43 thoughts on “TAINOS: Alive and well in Puerto Rico and the United States?

  1. History of native people spurs debate
    History of native people spurs debate in Puerto Rico

    By Matthew Hay Brown

    Sentinel Staff Writer

    December 26, 2003

    Orlando, Fla., pg. A.1

    OROCOVIS, Puerto Rico — When she was a girl, Naniki Reyes Ocasio would ask her grandmother about the plants that their people used for medicine, the mounds of soil in which they cultivated the yucca, the celebrations with which they marked the change of the seasons.

    Now a grandmother herself, the former New York attorney has returned to the green hills of Puerto Rico’s mountainous spine to work as a healer, to grow food in the old way and to help others remember.

    “It was prophesied that there would be a time when we would be invisible, invisible even to ourselves,” she said, “but that there would come the time when the people would start — we call it a clearing — that the weeds would be plucked from our roots, and then the people will emerge again.”

    Reyes is, she said, a modern-day Taino, a descendant of the

    indigenous people whom Christopher Columbus encountered on this Caribbean island in 1493, continuing traditions handed down through the generations.

    Her assertion runs counter to the conventional understanding of history.

    Schoolchildren in this U.S. commonwealth are taught that the Taino died out, the victims of slaughter, overwork and disease, within decades of the Spanish arrival. Any who survived would have assimilated into the colonial population, their identity lost forever.

    Academics say the modern-day Taino are descended from a 19th-century movement island intellectuals launched to stir nationalism against Spain and are maintained by mainland Puerto Ricans to downplay their African heritage.

    To the Taino, that argument is simply the latest in more than 500 years of attempts to eliminate their people.

    “We know who we are,” said Roberto Mucaro Borrero, president of the United Confederation of Taino People. “The families themselves have kept up. It’s a part of our life.”

    Now comes a new study of the island’s genetic makeup — with unexpected results. A geneticist at the University of Puerto Rico has found that more than three in five islanders are descended through the maternal line from American Indian foremothers.

    The test of mitochondrial DNA does not distinguish among the Taino and other native peoples.

    But the results indicate a much greater incidence of indigenous heritage than previously had been imagined.

    “What I read from it is that Puerto Rican people are basically the children of Indian women,” the geneticist, Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado, said.

    “The information does not support claims of any particular group of having maintained the culture. Of course, it does not disprove it, either.”

    As many as 2 million

    When Columbus arrived, the Taino may have numbered as many as 2 million, spread among what is now Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

    They were a peaceful people who grew yucca and cassava, hunted birds and small animals, and produced pottery and baskets. They worshipped spirits, marked the seasons and played a ceremonial ball game that may have resembled soccer.

    When the Spaniards attempted to put the natives to work, some fled; others rebelled, only to be slaughtered. Many succumbed to smallpox and other diseases introduced by the Europeans. Within decades, the population was near extinction.

    The question of what happened next lies at the heart of the dispute today. In the conventional view, the Taino disappeared, leaving behind a few artifacts, a scattering of ceremonial grounds and a handful of words we use today: hammock, hurricane, barbecue, canoe, tobacco, iguana.

    The modern-day Taino challenge this interpretation. They say they joined the Spaniards, lived as free peasants, intermarried and carried their traditions forward.

    The proof, Mucaro said, is in practices still visible today, mound farming, herbal medicine and pottery production among them.

    “We didn’t become Spaniards, and we didn’t become Africans,” he said. “Africans and Spaniards became part of us.”

    Jalil Sued Badillo, an ethno-historian at the University of Puerto Rico, calls that interpretation “a lot of bull.”

    “There is no biological or historical record of that,” Sued said. “As a matter of fact, there is a contrary record. The official Spanish record, historical records, speak of the disappearance of the Tainos.”

    Sued said the island population fell almost 90 percent in the 17th century, to be reconstituted primarily by Africans and Europeans. It with this mix, he said, that produced the 19th-century movement.

    “Most of the Puerto Rican population was mulatto,” he said. “So those that are recycling Taino-type culture in the colonial period are mulattos.”

    With the 20th-century mass migration from the island to the mainland, Gabriel Haslip Viera said, the revival became a broad movement.

    “On the mainland, people don’t want to be seen as people of African background, and at the same time, they don’t want to be identified with the Spaniards,” said Haslip, a professor of sociology at the City College of New York. “So then the romanticized Taino identity becomes desirable as an alternative.”

