Taíno People

The Taíno were an Arawakan tribe that originated in northern South America, in what is now Colombia and Venezuela. The Taíno were Caribbean natives when Christopher Columbus set foot in the "new world" in 1492. In the Bahamas, Columbus first came across a Taino subgroup known as the Lucayan. The Taíno, who lived in what are now the Lesser Antilles, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba, spoke a variety of the Arawakan language.

The Taíno lived in an agricultural community and raised yuca, pineapples, and sweet potatoes. They had a system of kinship and inheritance that was governed by caciques (chiefs), and they resided in permanent settlements. The zemis, or gods or spirit progenitors, of both male and female idols, were central to Taíno religion. Just as it did the Spaniards who met it, the Taíno culture continues to fascinate academics who study it today. They developed a universal language, complex religious and cosmological ideas, and ceremonial ballparks, among other things. Winning this game, in which a natural rubber ball was used, was believed to bring luck and a bountiful crop. Areytos, or ceremonial dances with dancing and drumming, were used to perform other myths and customs.

After European contact with African and Spanish cultures, anthropologists assert that the Taíno eventually assimilated into the nationalities of Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Others, however, assert that the Taíno completely vanished. There are many people of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic today claiming Taíno ancestry and have Taíno mitochondrial DNA, indicating that they are direct descendants. Whatever the case, we honor the Taino every day in contemporary society when we use a canoe, have a barbecue, read the news about a hurricane, or take a nap in a hammock. These are all Taino words that we still use today.

Taíno Origins in South America

taíno origins in south america


A bunch of various scholars have attempted tackling the question of who the native inhabitants truly were of the Caribbean islands. The European reports cannot be completely trusted because they lack objectivity and impartiality. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the "new world," he met people in the majority of the Greater Antilles. These people are now referred to as Taíno. However, that phrase was not coined until 400 years after the arrival of the Europeans, and today it's not widely used. The locals did not refer to one another by that moniker. Along with the territory they inhabited, they referred to one another as Borinquén.

The word nitaino, which was originally used to describe a social class of the inhabitants rather than the people themselves, is where the term "Taíno" originates. The word Taíno was not used in the 15th or 16th century to refer to the natives, and instead was only used twice in Columbus' diary to indicate they were "good men". Most concur that the term Taíno was used by the sailors and not by the islanders themselves. The white Europeans who accompanied Columbus may have been using the only Caribbean term they were familiar with or perhaps as a sign that they were "decent men" as opposed to the cannibalistic Caribs.

According to some academics, the Taíno people are an Arawak subgroup. Their language is a dialect of the Arawak family of languages, which were spoken in the Caribbean, Central and South America. Daniel Garrison Brinton referred to the Taínos as the Isle Arawaks in 1871. Since then, they have frequently been referred to in the same manner, but a number of academics have also noted that the Taíno had evolved their own language, society, and farming practices distinct from the Arawaks.

Contemporary scholars, modern historians and linguists now think that the word Taíno refers to all of the Arawak nations that were located in the Caribbean. The Caribs, who were not the same people as this term's referents, are not included. The Taíno people are further divided into three different tribes, with the exception of those who live in western Cuba and the northern Lesser Antilles. Hispaniola (current-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico are the traditional home of the Classic Taíno. The Virgin Islands are home to the Eastern Taíno, while Jamaica and most of Cuba were the Western Taíno's habitat.

Two schools of thought have emerged regarding the origin of the indigenous people of the Caribbean.

  • Some modern academics think that Taíno are Arawaks who originated in the Amazon Region. Through research into their pottery, language, and culture, they came to this determination. The Arawaks left the Orinoco Valley in boats and traveled to the Caribbean via modern-day Guyana and Venezuala.

  • According to a different hypothesis, ethnic groups that were the Taíno people's ancestors dispersed from the Colombian Andes' highlands. According to a completely different theory, the ethnic groups left the Andes at the same time and dispersed into the Guianas, the Caribbean, Central America, and the Amazon region in South America.

