LBC Day 16 – What Do I know about Tainos

The history of Tainos is vast. I will admit that I do not know as much as I should know about them. This fact ultimately bothers me. So I will stick to what I do know, which is the point of where I can have discussions with people and encourage people to learn about their past. This is how I know what my limitations. Let me preface this by saying that I understand and acknowledge my Ecuadorian side, but I will only talk about Tainos and not the Incas. The reason being is I need to do more reading on the Incan Empire before I can blog about it.

What I know about Tainos is that they are the indigenous people of Puerto Rico. Now I know that there are other islands within the Caribbean as Quisqueya (currently Dominican Republic/Haiti) and the Bahamas in which they inhabited, but for the sake of this blog, I will stick with what I know and talk about Puerto Rico.

From what I have gathered, information about Tainos in Puerto Rico, before Columbus’ arrival, is scarce at best. There are carvings and artifacts that can be traced to this once proud people. Once Columbus arrived to the “new world”, Tainos quickly faded out of existence due to disease and the hard working conditions due to slavery. It was so bad that there was a royal decree to emancipate the remaining population of Tainos in 1520 so they would not go into extinction. This lead to influx of African slaves into the Puerto Rico.

Interestingly enough, the men that came from Spain to settle into Puerto Rico and the rest of the islands did not bring women with them. Of course there is the old tale that women are bad luck on boats, which lead many to take Taino women as their wives, thus leading to the birth to mestizo children.

I will say that the word “Borinquen” is the name that the Taino’s called the Island (“Borikén”). It was later called Puerto Rico by traders and such as the island grew in popularity. The icon that I have on this blog is the Taino symbol for the coquí, which is a frog that is native to the island as well.

Let me just say that as I think about this, I just shake my head because this is the kind of history I would have loved to learn in history class. My knowledge of these things are most self taught in books that I have read over the years. I will always try my best to learn more.

3 thoughts on “LBC Day 16 – What Do I know about Tainos

  1. I read that Tainos were thought to be inhabitants of the Lesser Antilles and descendants of the Arawaks which are believed to be from the current day Venezuela/Brasil area. I found that interesting because the book stated that it wasn't exactly known how indigenous groups came about to exist in the West Indies. Migration between the West Indies and South-America is theorized of course, but it wasn't known how that was accomplished.(And I don't know how accurate this info is, because I got it from an old book on PR history, which of course I now don't remember the name of, but if I go to the public library any time soon, I'm sure I can find it).

    Anyway, I like how you can see Taino influence in common day PR words like “coqui”, “borinquen” and “cacique” despite what happened to the Taino population. “Cacique” in particular is a word that has Taino origins, yet has been adopted by many other Spanish speaking countries/cultures. (There's even a Mexican brand of food products named “cacique” lol).

    I'd like to learn more about Caribbean pre-Columbian history, maybe take a few courses, but of course I'm limited based on my area.


  2. I was also doing a research, in Spanish, my first language, about tainos language, and culture, and as you said other island have taino's population. I am Cuban myself and would like to add that Cuba is one of those Caribean islands that had taino influences, specially in the language, so I think is important to know that many words of taino origin in Spanish are originally from Cuba, because Colon discovered Cuba and La Espanola in his first trip to America. So with all my respect, is impossible to talk about tainos withouth mention the influence of the language taina in the Castilian. So many terms that we still have today were born in Cuba, before Spaniards even discover Puerto Rico.


  3. You make a very good point about language. That is something I did not consider when write this post.

    Perhaps I will do some research on Cuba for this year's blog entries.


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