    Maternal vs. paternal

    Enter Martinez. His survey of mitochondrial DNA, which traces the maternal line, indicates that 61.3 percent of the population is descended from an Amerindian woman, 27.2 percent from an African and 11.5 percent from a Eurasian.

    A preliminary study of the Y chromosome shows the opposite in the paternal line: Most islanders are descended from Eurasian forefathers, with African heritage coming in second and American Indian third.

    Martinez said this difference reflects a pattern of intermarriage.

    “Puerto Ricans are a mixed people, and in terms of sex of the parents, we can talk about basically Indian women and Spanish men with a substantial influx of Africans by both ways,” he said.

    “You’re not telling us anything we didn’t know,” Mucaro said. “Of course, you have the academics who are all up in arms about this because it’s their perspective that’s being challenged.”

    Academics say Martinez’s findings could be explained by the native laborers imported from Mexico and Venezuela in the 18th century — and, in any event, the genetics of the population say nothing about the continuity of a culture.

    “That’s where the problems begin, in the way certain groups and even the media have portrayed the results as indicating that the Taino people are somehow alive and well in Puerto Rico,” said Jorge Duany, an anthropologist at the University of Puerto Rico. “They’re generalizing from a genetic finding to a cultural and even a historical argument, as if being a Taino were simply a question of having a certain kind of genes.”

    On their 400-acre farm, Reyes and her husband grow coffee, bananas and oranges, corn, root crops and medicinal herbs. They are trying to reintroduce animals such as the jutia, a rodent the Taino hunted for food, and plants such as the potato-like leren. Area Taino hold ceremonies and meet to relearn tradition.

    “It’s really learning about how to be human,” she said. “How to be a person that considers other things and other people. . . . We understand that we weren’t here to dominate but rather to live in harmony and preserve.”

    Helping build community

    Beyond the farm, the Taino are compiling a census and working to restore their language. Reyes is using her legal experience to address items of communal concern: access to ceremonial grounds, the desecration of burial sites and, with other indigenous peoples, reparations and compensation.

    She is dismissive of the skeptics.

    “They’re searching for the answers to tell them what they want them to tell them,” she said. “What you see is a government and a people bent on wanting to maintain their construction of history versus being able to accept the reality.

    “If you admitted my existence, then you would have to admit that you have been a crass violator of my human rights.”

    Matthew Hay Brown can be reached at mhbrown@tribune.com or


    Copyright (c) 2003, Orlando Sentinel

    Visit OrlandoSentinel.com

    LVTP Note: Bo’matum to Sylvia Karayaturey Rosario for forwarding this


  2. Self-identification past and present
    Because so much in the United States involves people being self-identified or self-defined, I really don’t have any issue with those who describe themselves as Taino.

    The genetics show that there is a string of Taino genes in the population and there apparently is sufficient cultural evidence of their legacy, if not continued existence.

    Then, why should there not be a coming out, a revival or rebirth or reinvention of the Taino people. I believe we are witnessing the ‘invisible’ becoming ‘visible’. Everybody is mixed so that they can look as diverse as any other people who have had a similar history.

    The Jews have their own history of inventing themselves and discovering lost tribes — supported by either cultural or genetic evidence. It is the belief system and values that bind.

    African Americans too have also invented or re-invented themselves. What is Kwaanza if not an attempt to create an afro-centric cultural heritage for black Americans. And it’s catching on.

    So why not the Tainos. Why shouldn’t they command our respect?

  3. RE: History of native people spurs debate
    http://www.PrersenciaTaina.TV sponsored the video production of a panel discussion featuring the persons mentioned in this article at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. The videos are available thru the United Confederation of Taino People (www.uctp.org) for all interested parties.

  4. RE: RE: History of native people spurs debate
    I have read the news article you posted but have not been able to see the video production. I would like to know how I can obtain it. Bo matum.

  5. RE: Self-identification past and present
    If i were to relate the point, and i do, that having and knowing roots have a grounding effect, especially while existing in a transient setting as the united states, todays latino youth are in dire need of finding a sense of self beyond the present and the future if the cycle of being led astray by trends is to be broken. I think my initial question would be, how could the taino history become part of the american history being taught which talks of jews, blacks, indians and so forth. eg columbus got here by way of the carib islands yet at best – we may find a page. Perhaps that page, based on your point and with consideration of the existing cultural alianation among latino youth, can be extended

  6. RE: RE: Self-identification past and present
    The problem of curricula in the schools is that there is an “issue” of being Taino or not being Taino. Most have not heard of the indigenous people in the Caribbean and some that have do not believe those calling themselves Tainos really are and attempt to discredit them.