As is well known, Taíno society is thought to have originated in the Caribbean. The Taíno people of the present-day Dominican Republic held the belief that they emerged from caves on a mountain that was sacred to them as beings who had been made. Modern research reveals that a significant portion of Puerto Ricans have Amerindian mtDNA. As only one haplotype has the Tano ancestral group in it, other Native Americans are also genetic ancestors. According to National Geographic, DNA research has altered some of the pre-Columbian tribal roots beliefs.

Taíno Culture

taino culture

The Taino people had various social classes when Christopher Columbus first arrived in the "new world," and they had a hierarchy set up with caciques or chiefs in their kingdom. The term "naboria" was used to describe the laboring class. The noble persons were known as nitaínos (the word that Taino derived from) and then each village had a bohique, or a preiest or medicine man. Bohiques were known for their healing powers and ability to speak with deities. They were often consulted when the Taíno needed to engage in important tasks and permission was needed. There were about 20 Taíno communities present when Ponce de Leon conquered the island in 1518. The Taíno's leader was Cacique Agüeybana. The biggest village on the island was where he called home. The Taino people both males and women engaged in polygamy. The spouses of some caciques (chiefs) ranged from one to thirty. Caciques could also be women.

Dark olive to brown was the color of the Taíno's skin. They were approximately five feet tall on average. They had dark eyes and very coarse, dark hair; the woman frequently wore bangs, and for the most part, they were naked. Married women, however, frequently wore a headband and a small palm to conceal their privates. Both men and women painted themselves and donned nose rings during important ceremonial gatherings. They also sometimes donned gold necklaces and trinkets, which would add to their downfall to Spanish conquest.

Taínos traveled throughout the Caribbean and Northern Lesser Antilles while building canoes and being skilled seafarers. They were also adept at farming, fishing, and trapping. Cassava, garlic, pineapples, guavas, and sweet potatoes were the primary crops. Although the Taíno language was used, they had no writing system and could only count to 20 with their 10 fingers and 10 toes. However, they did use petroglyphs to represent significant creatures and occasions. They all owned dugout canoes, wooden bowls, stools, and hammocks, where they spent their free time lazily lounged around all day when not fishing.

Agriculture and fishing were important components of the Taíno diet. While the males fished and hunted, the Taíno women were responsible for taking care of the agriculture. Their kanoas (canoes) were carved out of trunks and came in a variety of sizes, some of which could fit 150 people. For hunting and combat, they employed a straightforward bow and poison-coated arrows.

The Taíno resided in towns known as yucayeques; the smallest of these were on the Bahamas, while Hispaniola and Puerto Rico's islands held the largest populations. Every community had a central plaza in the middle that was used for different games, activities, and celebrations. These plazas had a variety of shapes, including oval and rectangular, and were used to commemorate areitos, or ceremonial dances honoring the deceased.

When Europeans first arrived, the Taino people resided in enormous circular structures known as bohios. As seen in the picture above, these bohios were built from straw, palm leaves, and wood poles. They were constructed on the perimeter of the main square and could accommodate 10-15 families. The homes of the caciques were rectangular rather than circular and had timber porches. The only furnishings they had inside was simple: mats for sitting and sleeping, wooden bowls, hammocks, and little cradles for their children.

The Classic Taíno engaged in a game on specifically constructed rectangular ball courts known as batey or in the community center plaza. A sturdy ball made of natural rubber was used to perform the game. They used opposing teams with between 10 and 30 players on each side to compete. The batey games were occasionally used to settle disputes, but when that wasn't feasible, war became the next option. To intimidate their adversaries in combat, the Taíno painted their faces with thick warpaint. During battle the men used what they termed macana, or large wooden war clubs.

