Taino Indians – Native Indians Of Puerto Rico

Taino Indians are a subgroup of the lager group of Indians known as Arawakan who lived in the north eastern part of North America. The Taino Indians settled in Puerto Rico as well as the Greater Antilles during the period of Christopher Columbus’ arrival (Crosby, 47). The settlement of Taino Indians in Puerto Rico was as a result of their desire to depart from other groups forming the larger Arakawan Indians in North Eastern part of South America and venture into the new lands of Puerto Rico. There Choice to settle in Puerto Rico led them to encounter several other communities with diverse cultural background, economic activities as well as religious beliefs. Their settlement in Puerto Rico, therefore, had a general influence on the economic, Socio cultural and religious way of life of the people they resided with in Puerto Rico. Moreover they had things to learn from the locals of Puerto Rico. This led to a cross cultural exchange of beliefs and ideologies among the various communities (Córdova, 1990).

The Reawakens, who initially included the Taino Indians, are believed to have their origin from a village called Saladero located in Venezuela. They migrated, passing through the Caribbean at around 900 BC and settled within the Greater Antilles (Schimmer, 65). With the passage of time, a section of the Reawakens developed a distinct culture that was different in all aspects from the original culture of the Arawakan people as well as the Lesser Antilles and the Fierce Caribs. This group of the Reawakens later came to be known as the Tainos. The Taino Indians then moved into Puerto Rico as well as the Greater Antilles during the period of Christopher Columbus’ arrival (Saunders, 2005).

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The Taino Indians did not live in isolation but encountered other neighboring communities in Puerto Rico such as the Carib tribes as well as the immigrant Spaniards who came in later on to colonize them (Miguel, 171). The Carib tribes were, for a long time, enemies of Taino Indians. During their stay in Puerto Rico, they also encountered the Spaniards who came in an attempt to colonize them. They were faced with great intimidation from the Spaniards who wanted to colonize them against their wish. These intimidations went as far as sexually molesting the Taino Indians’ women. In addition, they were required to pay tax to the Spaniards in form of gold or spun cotton. Those who failed to comply had their hands cut off and they bled to death. Moreover, the Taino encountered infections in Puerto Rico to which they had neither immunity nor capacity to cure. Smallpox outbreak in 1518, for instance, led to the death of about 90% of the population (Madrigal, 121). They further encountered colonialism from the Spaniards in Puerto Rico.   

This notwithstanding, the Taino Indians made several exchanges with the neighboring communities as well as the immigrant Spaniards. The Spaniards, for instance, took their women as wives. These inter marriages led to cultural exchanges among the two communities. The Christianity for instance started being appreciated by some of the Taino Indians as a result as a result of such intermarriages. It is worth noting that the Taino Indians were originally ancestral worshippers (Traboulay, 47). Moreover a new interbreeds between the Taino Indians and the Spaniards arose. Mesta’s children arose from this cross cultural marriages. Substantial cultural exchange was also witnessed in Cuba (Watts, 2003).

The Tiano language was also copied by several other neighboring communities. Many carrib women, for instance started speaking Tiano having leant the language from the Tiano Women who had been taken as captives by the neighboring Carib tribes who constantly raided them.

It is worth noting as well that Taino Indians culture and way of life become the most prominent in Puerto Rico. Most of the other communities learnt hunting skills as well as agriculture from Taino Indians. Foods such as potatoes, cassavas, mamey, garlic, Onan and quava that were originally eaten by the Taino Indians become common among all the communities in Puerto Rico. Places were further named in Tiano. Towns such as Mayanguez, Humacoa, Caguas as well as Utuado still use Tiani names to date (Sale, 2014).

European settlers also copied Tiano techniques and implements such as hamaca (hammock), Bohio (straw house) as well as Maracas (a Tiano musical instrument). They further learnt how to prepare and eat Tiano meals such as Cassava bread. Taino Indians influenced the Puerto Rican language and vocabulary to a large extends and many of their words have remained in Puerto Rican vocabulary to date (Aikhenvald, 7). In addition many Tiani superstition were adopted by all the communities in the Puerto Rica and influenced their way of life to a large extend. In conclusion, the separation of the Tiano from the rest of the Reawakens and their subsequent settlement in Puerto Rica had a great impact not only to them but also to the neighboring community in Puerto Rico.  Their desire to explore new lands landed them in Puerto Rica. They however, encountered both positive and negative effects from the neighboring communities. Negative effects included diseases, colonization among other. Positive effects included cross cultural interactions and benefits that come with such interactions.

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