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Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 00:29:53 -0400 Sender: Taino-L Taino interest forum <TAINO-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU> Subject: TAINO-L Digest - 9 Nov 1999 to 11 Nov 1999 (#1999-118) To: Recipients of TAINO-L digests <TAINO-L@MAELSTROM.STJOHNS.EDU>

Aia Na Ha`ina I Loko o Kakou (The Answers Lie Within Us)

From Tony Castanha <castanha@HAWAII.EDU>
10 November 1999

"Boricua Migration to Hawai`i and Meaning of Caribbean Indigenous Resistance, Survival and Presence on the Island of Boriken (Puerto Rico)," edited, by Tony (Akoni) Castanha, Paper Presented at the 1999 World Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education, Hilo, Hawai`i, August 1-7, 1999. (Copyright, 1999)

Aloha kakou y Guatiao,

"Guatiao" is a traditional indigenous Caribbean way of welcoming and greeting of friendship among peoples and friends. The guatiao was also used as a survival strategy by the principal cacique or chief of the island of Boriken (the indigenous name of the island also known as "Puerto Rico"), Agueybana, when he exchanged names with the Spanish colonist Ponce de Leon and became "blood brothers" with him. This assured that the cacical system on the island would continue and not be destroyed as it had been in Quisqueya (also Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

My presentation today is based on my doctoral work which looks at certain themes of Caribbean indigenous resistance, survival, identity and presence particularly on the island of Boriken, and in the Caribbean Antilles, in general. Through personal travel to the region, oral tradition revealed, and academic research and sources, my thesis presents mainly an historical analysis and critique of Caribbean writings. I seek to dispel certain European myths laid upon the indigenous Caribbean during the 15th and 16th centuries which subsist until today. Furthermore, I'll talk about the wave of indigenous Boricuas or Jibaros who came to Ka Pae`aina Hawai'i in the early 1900s. The combined movement of labor to satisfy capitalistic demands of haole sugar planters and the devastating environmental effects of huracan (hurricane) San Ciriaco in Boriken led to the inmigration of the Boricua to Hawai`i. I am a Boricua, a descendant of the "Taino," or the Caribe or Carib peoples of Boriken. I would like to take this time to say that I am personally very grateful to the Kanaka Maoli people, for my involvement and activism in the Hawaiian sovereignty movement for the past seven years has greatly assisted me in the recovery of my Boricua identity and cultural past. Finally, I wish to dedicate my presentation today to a good friend of mine, a brother and roommate who recently passed on, Alan Holt, Jr.

A Global Resurgence

Since the notions of "extinction" and "indigenous Caribbean peoples" are synonymous in the minds of many, the reidentification and cultural revitalization among the Caribe/Taino peoples today should not be seen in a vacuum. This revitalization follows a clear pattern of indigenous resurgence worldwide beginning in the late 1960s and early '70s. The American Indian Movement (AIM) in North America grew and called for international recognition of traditional rights and practices. Indigenous consciousness arose in Central America and the Pacific, and the Kanaka Maoli political and cultural renaissance of the time has much to do with decolonization and malama 'aina today. During the 1980s, this global resurgence strengthened at the international human rights level culmin- ating in the 1993 UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and proclaimed International Year and Decade of the World's Indigenous People.

In the Caribbean, the year 1992 could be seen as a time of indigenous "reawakening," for the quincentenary of the European invasion into the "Americas" was a time of reflection for many, rather than unwarranted celebration. My view as to why it has taken 500 years for indigenous Caribbean revitalization to occur has everything to do with colonialism. Since the first wave of colonization in the "New World" was so severe, it has apparently taken many descendants or children of the Caribe/Taino that much longer to reawaken in relation to other indigenous groups. However, this indigenous resurgence was prophesized over 500 years ago by the daughter of a cacique, named Aura Surey, at the height of the Spanish atrocities. She decreed that "in the twenty-fourth generation our people would rise again in consciousness to their connection and responsibility to the EarthMother (Atabei) and all life."1 Indigenous Artisan Margarita Nogueras Vidal writes of this prophecy:

The prophecy of Aura Surey is signaling that a process of transformation is already taking place within the EarthMother and within ourselves. We can still better our lives and be a conscious part of planetary well-being. Let us use our gifts and talents to enrich life. Let us project healthy thoughts into the eter of life (place where all things are created and take form). We are all learning just to be human. We are learning about human relationships. We are learning about relating to other life and we are learning that we are here together, under one sun, one moon, one air, one earth. We can be part of the solution and let go of the drama.2

Caribe/Taino Tradition

In Caribe/Taino tradition our ancestors believed they evolved from caves or from the earth.3 The Earth Mother or goddess of fertility, Atabei, is mother of Yucahu Bagua Marocoti, the Caribe/Taino "supreme" or absolute being who has no father and no beginning. The concept of Yucahu is appar- ently similar to the Maya belief in a monotheistic "Absolute Being" named Hunab K'u. Pre-conquest Maya defined Hunab K'u as "measure and movement-- measure of the soul and movement of the energy which is spirit."4 Some have suggested that Hunab K'u is a post-conquest Christian invention meant to emulate Christianity, but HUNAB "does not convey the same idea as the Christian concept of God."5 Indeed, the concept of Hunab K'u or Yucahu reveals a "god" that is essentially OMNIPRESENT, rather than the notion of a "supreme" hierarchical being above it all.

There is clearly a strong Maya and Central American influence in the Caribbean and on Boriken. Western archaeological carbon datings reveal earliest human habitation in the Caribbean region from about 3,500-4,000 B.C.6 The first peoples to arrive in Cuba, Hait and the Dominican Republic are believed to have come from the Yucatan peninsula or from other areas of Central America.7 Evidence of Central American artifacts grounded in indigenous tradition are also found in Boriken.8 The earliest carbon datings here date back to 3,000 B.C.9 It's further acknowledged that the "Taino" were partly descended from these first peoples of the Antilles, the so-called "Casimiroid peoples" or the "Archaics."10 If so, Caribe/Taino peoples of today would be descendants of the Maya, and likely other indigenous groups of both North and South America.

In terms of cultural traditions and customs passed down over the centuries, our language has survived in certain forms and is being revitalized, and many words make up a part of the Castillian or Spanish dialect spoken in Boriken today. For instance, numerous names of geographical places, plants, foods and instruments are indigenous in origin. Moreover, native plants are still used for medicinal purposes, the same foods are grown and eaten (e.g., yuca, batata, maize, pina and papaya), and the same instruments are played (e.g., the guiro and maraca). Stories of pre-European cultural tradition passed down in the form of areitos (traditional dances and recitations) are known through family oral tradition. Nogueras-Vidal mentions those who hold the keys of knowledge about this tradition: "the 'so-called' elderly, our grandmothers and grandfathers, our aunts, uncles, and our parents have acquired the special talent of being the caretakers and bearers of our cultural tradition. They hold the keys of wisdom about who we are as a 'people.'"11 Also, indigenous symbolism in the form of hieroglyphics has been passed down. In principle, this form of "writing" is no less distinguishable than western written form in that "both are texts that must be read."12 However, since the academic discipline of anthropology has been unable to decipher the meaning of indigenous symbolic writing, pre-western indigenous societies were thought to be void of history. Thus, the anthropological invention of "prehistoric society" or "prehistory."13 But the lines of communication with the indigenous past and the Caribbean ancestral world remain open:

Our symbolism is conceptual and encompasses a series of expressions that tell a story. As stone people our ancestors inscribed messages on stone for a time when we would be ready to receive them. The time of awakening is in process and we are all being summoned to join in and be part of the circle of re-membering.14

Indigenous Resistance, Survival and Presence

Part of the historical problem with many western interpretations of indigenous ways and thought is that philosophical world views of both groups were and are very different. The myth created by Spanish chron- iclers that the indigenous peoples of Boriken and other Caribbean islands had been "exterminated" by the mid-16th century was based on the chroniclers' own world view and perception. For example, Bartolome de Las Casas assumes that the same devastation that occurred in Haiti and the Dominician Republic had occurred on the islands of "San Juan" (Boriken) and "Jamaica" (Xaymaca). He writes:

Before the arrival of the Spaniards there had lived on these islands more than six hundred thousand souls, it has been stated. I believe there were more than one million inhabitants, and now, in each of the two islands, there are no more than two hundred persons, all the others having perished without the Faith and without the holy sacraments.15

Today, writings on indigenous resistance and survival in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Boriken, St. Vincent and Dominica are commonplace. Jose Barreiro's The Indian Cronicles is a fascinating account of "Taino" life and Guarocuya's (Enriquillo) war against the Spanish crown and subsequent victory resulting in the first peace treaty signed in the Americas.16 Barreiro also pointed out in 1993 that "an estimated one- third of Puerto Ricans have strong Taino ancestry," and the indigenous resurgence among "boriquas" resulted in the "ceremonial restoration of the Taino Nation on November 19, 1992."17 In 1997, Sammuel Wilson edited "The Indigenous People of the Caribbean," an anthology of writings on the indigenous Caribbean which partly acknowledges the continued presence of Caribe/Taino descendants. Wilson notes:

On many islands some people trace part or all of their ancestry back to those who lived here before Columbus's voyages. On nearly every island, the modern inhabitants relate to the environment in ways they learned from the Indians: they grow some of the same plants for food and other uses, fish the same reefs in the same ways, and follow the same seasonal patterns. Also, on nearly every island--even those where none of the indigenous peoples have survived--the Indians are powerful symbols of Caribbean identity, national identity, and resistance to colonialism.18

Resistance to colonialism in Boriken commenced the moment Juan Ponce de Leon stepped onto its shores in 1508, fifteen years after Cristobal Colon christened the island "San Juan Bautista" on his second voyage. Agueybana (The Elder) was well aware of Columbus' arms and exploits in Quisqueya and prepared to accommodate Ponce de Leon on his arrival. In the beginning the two leaders entered into a "treaty of friendship and alliance."19 In order to make peace and resist colonialism, Agueybana apparently had in mind what the Iroquois had employed since time immemorial when invaded by outsiders, i.e., "to transform them symbolically and physically into kinspeople."20 According to Francisco Miscoso,

Agueybana, the great chief of Guaynia, had news of the devasta- tion of the Tainos of Hispaniola. The historian Fernandez de Ovierdo affirmed that in order to avoid such a fate in Puerto Rico, Agueybana opted to be a guatiao or bloodbrother, with Ponce de Leon. He agreed to make conucos [farming] to provide cassava bread to the Spaniards and instructed his subchiefs to assist the colonizers.21

Some tactics of survival in Boriken included intermarriage or the "absorp- tion" of the Spanish and African people, as Loida Figueroa Mercado concludes in her book, "History of Puerto Rico,"22 and the naturalization of the Spanish language into the indigenous tongue;23 for instance, there is "a kind of 'make-believe' that treats native language terms 'as if they were Spanish',.. which means of course that morphemologically they don't signify anything on their own, but only as they are defined by another language which makes them epistemologically disauthorized."24 Further the adoption of Christian symbols which physically substituted for indigenous ones,25 meant that native spiritualism (espiritismo) remained a life- force. All of this is not to say that the massacres and burnings, torment and misery, and depopulation from epidemic diseases on a similar scale as here in Ka Pae`aina did not take place in Boriken. They did. And contrary to the European created dichotomy of the "peaceful Arawaks" and "maneating Caribs" ("cannibal" or "Canibales" originally derived from "Carib" or "Caribes"), our ancestors also fiercely fought back the Spanish encroach- ment. The implementation of the encomienda system led directly to the uprising of 1511. Fernandez de Ovierdo notes this resistance and "how they [the Indians] killed half of the Christians that were on the island of San Juan . . ."26 (slightly exaggerated?) This led to outright war between the two groups, three wars of that year culminating in Ponce de Leon's decisive victory at Yageca27. It is apparent that at this moment many Boricuas fled to the mountain regions, where many dwelt already. Federico Ribes Tovar indicates that after Yagueca and the death of their leader, Agueybana II (The Brave),

the Indians abandoned the struggle. Some of the rebel caciques surrendered and others fled to the Luquillo Mountains and neigh- boring islands to continue their campaign against the Spaniards, but, from that moment on, native resistance was reduced to isolated skimishes, ambushes and raids...28

