has been the subject of much study.

For much of the 15th century, the Taíno tribe was being driven to the Northeast in the Caribbean (out of what is now South America) because of raids by fierce Caribs (Many Carib women spoke Taíno because of the large number of female Taíno captives among them).

By the 18th century, Taíno society had been devastated by introduced diseases such as smallpox, as well as other problems like intermarriages and forced assimilation into the plantation economy that Spain imposed in its Caribbean colonies, with its subsequent importation of African slave workers. The first recorded smallpox outbreak in Hispaniola occurred in 1507. It is argued that there was substantial mestizaje as well as several Indian pueblos that survived into the 19th century in Cuba. The Spaniards who first arrived in the Bahamas, Cuba and Hispaniola in 1492, and later in Puerto Rico, did not bring women. They took Taíno women for their wives, which resulted in mestizo children.

The word "Taíno" comes directly from Columbus. The indigenous people he encountered in his first voyage called themselves "Taíno", meaning "good" or "noble", to differentiate themselves from Island-Caribs. This name applied to all the Island Taínos including those in the Lesser Antilles. Locally, the Taínos referred to themselves by the name of their location. For example, those in Puerto Rico called themselves Boricua (which means people from the island of the valiant noble lords) their island was called Borike'n (Great land of the valiant noble lord) and those occupying the Bahamas called themselves Lucayo (small islands).

Some ethnohistorians, such as Daniel Garrison Brinton, called the same culture of people "Island Arawak" from the Arawakan word for cassava flour, a staple of the race. From this, the language and the people were eventually called "Arawak". However, modern scholars consider this a mistake. The people who called themselves Arawak lived only in the Guianas and Trinidad and their language and culture differ from those of the Taíno.

Going through time, different writers, travellers, historians, linguists, anthropologists, etc., have interchangeably used these terms. Taíno has been used to mean the Greater Antillean tribes only, those plus the Bahamas tribes, those and the Leeward Islands tribes or all those excluding the Puerto Rican tribes and Leeward tribes. Island Taíno has been used to refer to those living in the Windward Islands only, those in the northern Caribbean only or those living in any of the islands. Modern historians, linguists and anthropologists now hold that the term Taíno should refer to all the Taíno/Arawak tribes except for the Caribs. The Caribs are not seen by anthropologists nor historians as being the same people although linguists are still debating whether the Carib language is an Arawakan dialect or creole language — or perhaps a distinct language, with an Arawakan pidgin often used in communication.

Rouse classifies all inhabitants of the Greater Antilles (except the western tip of Cuba), the Bahamian archipelago, and the northern Lesser Antilles as Taínos. The Taínos are subdivided into three main groups: Classic Taíno, from Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, Western Taíno or sub-Taíno, from Jamaica, Cuba (except for the western tip) and the Bahamian archipelago, and Eastern Taíno, from the Virgin Islands to Montserrat.

Two schools of thought have emerged regarding the origin of the indigenous people of the West Indies. One group contends that the ancestors of the Taínos came from the center of the Amazon Basin, subsequently moving to the Orinoco valley. From there they reached the West Indies by way of what is now Guyana and Venezuela into Trinidad, proceeding along the Lesser Antilles all the way to Cuba and the Bahamian archipelago. Evidence that supports this theory includes the tracing of the ancestral cultures of these people to the Orinoco Valley and their languages to the Amazon Basin.

The alternate theory, known as the circum-Caribbean theory, contends that the ancestors of the Taínos diffused from the Colombian Andes. Julian H. Steward, the theory's originator, suggested a radiation from the Andes to the West Indies and a parallel radiation into Central America and into the Guianas, Venezuela and the Amazon Basin.

Taíno culture is believed to have developed in the West Indies.

Culture and lifestyle
Taíno society was divided into two classes: naborias (commoners) and nitaínos (nobles). These were governed by chiefs known as caciques (who were either male or female) which were advised by priests/healers known as bohiques. Bohiques were extolled for their healing powers and ability to speak with gods and as a result, they granted Taínos permission to engage in important tasks.

Taínos lived in a matrilineal society. When a male heir was not present the inheritance or succession would go to the eldest child (son or daughter) of the deceased’s sister. Taínos practised a mainly agrarian lifestyle but also fished and hunted. A frequently worn hair style featured bangs in front and longer hair in back. They sometimes wore gold jewelry, paint, and/or shells. Taíno men sometimes wore short skirts. Taíno women wore a similar garment (nagua) after marriage. Some Taíno practiced polygamy. Men, and sometimes women, might have 2 or 3 spouses, and it was noted that some caciques would even marry as many 30 wives.