    I would say that even before attempting to enter the school system in some official way–because frankly even Puerto Rican history is not taught, though many have attempted to have it integrated into the school curriculum–the Tainos need to develop a whole body of work that represents them and to create programs and activities that will serve to authenticate them.

  7. Cultural Study Coming
    This article is commendable in revealing the debate and evidence of the continued indigenous presence. However, as Duany implies, it is a big jump to convincingly bridge the gap between the physical and cultural levels. This is where I think my study may actually compliment Cruzado’s GENETIC study. The study is important because it provides a CULTURAL analysis of Carib indigenous resistance, survival and presence in Boriken. The work allows the modern-day indigenous voice to be heard precisely because scholarly interpretation and analyses of the Caribbean indigenous world have been predominately limited to a non-native view. My argument for a continued indigenous presence is based in large part on oral tradition and ancestry, or one’s genealogical link or “ancestral memory” of the past. Aloha.

  8. Political impact of Tainos
    What is the potential political impact Tainos? In Puerto Rico and other islands, they appear as a non-issue, and are given attention only as a way of unfortunately mocking those involved.

    How many Tainos have been identified in Puerto Rico and on other islands? This is important in order to assess what political impact they may have.

    Also, how do they affect other “minorities” on the island. In many respects, racial and ethnic issues in the Caribbean don’t seem to be articulated very much. That is not to say that there aren’t any issues — but perhaps their absence in any real discussion about these nations is a reflection of an issue.

    For the present, it would seem that Tainos do not have any political impact because they not only lack numbers but have an image problem. That is, most people seem to think they were wiped out and should stay that way.

  9. RE: Self-identification past and present
    I think “reinventing” Taino culture is nonsense since it did not survive after European massacres and American eurocentrism. A revival of Taino culture will be seen only as a new kind of exotism and nothing else. Taino communities do not exist and you can not force a revival with such a lack. To create a culture you need a community of people, sharing space (even if it is virtual), and above all, TIME. On the other hand, not even having political strenght you can create a culture. That is something different. That is why the so-called “Afro-American” is also a failure as a culture (it is merely a ghetto, a parallel society), even when it has been a success as a political movement.

  10. RE: RE: Self-identification past and present
    that page could fill a political agenda, not a life. culture is more than a page.

  11. It’s obvious that attacking anyone for choosing who they are amongst people who call themselves Taino is simply to discredit them. The fact is that those who are attacking, are jealous and have no ancestrial roots ties and so on to the islands of the Caribbean. They state what they have read in the many books written by their spanish ancestors to erase any presence of all indigenous peoples. I have no problem with saying I’m Taino because that is what my ancestors, pure and mixed. I have pictures and paintings of my Taino family and those that were mixed. My family hails from the mountains and that is where most of the true Taino men and women survived. If you look at the years of the towns of the mountainous areas you will see when they were founded. And who were the people of that surrounding area before. Discarding history and people is a crime against the past. Just because you have a diploma doesn’t make you as superior to anyone else. Digging up bones and collecting buried people is not a job, it’s called grave robbers. Looking under a microscope and staring at cells doesn’t make you a genius, trying to figure out how many genes are in a plant cell. With your so called discoverys with medicine, when their are many Indigenious Tribes who have many remedies for sickness diseases using only plants, instead popping out a pill. If you want to find out the many mysterys as these so called investigators called them, why don’t you just ask an elder of an Indigenious community. There called Oracles. As for the many Ignorant scholars who know it all, especially in Boriken (puerto rico) , you don’t know jack shit….

  12. My maternal grandfather Felipe De Jesus was a classic mulato. His father was a black man from Puerto Rico and his mother was a blue eyed blond. He was truly half black and half white. He married my maternal grandmother who was of Taino and white background. My grandmother was very beautiful as a young woman and had many suitors. But she picked Felipe because he could read and write. He would write poems for her. My grandmother had no problems marrying a black man. She was very proud of him. In fact she took pride in being the first in her family line to marry a black man. So when she made mention of her Taino background it was not to hide some shame of having an African background. These experts who dare make such statements as that the Taino identified people are blacks who are ashamed of themselves have a lot of nerve and arrogance. They pretent to know what people are thinking and feeling without knowing them. I have had my DNA done and carry the genes of three groups, the European , African and Native American. Yet I identify as native Taino because it comes via my mother and her mother and so on. With my paternal side it is the same thing, his mother is of Taino blood also . These are the women who sang me to sleep, who taught me culture and to whom I belong. They would say, ” Father is anyone who can slap you and you can not hit back” “Mother is only one” This was their way of saying that we are not of our father’s family, but of our mother. This may offend some people but it is the way it was in my family and the way it was with many Native families in the Americas. So in my family we identify as Taino no matter where our fathers may have come from as long as our mothers were from Boriken.

