Guard at Caguanas

[Guard at Caguanas] While the sacred ball and ceremonial grounds at Barrio Caguanas, Utuado, Puerto Rico is not as old as the Tibes Ceremonial Gounds, it far more sacred in the eyes of the Taino people and is their religious center. This image represents a vision of a warrior ghost standing guard over the grounds, linking the past and present struggles of the Taino people.

Here was carried out the sacred batey ceremony. Although related to ancient Mayan ball games and the Native North American sacred game now called lacross, it was not so much a game as a judicial contest. In the ceremony of batey, hundreds of contestants from many tribes would gather in Caguanas to prove their valor. Two teams of twenty-four Guazabaras (warriors) each would enter the contest, one from the East and one from the West. The teams were based on generations, so that if a father was on the East team, he played against his son on the West team. The outcome identified the most valient warriors of the Taino Nation, and the captain of the losing team forfeited his head in sacrifice. Eventually the sacrifice was ended because it was at the cost of too many able warriors.

The batey ceremonies had an important social function. The outcome of the contest was not decided by the caciques (chiefs), but by the Creator Yaya. Instead of resorting to deadly feud, local squabbles between families were taken to the cacique, who in turn directed the families to resolve their differences by submitting them to Yaya's judgement in the batey ball court. Their ability to resolve feuds in this way is one reason the Tainos were considered such a gentle people.

Although the Caguanas Ceremonial site is seen by many Tainos as their religious center, the Spanish colonists have opened it up to commercial exploitation, and it has become a local and international tourist attraction. Can you belive that they have closed the gates to our traditional sacred ceremonial place of prayer and dare fence our Taino people out? The Tainos have begun a campaign to get back their Sacred Ceremonial Grounds at Barrio Caguanas and are forced to break the laws of the Guamikena (The Covered People) by jumping fences in our own homeland to pursue our constitutional and God-given right of religious freedom! The Lakota Sioux have the Sacred Black Hills, but the Taino have only our Sacred Caguanas!

Chief Guanikeyu
November 18, 1970

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