Taínos lived in villages (called yucayeques) which varied in size depending on the location; those in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico being the largest and those in the Bahamas being the smallest. In the center of a typical village was a plaza used for various social activities such as games, festivals, religious rituals, and public ceremonies. These plazas had many shapes including oval, rectangular, or narrow and elongated. Ceremonies where the deeds of the ancestors were celebrated, called areitos, were performed here. Often, the general population lived in large circular buildings (bohio), constructed with wooden poles, woven straw, and palm leaves. These houses would surround the central plaza and could hold 10-15 families. The cacique and his family would live in rectangular buildings (caney) of similar construction, with wooden porches. Taíno home furnishings included cotton hammocks (hamaca), mats made of palms, wooden chairs (dujo) with woven seats, platforms, and cradles for children.

The Taínos played a ceremonial ball game called batey. The game was played between opposing teams consisting of 10 to 30 players per team using a solid rubber ball. Normally, the teams were composed of only men, but occasionally women played the game as well. The Classic Taínos played in the village's center plaza or on especially designed rectangular ball courts also called batey. Batey is believed to have been used for conflict resolution between communities; the most elaborate ball courts are found in chiefdoms' boundaries. Often, chiefs made wagers on the possible outcome of a game.

Taínos spoke a Maipurean language but lacked a written language. Some of the words used by them such as barbacoa ("barbecue"), hamaca ("hammock"), canoa ("canoe"), tabaco ("tobacco"), yuca, and Huracan ("hurricane") Tatuaje(tattoo) have been incorporated into the Spanish and English languages.

Food and agriculture
The Taíno diet centered around vegetables and fruits, meat, and fish. Large animals were absent from the fauna of the West Indies, but small animals such as hutias, earthworms, lizards, turtles, birds, and other mammals were consumed. Manatees were speared and fish were caught in nets, speared, poisoned, trapped in weirs, or caught with hook and line. Wild parrots were decoyed with domesticated birds and iguanas were extracted from trees and other vegetation. Taínos stored live animals until they were ready to be consumed—fish and turtles were stored in weirs, and hutias and dogs were stored in corrals.

Taíno groups in the more developed islands, such as Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, relied more on agriculture. For important crops they used a sophisticated procedure in which they "heaped up mounds of soil", called conucos, which improved drainage, delayed erosion, and allowed for a longer storage of crops in the ground; for less important crops such as corn they used the more common and rudimentary slash and burn technique. Conucos were 3 feet high and 9 feet in circumference and were arranged in rows. The primary root crop was cassava, a woody shrub cultivated for its edible starchy tuberous root. It was planted using a coa, an early kind of hoe made completely out of wood. Women squeezed cassava to extract its poisonous juice and ground the roots into flour from which they baked bread. Batata (Sweet potato) was the Taínos' secondary crop; it was consumed as a vegetable.

Contrary to mainland practices, corn was not ground into flour and baked into bread. Instead, it was eaten off the cob. A possible explanation for this is that corn bread becomes moldy faster than cassava bread in the high humidity of the West Indies. Taínos grew squash, beans, peppers, peanuts, and pineapples. Tobacco, calabashes (West Indian pumpkins) and cotton were grown around the houses. Other fruits and vegetables, such as palm nuts, guavas, and Zamia roots, were collected from the wild.

Taínos used cotton, hemp and palm extensively for fishing nets and ropes. Their dugout canoes (Kanoa) were made in various sizes, which could hold from 2 to 150 people. An average sized Kanoa would hold about 15 - 20 people. They used bows and arrows, and sometimes put various poisons on their arrowheads. For warfare, they employed the use of a wooden war club, which they called a macana, that was about one inch thick and was similar to the cocomacaque.

Taíno religion centered on the worship of zemís or cemís. Cemís were either gods, spirits, or ancestors. There were two supreme gods: Yúcahu, which means spirit of cassava, was the god of cassava (the Taínos main crop) and the sea and Atabey, mother of Yúcahu, was the goddess of fresh waters and fertility. Other minor gods existed in Taíno religion; some of them related to the growing of cassava while others were related to the process of life, creation and death. Baibrama was a god worshiped for his assistance in growing cassava and curing people from its poisonous juice. Boinayel and his twin brother Márohu were the gods of rain and fair weather respectively. Guabancex was the goddess of storms (hurricanes). Popular belief names Juracán as the god of storms but juracán was only the word for hurricane in the Taíno language. Guabancex had two assistants: Guataubá, a messenger who created hurricane winds, and Coatrisquie, who created floodwaters. Maquetaurie Guayaba or Maketaori Guayaba was god of Coaybay, the land of the dead. Opiyelguabirán, a dog-shaped god, watched over the dead. Deminán Caracaracol, a male cultural hero from which the Taíno believed to descend, was worshipped as a cemí.