The Spanish did not begin to colonize the mountain region of Boriken until the early 1800s, according to Boricua-Jibaro scholar and cultural practitioner Oki Lamourt-Valentin, culminating in the 1868 "El Grito de Lares" (The Cry of Lares).29 Lamourt also indicates that the "Indian" language was the "first social language" of the region at least until this time.30 Therefore, who lived in the mountain regions of the island or in the "Indieras" (place where the Indian lives) since the wars of 1511? Spanish censuses of the late 18th century reveal that the indigenous population had indeed lived on. The results of the 1778 census show 2,302 "pure natives" who had settled in the Indieras, the Indieras at that time comprising the entire Cordillera region, not just Maricao as it is known today.31 Puerto Rican historian Juan Manual Delgado Colon says the above figure was "10 percent of the reality," since census data then were primarily measured through church baptism records.32 Figueroa finally determines that:

In the census made at the end of the XVIIIth century by order of Carlos III, proof is given that the natives were not exterminated in the first half of the XVI century, since in 1778 there was a contingent of 2,302 pure natives living in the country, which seems to have settled in the Central Cordillera, in those places known up to now as Indieras. If we take all this data into account it is evident that the time has come to throw overboard the fallacy of the extermination of the native population.33

Boricua Migration to Hawai`i

It has been said that perhaps the least understood and appreciated major ethnic group to come to Ka Pae`aina were the Boricuas or Puerto Ricans.34 The sugar planters who recruited them as "indentured slave laborers" were apparently only interested in profits, false promises and "kidnapping."35 When the Boricuas rebeled - the first migrant group to physically take up arms against the planters - they became commonly labeled as "criminals," "vagrants" and "vindictive." But the Boricuas or Boriqueos or "Borinkees" who came here were basically the indigenous peoples of their land, who had sowed the yuca root for millennia, who had experienced severe economic and social hardships, and were merely trying to make life better for themselves and their families.

From 1900 to 1901, eleven expeditions brought over 5,000 Boricuas to Hawai`i.36 Most came from the mountain regions of Yauco, Lares, Utuado and Ajuntas, and many were coffee farmers whose crops had been devastated by huracn San Ciriaco in 1899. The Boricuas who came here were proud of their indigenous heritage, initially identifying as "Boricuas" or "Boriquenos," not as "Puerto Ricans" or "Porto Ricans," since they considered themselves Indians.37 It was the Boricua or Jibaro who had been "the foot soldiers of every revolution on the island" since the uprising of 1511.38 They led the "Grito de Lares" in 1868 and eventually drove the Spanish out in 1898, only to be recolonized shortly after by the Americans. Ron Arroyo writes that the Boricuas who came to Hawai`i were free spirited independence fighters who refused to be enslaved:

. . . these were people who were Boricua indians. They were proud of their indian culture as inhabitants of the island of Boriquen. Their heritage was based on a love of freedom and independence. The Spaniards called them `jibaros' which meant men of freedom. They were also called `Los Macheteros' for their use of cane knives as weapons in the fight for freedom and independence. An early commander of the island's Spanish regiment referred to the jibaros as `the free coloured inhabitants of Porto Rico.' So the most significant aspect of the Porto Ricans who migrated to the plantations in Hawaii was that they were free persons. Their attitude of freedom was to determine their behavior in a slave-like environment on those plantations. The haoli (sp) (white) landowners, in their ignorance of culture and history, seeking laborers for their sugar cane, sent agents to Puerto Rico to recruit to a slave condition a group of people who had historically fought for and fiercely protected their freedom.39