  13. I think that gentically Tainos are alive and well, but culturally, I think that’s a different story. I don’t know if I would consider someone Taino without the culutral aspect being there.

  14. Dear Daniela , Taino culture has been transformed over 500 years, but it is still there. Let’s start with religion. I’ve studied comparative religions and have been able to isolate the different elements in the folkways of the country Puerto Rican and many Taino ways are stilled practiced. The practice of compadrazco is really the guaitiao relationship still being kept. If you read Pane’s account you will see that the relationship to Spirits is still being observed to this day. It’s just that instead of calling them Bohiques they are called curanderos or espiritistas. The magical spritual concepts of “Promesas” also has a Taino intensity to it. Our healers still bless us with cigar smoke and use toasted corn to call in abundance.

    In regards to life ways we still plant according to the phases of the Moon. We still collect healing herbs by saying special prayers and making offerings.If this not culture then what is?

    What happen is that our culture took on a covering of the Spanish and Christian way, but if you look just a little deeper you will find the Taino. How many of us grew up calling every cat we saw with the words Misu Misu, without knowing that it is Taino for Cat. Most of us have been maintaining Taino culture but have not been taught to identify it as such. Our everyday Spanish is full of Taino words and Jibaro music has kept the maraca and the guiro has vital instruments. Yes the culture has been changed but what culture has not been affected in these moderns time?

  15. I don’t understand why the “modern day tainos” choose to focus on one aspect of their heritige and ignore completely the other two. I say, boricua, be proud of who you really are: a mix of taino, spanish and west african. Taino is a part of you, but you are not taino. Black is a part of you, but you are not black. Spanish is a part of you, but you are not spanish. You are puertorriqueño, boricua. The decendent of 500 years of cultural fusion that has produced one of the warmest, most musically rich cultures in the world. Stop trying to creat fake divisions among our people. Boricua de tres sangres siempre.

  16. Dear Javier Otero,
    Are you really asking a question? Or are you making a statement under the guise of of a question? I hope you are really open to another’s view and that your heart is really asking to understand what you term “our fake division”. The written history of Boriken clearly shows that up to the mid to late 1800’s there was a clear social divide on our island and it was made on class and color. This divide was so strict that that once at a social club of the upper White class in Ponce, the police was called to jail the musical band because they played a Danza instead of the usual European music, popular for the upper class at that time (1860’s). Today of course the Danza is presented as the musical soul of Puerto Rico. So you see, the divide started 500 years ago with the conquistadors and continued well into my life time. While our culture today is more intergrated as a tri-racial culture, at least according to the Official stance, not every Puerto Rican is tri-racial. That is a myth. If you were raised in Puerto Rico and studied there you would see how often the Afro-Boricua or Taino elements of our culture are minimized to the point of insulting those who are clearly more African or Taino looking. I’m not bashing the Euro-Boricuas nor should they apologize for being who and what they are. I’m only saying that in this so called Tri-racial culture, it is the values and culture of the Spanish that are respected and fostered for the most part and with few exceptions. In fact the first time the word Puerto Riquen~o was used , was in the 1800’s by the upper White intellectuals who wanted to break free from Spain. This was at a time when the people of Puerto Rico, except the slaves were considered citizens of Spain as the island was offcially a province of Spain. Very much like today we are U.S. citizens by virtue of our birth. Yet that does not mean we do not feel discrimination from our fellow North American citizens. So to make a long story short, just as most of us do not stress the U.S. part of our culture, but indentify instead as Puerto Ricans. Others go as far as to focus on the racial and or ethnic dominant part of their family culture. This is particularly true if you were treated as less than by the dominant culture in Puerto Rico. Even today in P. R. White actors use black face in parades and in soap operas playing the roles of servants or maids. Now I have been in the Taino movement for over 20 years and have yet to meet a Taino identified person who denies being a mix blood. So I really don’t know where or why you get the imperssion that we are ” completely denying the other contributions to our culture or blood. What we are doing is making sure that the Taino element, values, music ,religion, language etc in our general PR culture is fostered , valued and respected. We want to go to our sacred spaces and be able to pray without having a fundamental Christian park ranger feel that it’s ok to call us devil worshippers and kick us out of Caguana. We want to use our Taino words in public without having others call us ignorant Jibaros. We want to celebrate our Taino ancestors without having to prove with DNA test that 61% of us do in fact carry that blood, just because our grandmothers told us so. We want to continue the traditions of caring for the land and not abuse her because she is our mother and is alive. Now you may not believe this, but don’t put us down because we do. Maybe when all people are respected for who they are equally , the stresses on the differences may not be needed because they would not be attacked but accepted. Till then every one has the right to defend and promote thier family’s particular cultural values.