The Taíno have influenced modern day society and language. Some of the words that they used have found their way into our modern language and they are responsible for many items we now take for granted. Some of these include: barbecue (barbacoa), canoe (kanoa), tabacco (tabaco) and probably the most famous hurricane (jurican)

The Taíno have influenced modern day society and language. Some of the words that they used have found their way into our modern language and they are responsible for many items we now take for granted. Some of these include: barbecue (barbacoa), canoe (kanoa), tabacco (tabaco) and probably the most famous hurricane (jurican).

Religious and Language Education

Religious and Language Education

The priests and medicine men were the ones who represented religious beliefs and were called behiques. They often acted as negotiators between the Taino and angry gods and to act on the tribes behalf. It was also their job to treat and cure the wounded and sick. A cleansing ritual was performed prior to carrying out these tasks that involved fasting for days and inhaling a sacred hallucinogenic snuff

Mythological figures were the gods, of both sexes, Zemís. Zemí was also the name the Taino people of the west indies gave to their physical representations of the Zemís, whether objects or drawings. The Zemí were often represented by carving objects out of wood, bone or stone and took on the shape of human and animal figures.

Taíno Indians believed that in order to be in the good graces of these Zemís that they needed to offer them cassava bread and tobacco. Zemí petroglyphs were often carves into rocks and ball courts but have also been found in caves. Objects have also been found featuring pictographs, such as pottery, wood and some Taino even had tattoos of Zemís, as do modern day people claiming taíno ancestry. Zemís are most often represented by toads (coquis), turtles, snakes, fish and humanoid faces.

Taíno spirituality centered on the worship of zemís (spirits or ancestors). The major Taíno zemis are:

  • Yocahu was the supreme creator who inhabited the skies.

  • Jurakán was the zemi that wielded the power of the hurricane when angry.

  • Maboyas was feared by all Taino people as he destroyed crops at night.

  • Atabey and her son, Yúcahu were the zemis of the moon, fresh waters, and fertility.

  • Guabancexwas a part of the zemi Atabey and had control over natural disasters, she is the goddess of hurricanes.

  • Iguanaboína was the goddess of the good weather. She had sons who were twins though. Boinayel who controlled the rain and clouds and Marohu who provided clear skies for fishing.

  • Baibrama helped grow cassava and protect the Taino from it's poison juices.

  • Maketaori Guayabawas a zemi of the land of the dead known as Coabey.

  • Opiyelguabirán' was demi who watched over the dead and was shaped like a dog. The Taino believed at night the dead would turn into bats and eat guava fruit.

  • Deminán Caracaracol the Taíno believed descended from the zemis but was a male human. They worshipped him as a zemi himself. However, he failed to guard the sacred mountain of creation on Hispaniola and was turned to stone.

taino petroglyphs

    According to Taíno oral story, the sun and moon emerged from caves. On a sacred mountain in Hispaniola, the first Taíno came from caves, emerging only at night because the sun would otherwise change them into something else. At the cave's entrance, Deminán Caracaracol was turned to stone for failing to defend the group as they left during the day.

    The Taíno thought they were related to a female sea turtle and Deminán Caracaracol. Further, when Yaya killed his son Yayel, a massive flood happened, which is believed to be the origin of the ocean, or at least the Caribbean sea. Yaya placed his son's remains in a huge container. The gourd then broke open when all the bones inside transformed into fish, the waters of the world flowed out.

    I have to say this story is much cooler than that of Noah's Ark.

    Taíno Agriculture and Diet

    taino food

    The Taíno diet was largely dependent on protein, just as ours is today. The Taínos of the more developed islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico were excellent farmers and fishermen, they farmed their casava root crop cultivation in small raised plots called conucos. A conuco is a large raised mound packed with leaves, designed for farming root crops. Less important crops such as corn were planted in fields using the slash and burn technique. Contrary to practices of the native american on the united states mainland , corn was not ground into flour and baked into bread. Instead it was cooked and eaten off the cob as we enjoy today. Contrary to practices of the native american on the united states mainland , corn was not ground into flour and baked into bread. Instead it was cooked and eaten off the cob as we enjoy today. The Taíno had a developed system of farming that was sustainable, environmentally friendly and maintenance free.