In this chapter of my work, I also attempt to link the Boricua presence in Ka Pae`aina to Kanaka Maoli socio-history, culture, and what comes to make- up a "local" identity here. The pre-European political and cultural systems of both lands were similar. Like the ali`i system here, the Caribe/Taino cacical system had developed "elaborate and complex social and political" systems,40 and

like their Hawaiian counterparts, the natives of pre-Columbian Puerto Rico were expert fishermen and sailors. Moreover, the inhabitants of each island in the Caribbean were linked culturally to the people on nearby islands in the Antilles, so that like the Pacific islands, we can only appreciate the richness of native culture and society by seeing it as a mosaic of interacting villages and chiefdoms.41

U.S. colonial exploits in the late 19th century come to create a unique situation in Hawai'i, one which plays a large role in what "indigenous" identity has come to mean today, where Kanaka Maoli, Filipino and Boricua people come together as pawns of the Spanish-American war venture. The collective experiences of indigenous Hawaiians and the groups that migrated here come to develop a strong relationship of shared values that comes to characterize what is meant by "local":

With the majority of Hawaiians who were planters and fishermen, they shared a respect for the land and a strong reliance on extended family relations. Loyalty, respect, and caring for family elders and the overall well-being of all family members were important values that came to characterize "local" people.

In rural plantation communities, the immigrant workers shared the common experiences of oppressive working conditions, living in plantation camp housing, and being in constant debt to the plantation store. Children of immigrant and Native Hawaiians alike attended Hawai'i's common public schools. There they were socialized by the American school system. The children learned together, ate and shared meals together, and communicated across cultural barriers in pidgin dialect.42

Today, on the eve of the centennial of the coming of the first "Boricua Hawaianos" to Ka Pae`aina, many important contributions made by them to the Hawaiian community have been acknowledged. The newly formed Puerto Rican Centennial Commission is preparing for next year's celebration of the arrival of the Puerto Ricans to Hawai`i.43 Mazie Hirono offered her thoughts when signing the bill that created the commission:

The Puerto Rican community has been very instrumental in improving the quality of life here in the islands. As is the case with many of the other ethnic groups that call Hawaii `home' today, the early Puerto Rican migrants toiled on the plantations to create a better life for themselves and their future generations. As is also the case with the other groups, they brought their traditions, culture and foods with them. Pasteles and gandule rice are well-known dishes in today's Hawaii. I welcome this opportunity to help recognize and celebrate the valuable contributions made by Puerto Ricans to our society.44


1 Margarita Nogueras Vital, "Taino Indian Symbolism: Honoring Taino Tradition," September, 1996, p. 3.

2 Ibid., p. 4.

3 Jose Barreiro, "The Indian Cronicles," p. 53; Irving Rouse, "The Tainos: The Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus," New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1992, p. 16.

4 Hunbatz Men, "Secrets of Mayan Science/Religion," New Mexico: Bear and Company Publishing, 1990, p. 24.

5 Eric J. Thompson, "Maya History and Religion," Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970, pp. 203-204.

6 Wilson, "Introduction to the Study of the Indigenous People of the Caribbean," in Wilson, ed., "The Indigenous People of the Caribbean," p. 4.

7 Ibid.

8 Interview with Baracutey, Indigenous educator and cultural practitioner, July 24, 1998.

9 Interview with Puerto Rican archeologist Roberto Martinez Torres, July 14, 1999.

10 Wilson, "The Indigenous People of the Caribbean," p. 58.

11 Margarita Nogueras-Vidal, "A Vision . . . A Prophecy: Honoring Tano Indigenous Tradition," Jayuya, Borike, 1996, 1998, p. 2.

12 Peter Hulme, "Colonial Encounters: Europe and the native Caribbean, 1492-1797," London: Methuen & Co., 1986, p. 56.

13 Ibid.

14 Margarita Nogueras-Vidal, "Tano Indian Symbolism . . . To Feel is to Perceive," Jayuya, Borike, 1996, 1998, p. 3.

15 Bartolome de Las Casas, "The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account," (1552), Translated from the Spanish by Herma Biffault, Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1992, p. 43.