  17. I understand your point of view, and here is mine. First a little background on me. I lived in PR until age 18, I have lived in the US for 11.5 years now. I had my mtDNA tested, and not surprisingly it is indigenous taino mtDNA. My point of view is based on what I observe in my life and science. First, the vast majority of Boricuas are of partial taino decent. Unless you are the child of recent immigrants to PR, when 62% of people in Puerto Rico have taino mtDNA, there is a near guarantee all Boricuas have taino blood. Why? Well, you have 4 grandparents, 8 g-gparents, 16gg-grandparents and 32ggg-grandparents. When 62% have taino mtDNA, the probablility that none of them have any taino blood in next to 0. Now, the same goes for European blood and african blood. So unless you are the child of recent immigrants you have that blood too. Doesn’t matter what you look like physically. What you look like physically is just rolling the dice. I’ve met spanish people from spain. Culturally, I have alot in common with them, and alot different. I have some spanish blood. But I don’t claim to be spanish and dress up like a conquistador. I have african friends. I have been to their family parties, and they are alot like ours with dancing and similar food. I have some african ancestors. But I don’t claim to be african and dress up like them. So my point is having taino blood and some taino traditions doesn’t make me taino. I respect your right to identify as whatever you want, but I can have my opinion of whether it is a good idea or not. I guess I have too much pride in being Puerto Rican to want to be Taino. I respect my taino ancestors, but I think regular Boricuas dressing up in “indian” clothes when the tainos didn’t wear clothes at all and having ceremonys that may or may not be what our taino ancestors actually did is kind of silly. But I respect your right to do so if you want. 150 years ago the jibaros who were more taino culturally then anyone around today wore normal clothes, so do I. If you want to see how Tainos really lived before the conquest look at the Yanomamo in Venezuela. I get what you are saying about keeping taino music and culture alive, but how do we even know what taino culture and music was like? My grandfather was “indio” from Vega Alta, but he played aguinaldos and decimas on his cuatro and wore perfectlly pressed guyaberas. To me that is Taino music. And it is Puerto Rican music. My point is I don’t see how you can separate taino culture from traditional Puerto Rican culture and have it still be authentic.

  18. Puertorriquenos are a mixture of three basic races, Tainos, Spaniards and Africans. Native Americans in the U.S. call me “skin”, believing I am one of them. When I tell them I am Puertorican they do not believe me. I look like a combination of a Cherokee and Apache woman. My background: my mother is negra, her mother if half indian and half black. My grandfather is negro, his father is Italian and his mother is the daughter of a freed slave, half Puertorican, half Indian. My father is considered white, as were his mother and father. So although I “look Indian”, (perhaps due to a recessive gene) I cannot claim to be 100 percent Taina, nor African, nor Spaniard. What I do find exciting is that we are learning more about part of who we are composed of, a part that has been swept under the carpet. There’s a lot of information about Spaniards and Africans, but not enough about are indigenous roots, the Tainos. Let’s not go overboard and begin to separate from our real portorros brothers and sisters. Let’s not indulge in separation, but rather embrace our uniqueness as portorros, we are indeed a race on our own, we are Puertoricans. No other race in the world can claim such a feat!!! …y tu buela, aonde eta?