    The most important primary crop grown by The Taíno was cassava. This is a root from which women processed the poisonous root by squeezing out it's toxic juices. Then it was ground into a flour and baked into a flat bread. This is still practiced in modern day Haiti and produces a bread similar to a burrito. The second most important crop to the Taino people was sweet potatoes (batata). The Arawak/Taíno people also grew, beans, pineapple, peppers, peanuts, tobacco, corn (maize) and calabashes. Other fruits were collected from the forest such as guava and palm nuts. The skilled Taino had a vast trade network spread around the islands. Some items traded were cloth and nets made from cotton grown around their houses.

    Farming was supplemented with the abundant fish and shellfish resources of the region, often collected from mangrove roots. The Taíno people became very skilled fishermen over time. They also caught fish in nets and speared Manatees. One method used by the Taínos was tostun fish in rivers and streams using the poisonous senna plant. They had to hunt and trap small animals since there are no large animals native to the Caribbean islands. Some small game they relied on are: earthworms, turtles, iguanas, parrots and hutias. According to Christopher Columbus small boys were able to hunt ducks and turtles in the lakes and sea. The costal native Taíno people of the "new world" tended to eat their fish either raw or only partially cooked. The Taíno stored hutias and dogs live in corrals live until the animals were ready to be eaten.

    Before white europeans arrived to the "new world" the Taíno had a work free agriculture. This left plenty of time to develop games of recreation, religious beliefs and lounge around in hammocks. If only our lives were that simple today.

    Christopher Columbus and Taíno People

    christopher columbus

    Christopher Columbus and his sailors were the first white Europeans to encounter Taíno people. Christopher columbus first encountered the Taínos when he landed on October 12, 1402 in the Bahamas. He described them as being noble and kind and physically tall.

    In his diary, Columbus wrote:

    The Taíno do not know any evil. They do not murder or steal and are very gentle people. They took great pleasure in pleasing us and giving us eveything that they had. Your highness you can believe that in all the world I do not believe there are better people. They are always laughing and have the sweetest talk, they also love their neighbors.

    You can almost hear in this excerpt Columbus saying how easily the Taínos could be overpowered and forced into slavery for gold mining.

    Upon European contact, the Guanahatabeys were the peaceful neighbors to the Taíno in the western tip of Cuba. In the northern Lesser Antilles and the Ais nations of Florida on what would become the united states mainland. The raiding not friendly Island-Caribs lived in the Lesser Antilles and used to attack the Taino people. Christopher Columbus renamed the island of San Salvador from the original Taíno name of Guanahaní. Columbus called the Taíno "Indians", as he believed he had landed in India. This name as gone on to refer to all indigenous native peoples in the "new world" of the Western Hemisphere.

    On the island of Hispaniola in 1493 on his second voyage, Columbus required the Taino people to pay "tribute". All adults were made to deliver a bag of gold every 3 months or twenty-five pounds of cotton. If the Taino did not pay the Spanish their gold tribute, their hands were cut off and they were left to bleed to death as a warning to others what would happen is the greedy Spanish didn't get their gold. If that was't bad enough, they were then made to be forced to stand in cold water from morning until night washing river sands. The Taíno were enslaved being forced to dig for gold. Contemporary scholars contend that Columbus took around 24 Taíno people as slaves back to Spain in 1494.

    The Taíno Indians were forced to change their daily routines, habits and also their diets at great detriment to them. They had gone from being free, peaceful, happy farmers of the soil to becoming slaves. All so a few ruthless men from beyond the sea could use them for gold prospecting. Ponce de Leon ordered them to be distributed among his men. It took only seven years to enslave, conquer, destroy and massacre the Taíno Indians of Boriken. The Taíno looked upon the small number of their destroyers asked themselves if there were no means of getting rid of them once the hopelessness of their slavery was confirmed. Numerous Taíno uprisings and campaigns against the Spanish Conquistadors were sparked by these cruel practices, some of which were effective and others unsuccessful.