16 Jose Barreiro, "The Indian Cronicles," Houston: University of Houston, Arte Publico Press, 1993, p. 11.

17 Jose Barreiro, in "State of the Peoples," (A Global Human Rights Report on Societies in Danger), by Cultural Survival, Boston: Beacon Press, 1993, p. 233.

18 Samuel M. Wilson, "The Legacy of the Indigenous People of the Caribbean," in Wilson, ed., "The Indigenous People of the Caribbean," Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997, p. 206.

19 Federico Ribes Tovar, "A Chronological History of Puerto Rico," New York: Plus Ultra Educational Publishers, Inc., 1973, p. 20.

20 Matthew Dennis, "Cultivating a Landscape of Peace: Iroquois-European Encounters in Seventeenth Century America," Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1993, p. 8.

21 Francisco Moscoso, "Chiefdom and Encomienda in Puerto Rico: The Development of Tribal Society and the Spanish Colonization to 1530," in Adalberto Lopez, ed., "The Puerto Ricans: Their History, Culture, and Society," Cambridge, Mass.: Schenkman Publishing Company, Inc., 1980, p. 18.

22 Loida Figueroa Mercado, "History of Puerto Rico: From the Beginning to 1892," New York: L.A. Publishing Company Inc., 1968, p. 75.

23 Oki Lamourt-Valentin, "Cannibal Recipes," A socio-linguistic account of indigenous Boricua-Jibaro culture, Iowa State University, Unpublished, 1979, pp. 6-7.

24 Ibid., p. 4.

25 Ibid., p. 11.

26 Gonzalo Fernandez de Ovierdo y Valdes, Chronicler to King-Emperor Charles V, "The Conquest and Settlement of the Island of Boriquen or Puerto Rico," (1535), Translated and Edited by Daymond Turner, Avon, Connecticut: The Cardavon Press, 1972, p. 18.

27 Ribes Tovar, "A Chronological History of Puerto Rico," p. 37.

28 Ibid.

29 Interview with Lamourt-Valentin, July 27, 1998.

30 Ibid.

31 Interview with Delgado Colon, June 27, 1999.

32 Interview with Delgado Coln, July 15, 1999.

33 Figueroa Mercado, "History of Puerto Rico," p. 74.

34 Andrew Lind, in Ron Arroyo, "The Borinkees: The Puerto Ricans of Hawai`i," Ph.D. Dissertation, Cincinnati: Union Graduate School, 1977?, p. 2.

35 In "The Borinkees: The Puerto Ricans of Hawai'i," Ron Arroyo provides transcripts of interviews with Puerto Ricans from the first expedition to Hawai'i who were lured into making the voyage by verbal promises of higher wages, being told that Spanish was the primary language of communication in Hawai'i, and many were led to believe that they were only being taken to the other side of the island. Claims of kidnapping surfaced. A New York Times headline read: "Porto Ricans Go To Hawaii: Men say they were kidnapped for the Spreckles Sugar Plantations - Closely Guarded on Train," Dec. 7, 1900. See appendix 1.

36 Blase Camacho Souza and Alfred P. Souza, "De Borinquen A Hawaii Nuestra Historia: From Puerto Rico to Hawaii," Honolulu: Puerto Rican Heritage Society of Hawaii, 1985, p. 24.

37 Interview with Ron Arroyo, November 22, 1998.

38 Arroyo, "The Borinkees: The Puerto Ricans of Hawai'i," p. 3.

39 Ibid.

40 Wilson, "Hispaniola: Caribbean Chiefdoms in the Age of Columbus," Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1990, p. 2.

41 Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo, "The Tainos: From Burenke to Puerto Rico," in "Change and Continuity: Puerto Rico and Hawai`i," Puerto Rican Heritage Society of Hawai`i, and Hawai'i Heritage Center, Honolulu: Puerto Rican Society of Hawai`i, 1992.

42 Davianna Pomaika`i McGregor, "Sovereignty: Hawaiians and Locals," A Paper presented at the Association of Asian American Studies Conference, University of Michigan, 1994, pp. 12-13.

43 Jose Villa, "Hawaii Honors Puerto Rican Contributions," Hawaii Hispanic News, July 1999, p. 1.

44 Ibid.

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