  19. Assuming a term like “taino-ness” was accepted and fully comprehended, when does this “taino-ness” become a happy medium between what academia has defined to be the two opposite extremes in human classification: black and white? At times “taino-ness” could become soothing for people who do not resemble what both the Spanish and US mainstream has depicted and illustrated as Spanish-looking and now latino, a term J.L. Borges in an interview refered to the term as “una ficcion.”
    I pose this question on the soothing nature of being taino because of my upbring as a black puerto-rican who grew up on the island when cable television was installing itself in every home and heart. I know of individuals in Puerto Rico, as well as possibly someone else reading this comment knows of individuals, who have visible african facial features, dark skin complexions, and “el pelo vivo” like Cheo Feliciano stated 20 plus years ago, who would indulge in this “taino-ness” orientation to the level of a “fetichismo neurotico.”
    The same can be said about about someone who places stickers of provinces of Spain on the back of their vehicles to communicate non-verbally what Rafael Hernandez Colon communicated verbally and encoded to the king and queen of Spain in the 80’s: Yo no soy negro!
    Avoiding the unsophisticated enterprise of comparing pain, both africans and tainos were oppressed in the Western Hemisphere. There is absolutely no need to further this premise. But I must say by observation that if the original peoples (tainos, caribes, mayas, incas, guaranies, etc.) of the Spanish speaking world have been humiliated and mistreated, the descendants of african enslaved in the spanish speaking world have been invisibilized. Thank god for baseball, soccer, and music!

  20. Dear Javier,
    Thank you for your very well put response. I enjoyed reading it. I agree with you that your grandfather played Taino music. Yes it was tranformed , yes it was basically Spanish, but it was taino because the Jibaro not only made it their own but incorporated their Taino flavor into it by adding the guiro, maraca and the Taino stories they sang about. I understand your point of view and respect it. My issue is that not all who hold the view of the tri-racial meeting respect or value the Taino contribution. It was not too long ago that defenders of Taino identities were mocked for holding on to the cultural values passed on to them by thier grandmothers. We were told in no uncertain terms, that there was no Taino blood left only Spanish and African. As to dressing up as Indians, not too long ago I saw a beatiful documentary by el Banco de Ponce called Raices. It’s focus was on the African contributions via blood but also by way of music, bomba plena etc. It was very moving to see old video clips of elders singing and dancing bomba, they wore european type clothing. Yet their decendants were shown wearing African prints and dred locks. No one that I know of complains about this. Nor do I. So it is surprising to me that when we don indian regalia for ceremony or parades others should have objections. There are many examples of this and it goes very deep. If we as a nation really embraced our tri-racial identity, which I do. The remains of the Taino dead would be treated the same way as when remains of conquistadors are found. They are not. Just see how much has been stolen from the recent batey that was found near Ponce and if it were not for the Taino identified people it would have gone un-noticed. I’m not debating with you and again I respect your opinion. You expressed it very well and in a respectful way. My intention is just to share our perspective in the hopes that more people may at least understand a little where we are coming from.
    Thank you.

  21. I’m a latecomer in this discussion. Having ancestors buried here, I think, allows me to put my two cents in. All of the above points seem to have a great deal of validity. I believe this DNA testing didn’t stipulate what sub-group of AmerIndians one might belong to. Being seriously interested in history, I find that learning all about one’s various roots provides enjoyment plus belated justice to those whose stories would otherwise be untold and forgotten about (remember “Roots”). Possibly. a given people can deny links with, or be oblivious to, a referenced source, as another book I once read about others revealed to me long ago.
    I would simply mention that in a book that I glanced over in the old Thekes in Plaza, I read for the first time that census data showed that up to the 1790s there was an essentially pure Indian town in the western end (possibly Maricao) which thereafter began to mix in with the rest of the surrounding population and data stopped being documented. In some other books I’ve read, this was never mentioned. In addition, a Cuban I met once with Puerto Rican cousins possibly in the Mayaguez area (separated since a long-ago migration from Spain) reported learning that in the mid-1800s Indian slaves were brought from Mexico into Puerto Rico (for sale, obviously) before slavery was totally prohibited. Taino slavery was prohibited some centuries before. In Mexico, there had been a rebellion in the Yucatan at that time where Indians had been more resistant to the Mexican government than to the previous Spaniard rulers. My mother recalled in her family in the west that some cousins’ maternal grandmother had been a slave on the old don’s finca whose eldest son eventually married her daughter. Their features resemble greatly those of some south Mexican Indians if one looks at Pedro Ramirez Vasquez ’68 book on Mexico’s National Museum yet no mention of this was ever made or known by family, just a one-time reference to the old don’s illustrious people.
    So, the fact is that, though this may be a minority contribution, it reveals a previously unknown element. True, we are what we are composed of various contributions but, in essence, what we feel we are is what is important today. Such knowledge can simply allow us to feel a bit more empathetic to others faraway having their own current problems, as I have.