Cemí was also the name of the physical representations of the gods. These representations came in many forms and materials and could be found in a variety of settings. The majority of cemís were crafted from wood but stone, bone, shell, pottery, and cotton were also used. Cemí petroglyphs were carved on rocks in streams, ball courts, and on stalagmites in caves. Cemí pictographs were found on secular objects such as pottery, and on tattoos. Yucahú, the god of cassava, was represented with a three-pointed cemí which could be found in conucos to increase the yield of cassava. Wood and stone cemís have been found in caves in Hispaniola and Jamaica.

Cemís are sometimes represented by toads, turtles, snakes, and various abstract and human-like faces. Some of the carved Cemís include a small table or tray which is believed to be a receptacle for hallucinogenic snuff called cohoba prepared from the beans of a species of Piptadenia tree. These trays have been found with ornately carved snuff tubes.

Before certain ceremonies, Taínos would purify either by inducing vomiting with a swallowing stick or by fasting. After the serving of communal bread, first to the Cemi, then to the cacique, and then to the common people; the village epic would be sung and accompanied by maraca and other instruments. Tainos also used body modification in order to express their faith. The higher the piercing or tattoo on the body signified their closeness to their gods. Men usually wore decorative 'tatuajes' and the women wore mainly piercings.

Taíno oral tradition explains that the sun and moon come out of caves. Another story tells that people once lived in caves and only came out at night, because it was believed that the Sun would transform them. The Taíno believed to be descended from the union of Deminaán Caracaracol and a female turtle. The origin of the oceans is described in the story of a huge flood which occurred when a father murdered his son (who was about to murder the father), and then put his bones into a gourd or calabash. These bones then turned to fish and the gourd broke and all the water of the world came pouring out. Taínos believed that the souls of the dead go to Coaybay, the underworld, and there they rest by day, and when night comes they assume the form of bats and eat the fruit "guayaba".

Spaniards and Taínos
Columbus and his crew, landing on an island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492 were the first Europeans to encounter the Taíno people. At this time, the neighbors of the Taínos were the Guanahatabeys in the western tip of Cuba, and the Island-Caribs in the Lesser Antilles from Guadaloupe to Grenada. The Taínos called the island Guanahaní which Columbus renamed as San Salvador (Spanish for "Holy Savior"). It was Columbus who called the Taíno "Indians", an identification that has grown to encompass all the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. A group of Taíno people accompanied Columbus on his return voyage back to Spain.

Early population estimates of Hispaniola, probably the most populous island inhabited by Taínos, range from 100,000 to 1,000,000 people. The maximum estimates for Jamaica and Puerto Rico, the most densely populated islands after Hispaniola, are 600,000 people. The Dominican priest Bartolomé de Las Casas wrote (1561) in his multivolume History of the Indies:

There were 60,000 people living on this island [when I arrived in 1508], including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this?

Researchers today doubt Las Casas's figures for the pre-contact levels of the Taíno population, considering them an exaggeration. For example, Anderson Córdova estimates a maximum of 500,000 people inhabiting the island. The Taíno population estimates range all over, from a few hundred thousand up to 8,000,000. They were not immune to Old World diseases, notably smallpox. Many of them were worked to death in the mines and fields, put to death in harsh put-downs of revolts or committed suicide (throwing themselves out of the cliffs or consuming manioc) to escape their cruel new masters. Some academics have suggested that the numbers the population had shrunk to 60,000 and by 1531 to 3,000 in Hispanola. In thirty years, between 80% and 90% of the population died. Scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives.

On Columbus' second voyage, he began to require tribute from the Taínos in Hispanola. Each adult over 14 years of age was expected to deliver a certain quantity of gold. In the earlier days of the conquest, if this tribute was not observed, the Taínos were either mutilated or executed. Later on, fearing a loss of labor forces, they were ordered to bring 25 lb (11 kg) of cotton. This also gave way to a service requirement called encomienda. Under this system, Taínos were required to work for a Spanish land owner for most of the year, which left little time to tend to their own community affairs.

In 1511, several caciques in Puerto Rico, such as Agüeybaná, Urayoán, Guarionex, and Orocobix, allied with the Caribs and tried to oust the Spaniards. The revolt was pacified by the forces of Governor Juan Ponce de León. Hatuey, a Taíno chieftain who had fled Hispañola to Cuba with 400 natives in order to unite the Cuban natives, was burned at the stake on February 2, 1512. In Hispañola, a Taíno chieftain named Enriquillo mobilized over 3,000 remaining Taíno in a successful rebellion in the 1530s. These Taíno were accorded land and a charter from the royal administration.