    A few caciques banded together with their foes, the Caribs, in 1511 in an effort to get rid of the Spanish. These Taino chiefs were Orocobix, Arasibo, Hayuya, Guarionex, Agüeybaná II, Urayoán, Jumacao. This uprising and others that followed were put down by Juan Ponce de León and his Indio-Spanish troops, so they were unsuccessful. One Taino chieftain who had emigrated to Cuba from Hispaniola in an effort to bring local Cubans together was apprehended and set on fire.

    However there were a few successful rebellions. One such rebellion was led by Enriquillo on Hispaniola during the 1520's as he led over 3000 Taíno warriors. This united confederation of Taíno went on to control most of the region with help from other powerful native allies, due to the small Spanish military presence in the region. The Taíno were were forced into the system of encomienda. It was a system in which the strong protected the weak. The Taíno were required to work for large plantations of Indian land owners.. In return they received religious and language education and a small annual salary. Modern Taíno Heritage Groups that claim Taíno ancestry identify themselves as Taíno. These living Taíno are mainly Puerto Ricans of small Puerto Rican communities and Dominicans who also have African ancestry. In fact most modern day Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have tri racial ancestry of Taino, African and Spanish.

    Women in Taíno Society 

    taino women

    Taíno society women did not live in the same village as men. They lived separately with their children and as a result Taíno women controlled their own lives and also their bodies. It is reported that at the time of European contact, Taínos told Columbus that another fierce raiding tribe known as the Caribs, would often capture the woman and take them as slaves.

    The Taíno men were often busy and were away fighting other groups such as the Caribs. This left the Taíno women to be in charge of the interactions between Spaniards and the Taíno people. The women also played an important role in food production as they tended to the crops and the men fished. The women could also play any role in Taíno society, even becoming caciques. National Geographic suggests that the wealthiest women in the tribes collected goods to later trade. This meant Taíno women could make important decisions for the tribe and give members tasks to carry out.

    At the time of Spanish contact with the "new world" women were very independent in Taíno society. This however didn't last, especially on the island of Puerto Rico where the Spanish took Taíno women as an exchange item. Sadly, Spaniards took as many women as they wanted and kept them as concubines. This was the beginning of a life of abuse and kidnapping of Taíno women. The Spanish often traded woman or just outright stole them. Having been free and powerful before, the women were used as simple commodities.

    Taíno Depopulation and Decline

    taino colombus

    The Arawak/Taíno had to defend themselves from time to time from different native populations. The Taíno were a peaceful people but were often challenged by the Caribs. The Caribs were located on the north of Hispaniola (modern DominicanRepublic) and also on what is today Puerto Rico. Around 100 years prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the Taíno were forced to defend themselves against attack by the Caribs of South American tribe. The Caribs were a warlike, angry, and fierce people that used poison arrows to raid the peaceful Taíno settlements. They would steal the Taíno women for breeding and the children to eat. Yes, you read that correctly, the Caribs were a cannibal tribe.

    A strong tension between Taínos and the Caribs already was in place when Christopher Columbus landed on Puerto Rico. Due to this some modern scholars argue that the Taíno population was already in jeopardy upon the time of Spanish occupation. Because of this, the Arawak/Taíno already had weapons that they used to defend against the Caribs. They had a 1" thick club made from macana, bow and arrow in which they learned to coat the arrow tips in poison like the Caribs and some had spears. They did lack any defensive armor though. The Caribs however, were the ones who fought back most effectively against the Spanish occupiers.

    The most populous island at that time was Hispaniola. There were no census records kept so population estimates for that island are very broad and range from 10,000 to 1000,000 inhabitants. It was estimated that the islands of Puerto Rico and Jamaica had a combined population of around 600,000. The total combined population of all Taino people in the Caribbean was thought to be near 3 million. A recent genetic study conducted in 2020 however concluded that there could not have been more than at most 30,000 - 40,000 Arawak/Taíno in the Caribbean when the Spanish settlers first came in 1508. Fighting the Spanish, disease, murder, slavery working in mines, and maltreatment had already diminished the Taino people to only about 4,000 by 1515. In the year 1544 a bishop counted only 60 Taíno remaining but those people too were gone soon.