  22. I am interested in knowing the address I can attend to take and obtain DNA Testing to know The % I believe I have of Taino Indian. I was told this testing was done In Brooklyn New York. However I don’t have the exact address.Please Help. I was given this partial information at a Pow-wo I attended in New Jersey at a Taino Booth.

  23. Irasema: Prof. Juan Carlos Martinez Cruzado and his team from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez have been conducting Indian DNA studies on modern day Puerto Ricans. They are currently doing these studies among people in the Dominican Republic. However, according to historian Jalil Sued Badillo, it’s too early to distinguish Taino DNA from other Indian DNA brought into Puerto Rico from other locales between the 16th and 18th centuries. Actually, I pointed out above that in the mid-19th century, slaves were still being brought in from Mexico and their descendants don’t seem to acknowledge this: at best, they might consider themselves as having Taino blood, not southern Mexican, if they’ve never been told the full story. Forensic anthropologist Prof. Edwin Crespo also thinks that these DNA results may be influenced by other Indian contributions.

  24. Yes other indians were taken to Boriken well into the 18th century. However these were mostly males. Thier DNA has been found and it’s less then 5%. The majority of the indian dna found is from the mother’s line. MTdna and the mutations found in many of these samples show they were from people who had been on the island for almost 2,000 years.

  25. If you’re interested, Domingo, there’s a teacher from the South who teaches in Aibonito, I believe, and who’s of Cherokee blood. She’s doing her Master’s thesis on this very subject of members of different tribes who were enslaved and taken throughout the Caribbean. She co-hosts a gardening program on Saturday on 1030AM at 9AM.

  26. I have read every comment, I found out I have Taino blood I would love to find my ancestors. All my life I lived in diferent foster homes.
    I used to have dreams of working with indians from islands. I wish my farther was around more when i was growing up. I really want to find out
    more about the Taino indian. Ive been to Puerto Rico a few times. Every time I go, I get the feeling of something wanting me to stay. Very weird feeling. To this day, I want to go and learn about my ancestors. I would
    even work for free just to learn more and help to keep my taino blood alive if anyone has info, let me know

  27. Dear Juan,
    I currently live in New Jersey, but I was raised in Arecibo. A little over twenty years ago I made friends with a number of Northern Natives of many different tribes. I’ve had the good fortune of being excepted into their circles and it was from them that I first heard the stories of many Northern brothers being sold into slavery in the carribean islands. As one Cherokee Elder once said to me ” We can all trace our roots to the Great Tree of Peace”. One Navajo grandmother put me in my place because I told her I was a quarter indian. She told me that traditional people do not divide human beings into fractions. This is something that comes from Westren Mind. She said that we are indian even if we only have a few drops of that blood. These Elders see it in a whole different way and they live calling the decsendents of all Native peoples to remember their original instructions.

  28. Correction,
    as of 2010 Dr. Martinez Cruzado has released results that show that only 16% of the indigenous genetic material found in the current population of Puerto Rico comes from outside sources. 84% of the genetic material of indigenous origin is totally native to the original tribes of Puerto Rico. So the result is that the vast numbers are Taino descendants.

  29. The important thing is that there is a 16% contribution from the
    outside. Their story is worthwhile exploring so that they don’t become the forgotten ones, left behind a curtain of shame, so to speak. People here generaly aren’t aware of that just, by the same token, that you acknowledge that there were several original tribes here, not just what what was characterized as Taino. But that precise history would be less accessible from current residents.

  30. I Love to read this I ate it up, from all points been their,done that
    so I can identify. but the time has come to come together, in one thing and
    that we all can say that wend they come my sold was here to receive them.
    If judgment time come. I would love for borinquen and boricua to be judged
    for the bendito. of our people. I am an sculptor living on the island ever since Roots. Come to the island for it’s history and finding Cultura culture.
    done some of my work here looking to some day to return with my work to the city that received me this time around, so if you have the time check out my art and blog or face book page l remember Malcolm X and this name Puerto Rico,when we had a name that of Borinquen as it’s know today wake up Borica!!!

  31. Yes 16% of the Native DNA came to Boriquen from outside sources including North America. Add to that the mixing between Boricuas and Members of Federally recognized tribes in the past 100 years that we have been governed by the USA. An example of this was last years “Miss Native America” was a young woman of Cree and Taino parents.