Taíno heritage in modern times
Many people still identify themselves as descendants of the Taínos, and most notably among some Puerto Ricans, both on the island and on the United States mainland. People claiming to be Taíno descendants have been active in trying to assert a call for recognition of their tribe. A recent study conducted in Puerto Rico suggests that over 61% of the population possess Taíno mtDNA. Recently, a few Taíno organizations, such as the Jatibonicù Taíno Tribal Nation of Boriken (1970), the Taíno Nation of the Antilles (1993) and the United Confederation of Taíno People(1998), have been established to put forth these claims. What some refer to as the Taíno revival movement can be seen as an integral part of the wider resurgence in Caribbean indigenous self-identification and cultural restoration.The Jatibonicu Tribal Nation of Borikén was reaffirmed in Puerto Rico on November 18th 1970, Lambda Sigma Upsilon, a Latino Fraternity, adapted the Taíno Indian as their mascot symbol in 1979.

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Did you post this to wiki or update this on wiki??
I updated some parts of it to wiki but it still needs a lot of work, especially with the grammar and certain facts, but its still well put together
Mike Mentzer a bodybuilder who compeated in the 80's. Who I was lucky to actually speak to on the phone once told me that 95% of the stuff written is B.S. Later on that conversation he is like its closer to 98%. Rest in peace Mike. Anyways, I believe many of these so called academic were basicaly rewritting the same materail they read. Basicaly copying and pasting. I belive this is something Jorge told me and I agree. Like I said before it is obvoius that no one went to Dominican rep, puerto rico and cuba to make sure that there were no tainos in these three island. Just looking at the poeple in this site you can tell that they are taino deccenats. Come on man! Just look at Jorge Estevez. I think if they find just one taino. That disproves the whole myth. Cause it obvous that taino has relatives right!

I read a few of Lynne article. There are others too. She lives in DR. She is done her homework. She says that the taino being wiped out is a myth. Now do you belive some one who writes about tainos and has probably never step on any of the three island. Or do you belive a person who actually gone to dominican rep, and has done research. and says that there are taino deccendants. You got a few non-dominican who have gone to the dominican rep and wrote about the taino deccendants still here. Same for our brother and sister in PR and cuba.

You also right. I read that some of bartolome's notes. The native that accepted christianity were not counted under the censos as indians. Also any of the mestizos were not counted as indian. And the one that mixed with the african were not counted as indians. But I dont think that the census that the european had on the taino were accurate. Not even close. Keep in mind that when enriquillo took free taino slaves to the cibao mountains of kiskeya. There were taino warrios there already. Who were fighting the spaniords and were never slaves. Keep in mind aslo that the spanoird did not colonize the whole island. I am sure this is the same for PR and cuba.

Now what we have to ask ourselfs is. Did the myth help us or hurt us. Obvously present day it hurt us. We have no sence of tribal identity like our northen brother's do. Some of our people who obvously are ameridian are also spreading the myth. When obvously they are of taino deccents.But Maybe bartolome and some of his supporters felt that perputating a wipe out myth at the time might prevent the actual extinction of the tainos. Or maybe they had a hidden agenda. If they said that no more tainos to work they would get the green light from spain to bring african to work as slaves. Who know!

In 1540 the first treaty of the americas between indians and europeans was signed in kiskeya. So obviosly the tainos being weak and not warrior-like is another myth. The tainos battle the spaniord and this is why the treaty came to be. I am making a very long story short. Anyways I read were the spaiords actualy feared the tainos and ther macana's. So I think that the taino would have held there own if the taino extinction myth would have not been perputated. I dont think we needed it to survive. But who knows. Europeans would have had these tainos living in reservatoins like the north american indians and like some of the indians from the small islands.
Greetings Ruben, Compai, that very cibaoeno.

Ruben you got me on that one. Actually I was typing fast and didnt proof read before hitting post. Your right there is only one. I didnt remember where. Thanx for including the country too.

I think it suck that many native are not recognize just because you dont have land to call your own. Being pushed around by the conquerers dont changed who we are. I mean if your chinese but born in lets say europe you dont stop being your race. Your still a chinese. I mean if I go to austrilia well not magicaly turn into an austrilia aborigini.

Diffently what Jorge, Lynne and many other are doing is extramly important. Actually what your doing is also very important. Its not only about us acknowleging who we are. But its also for non-native to contribute. And this forum is very important. Even your story of how you seen dominican and other caribbean, central and south americans who have ameridan blood. But either deny it or in most cases dont even know. The later is probably the big resean.

Compai thanx once again for your post.


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