    The Taíno Indians expected to acknowledge the sovereignty of the king of Spain by paying a gold tribute, every 3 months and to work to supply provisions of food to the Spanish. The Taíno were also forced to observe Christian ways. The Taíno had no natural resistance to European diseases such as smallpox. Other notable European diseases such as smallpox, influenza, measles, and typhus were a cause in the population decline of the indigenous people. While disease obviously played a significant role in the destruction of the indigenous population, forced labor was also one of the main reasons behind the depopulation of the Taíno. Taínos were forced to work in the gold mines and fields of colonial plantations under what was known as encomienda. The Spanish would provide protection and educate the Taino people in exchange for their slave labor. The first man to introduce this forced labor among the Taínos was the governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León. Many Spanish outright murdered some of the native population and took their land.

    Although it would take some time before the Taíno revolted against their oppressors, forced labor eventually led to Taíno rebellions. As mentioned earlier, one such revolt was in 1511. Several caciques or Indian chiefs banded together to get rid of the Spanish. Even their enemies the Caribs joined together in this revolt. The natives weapons however were no match for the Spaniards firearms. Governor Juan Ponce de León responded with what were known as cabalgadas, which were military campaigns with the purpose of capturing indigenous people. Another major factor in a decline in the Taíno population was this violence forced many of them to emigrate to other islands and the United States mainland.

    In thirty years, between 80% and 90% of the Taíno population died. There was also a higher demand for food since many Spanish were settling. The Taínos refused to plant crops according to Spanish methods. This led to a food supply crisis in 1495 and 1496 that famine killed over 50,000 Modern day historians have determined that the massive decline was due more to infectious European diseases being introduced to the "new world" and continued bondage than any warfare or direct attacks. The decline of the decline of the indigenous people already was evident by 1507 when their numbers declined to only 60,000.

    At this time African slaves were brought in to work the colonial plantations, such as sugar cane and coffee.

    Modern Taíno Descendants Today

    taíno ancestry

    There is strong evidence to suggest that some Taíno women were married to African slaves. These interracial couples lives in isolated communities in the interiors of the islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba. They existed in the new world totally independent of Spanish rule. In Jamaica for example, both Taíno men and women fled to the Bastidas Mountains (modern day Blue Mountains) breeding with african slaves.

    Spanish colonists also intermarried with Taíno women, often against their will. Their descendants after some time intermingled with African slaves creating a tri racial ancestry and their own culture based on Spanish, African and Taino cultures. Today most modern Puerto Rican Indian have African ancestry having evolved to become spanish American Indian. It is interesting to note that by 1550 the Spanish said the Taíno to be extinct. But in 1514 it was said that around 40% of men on the island of Hispaniola had Taíno wives, according to census records.

    Modern scholars and National Geographic also contend that modern day Dominicans (Hispaniola) still have elements of Taíno culture. Some of these include: Taíno language, farming techniques, religion, and fishing methods. However, modern city dwellers consider these practices to be out of date and uneducated.

    Taíno ancestry has survived in some communities of Cuba on the eastern tip into the present day with indigenous people living there. These communities preserve the cultural practices of Taíno origin. Also on the island of Puerto Rico over 1000 people identify as Puerto Rican Indian and over 1400 as Spanish American Indian as recent as 2010. An astonishing 10,000 people on Puerto Rico identified as Taíno. All in all over 35,000 Puerto Ricans identified as Native American or
    Puerto Rican with indigenous ancestry.