  32. I know there are a few areas of Puerto Rico with strong Taino influence. For example the town of Maricao, in the mountains of Puerto rico but specifically two of its neighborhoods; Indiera Alta e Indiera baja these people have kept their taino culture for centuries, they celebrate an Taino festival every year and these people even have a lot of Taino phisical features. I talked to one of the residents and they believe that was one of the places in the island where most indians went trying to survive. Also the same lady i spoke to keeps a Cemi that its been passed from generation to generation in her family.

  33. Here’s my question, if someone is of Puerto Rican background from the paternal side, does having a white mother erase his/her possible Taino/indigenous heritage? Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but that seems to be what some have suggested. I had a beautiful baby boy in August 2010 who is Puerto Rican from his father’s side. I don’t know anything about the father’s parents or what they looked like. I am white, with light skin and hair, and my son has brown skin and dark hair. Most people who see me with him assume he’s bi-racial only (European from my side, and black/African), and I agree he obviously has African in his mix, and I’n not ashamed of that in any way. But I’d like to learn what I can to help him establish a more complete cultural identity later in life– as much as I can without any contact with his father’s side (not my choice, just how things have worked out).

    Anyway, I see something else in my son also. He also has a dark brown birthmark (which is supposedly a strong native characteristic) on his lower back and red undertone to his brown skin, and a distinctive face. I saw a picture of a Taino statue from Puerto Rico, and his facial features look similar. But because I am his mother and white and his father is not involved, does that mean I should ignore his entire Puerto Rican cultural background (which I believe includes both black and native), which is so evident in his looks?

  34. Puerto Ricans in general are very embracing people. If your son grows up and identifies with his father’s people chances are that he will be accepted. However a lot will depend on his own interest and desire. As to the Taino heritage again it will depend on him. Blood on it’s own is not enough, there must be Heart also. When this heritage comes via the mother and grandmother it’s easier to take in, because it is a part of your everyday life. However I’ve never met a fellow Boricua who would reject someone because they were half Boricua. Not to say it doesnot happen, just that I’ve never seen it. Hope this answers your question.

  35. What, if eden was spit, in to two parts. Let say that. the old world,versus. the new. As l see it as if a grate harm has been done to the first native American tribe. that this tribe had no other recourse but to go underground . to the point that This nation die, of better yet where extinct !!!
    What if this extinct nation,let say nation X.
    is given another name other then it,s self. mans interpretation of Gods will.!!!
    a second changes. but not to the conquers but to theses nation of the new world.
    If the new world was was called let say Rich Port, and in old world order it baptist the city with the name of John the Batista. An island that the inhabitance were like. to have a better understanding of this it would be nice to come to Borinquen boricua and see for your self. May l subject The rain forest of el Yunque. On the Eastern side. and see a family portrait of the natives of the time. On a bolder in a three pointed rock some people call Cemi !!! The river is called Rio Blanco in the town were I have had the changes to work on my magic art. of the pass. to see some pictures of this google my name and some for yourself P.S. don’t forget to bring the kids on this quest of yours. like did.

  36. G’Day! Prdream,
    Interesting Post, The Taino Indians who were originally from South America were the first to inhabit Puerto Rico sometime in the 1400’s. In 1493 Columbus arrived in his second voyage to the new world. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon founded the village of Caparra (that is now San Juan) in 1508 and he was named the governor of the island in 1509 by Spain. The Spaniards introduced slavery in 1521 and built the first Catholic Church in 1523 which is the oldest church still in use in America. Sugar cane was produced in 1523 and a hospital in 1524.

  37. Iam very consent about the taino indian in puerto rico that they forget were
    mestizo ,generation over generation that you are boricua we have indian
    blood,there no question about.my grand father he was very indian desend.
    born in the eraly 1898

  38. My family both sides were moved out of P. R early 1900’s and shipped to Hawaii for relocation. I know very little of why this was DONE. i won three bronze in nam and a unit citation and they buried me and now I have woken up and will do my thing in peace for I loved war to much. aloha

  39. Being a veteran from vietnam with 3 bronze stars and no one told me until I asked for information on my service record. My dd214 was blank so I went looking in 2001 and 07 they the VA got it wrongaloha

  40. My thing is to see how I feel and to feel what I see, and it can be done as itis. As for me I’M WORKING ON GETTING BETTER AS A HUMAN BEING / BY BELEIVING IN A GOD OF YOUR CHOICE, nOT A MAN THING ALOHA

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