From: (Gonzalez, Francisco)
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 97 10:01:45 -0400

Message-Id: <>

We are not extinct: Cuba's first nations

By Dr. Jose Barreiro, American Indian Program, Cornell University, Ithaca
2 June, 1997

In these eastern mountains of Cuba, region of Baracoa, Guantanamo Province, there are several enclaves of indigenious community culture that have survived 500 years of colonization. This remote and yet culturally important area of Cuba has been characterized by its historically rural quality and its major historical import to Cuban movements of authocthonous liberation.

While the continued existence of several Native populations appears in the deep scientific record (Marti, Rousse, Arrom, Rivero de la Calle, Nuez), the assertion of complete extinction of Taino Indians in the Caribbean became commonplace in the academy throughout the twentieth century.

Recently, however, some of these isolated Native groups have begun to represent themselves within Cuba and to communicate with other Native groups around the hemisphere. Cuban and international documentation was initiated, with several articles appearing in scientific journals. Most prominently, the Taino community at Caridad de Los Indios, near Guantanamo, has retained various Native dances and songs,as well as considerable oral history and understanding of ecological relationships.

There are as well, Native populations near Bayamo, Santiago and Punta Maisi in this eastern-most triangle of Cuba. As a result of the indigenous revitalization now in process, the several Native-based community enclaves are now reaching out to each other to generate an awarenes of the remaining Taino identity and culture in the area.

While the Taino-descendant population is not dominant, this is a region of Cuba that has maintained the most sustainable indigenous agricultural traditions(the conuco system) and features an "old Cuba" flavor. The agricultural base of the region is largely self-sufficient farming, with families maintaining gardens and small animals.

The Baracoa-Guantanamo region is a great living microcosm of the Cuban ethnogensis, rooted in the tri-raciality of Indigenous (Taino), Spanish, and African peoples.