    Taíno Revivalist Communities

     ethnic groups

    From Puerto Rico to Florida and coast to coast from New York to California there are over 30 activist Taíno organizations as part of indigenous resurgence. Their membership numbers are in the tens of thousands and continue to grow. This revival movement for Taíno culture is known as "Taíno restoration" and it's goal is to seek the Taíno people to be federally recognized as Spanish American Indian tribe separate from American Indians. This is very prevelant on Puerto Rico where Puerto Ricans with indigenous roots wish to honor taino descent as part of their tri racial ancestry. One such community is the Jatibonicu Taíno Tribal Nation, a Taíno revivalist community.

    In Puerto Rico, the history of the Taíno (Puerto Rican Indian) is being taught in schools as children are encouraged to celebrate their culture of Taíno ancestry, African ancestry and Spanish ancestry. This learning about their culture is helping Puerto Rican communities connect more to each other. Scholar Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel sees the development of the Neo-Taíno movement in Puerto Rico as a useful counter to the domination of the island by the United States and the Spanish legacies of island society.

    DNA of Taíno Descendants

    taíno descendants

    There was a DNA study that provided evidence that some of modern day Spanish speaking Caribbean population is in fact related to Taínos. The genetic study was performed by extracting DNA from the tooth of a 1000 year old skeleton found on the Bahamas. The results were published in 2018 and show that the Bahamian woman is closely related to present-day Arawakan speakers from northern South America. The results were also compared to 104 Puerto Ricans who participated and it was found that Puerto Ricans are closely related to the ancient Bahamian genome.

    Mitochondrial DNA evidence from other studies also show a large part of current populations of other islands of the Caribbean have Taíno ancestry. This demonstrated the anticipated creole population formed from the Taíno, Spanish and Africans.

    • Puerto Ricans up to 61%

    • Dominicans up to 30%

    • Cubans up to 33%

    • Lesser Antilles up to 20%

    Thus, the history often taught as the Taíno being extinct, having been wiped out by European diseases, slavery, and famine is incorrect. Present day residents of the Caribbean say that Taíno culture and identity have survived into the present. They are correct. There are several groups Puerto Rican communities of New York, New Jersey and elsewhere promoting this idea. As Neo-Taíno groups are pushing for recognition and but respect for their culture.

    Taíno Words Still Used

    taíno language

    The white European immigrants adopted Taino language and practices. Some of these include the maracas melodic instrument, the boho (straw hut), and the hamaca (hammock). Today's Puerto Rican distinct vernacular still uses many Taino words. Some names and species, such as yuca, mamey, pajuil, pitajaya, cupey, tabonuco, and ceiba, are still referred to by their Taino names. Other names that are still in use today include iguana, guabina, carey, jicotea, mucaro, and guaraguao. Other terms, like huracan (hurricane) and hamaca, were transmitted not only into Spanish but also into English. (hammock). Additionally, the Spanish adopted and modified many Taino superstitions, which still have an impact on Puerto Rican culture today.

    If you have ever navigated a canoe, relaxed in a hammock, enjoyed a barbecue, used tobacco to smoke or followed a hurricane through Cuba, you have paid tribute to the Taíno, the Indians who created those terms long before they welcomed Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492.

    Do the Taínos still exist?

    Some groups of people today are claiming Taíno ancestry. These modern day people known as Tainos mainly among Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Although other residents of the Bahamas, and also on the American continent claim Taíno ancestry.

    What race was the Taínos?

    The Taíno were originally Arawakan who migrated to the Caribbean 2500 years ago from South America.

    What are Taínos known for?

    The Taíno were a agricultural and fishing culture throughout the Caribbean and Northern Lesser Antilles. Their primary crop was cassava but they also grew peppers, pineapple, beans, sweet potatoes and other crops. They were aslo excellent fishermen and relied heavily on fish and shellfish resources of the area.

    What did the Taínos look like?

    The Taíno had dark olive colored skin with coarse black hair which woman often wore in bangs. They were short in statute by modern standards at about 5 feet tall with muscular builds. They sometimes wore colorful clothing and gold trinkets.